Prices and costs

I came across an excellent article on prices and costs over at Ferris Translations this week, and I wanted to share it with you:

costs? What?!?

Posted on February 10, 2014 by Michael Ferris
Within the language industry, like any industry, there
are also translators and language service providers that offer dumping prices.
What are dumping prices? These are prices that are considered
“unfair” to the competition because they falsely misrepresent current
pricing, thus causing overall price pressure on the market along with false
assumptions and expectations. It is my intention in this article to set things
right by informing you what translation pricing entails. Said in short, it is
by no means wrong to work with an agency offering cheap prices, you just have
to be aware of what you are buying and what is realistic.
To start, let’s examine why companies look for the
cheapest of the cheap.
Along with it being a sign of the times to increase
quality and productivity and lower costs, the effort behind translation work is
often misjudged. Furthermore, texts in general tend to be associated with very
little value due to the fact that there is much of it. Today’s world is getting
more and more cluttered. Just look at how complex bureaucracy has become. A lot
of documentation is required to be translated into several different languages
as a matter of conformity and principle and not necessarily according to need.
When I think of how many hours a translator sits on a single translation or how
much a customer is required to pay for a “handbook of guideline
structures” or “statistical project documentation” for example,
just to have it archived somewhere, never to be touched again. It is only
understandable that many companies nowadays are saying, “I don’t care who
does it or how good it is, let’s just get it translated.” On the other
side of the spectrum, translations are often the first line of communication to
the outside world, do a lot for corporate image, and should therefore be
treated with the utmost care.
In order to understand how dumping prices are achieved
and what challenges are behind these methods, it is firstly important to define
the roles required to perform translation services:
1. The project manager acts as an interface between
the customers and organizes the translation services. In some agencies this
role is split between a salesman and a project manager in the background
managing the project itself.
2. The translator performs the translation and a
quality control
3. The proofreader(s) carry(ies) out quality assurance
to ensure that nothing of bad quality gets sent to the customer.
Here are some of the techniques involved with
achieving the “cheapest” translations possible:
Contrary to belief, language service providers rarely
feed text into a machine and send it onto the customer. What does often happen
entails the usage of an API (Application Programming Interface) to have
segments of the translation translated automatically. These segments are
proofread and, in the case of error, corrected. 
This method can be effective in finishing a translation quickly at a
reduced level of effort, although depending on the language combination, the
topic at hand, and the ability of the “proofreader”, such
translations are often riddled with errors. Part of this has to do with the
speed at which the translation is done and carelessness on the one hand. On the
other hand, the aspect of performing re-work has to be taken into account. When
a good translator translates, he/she writes the text from scratch. If you have
to go through correcting texts that have been automatically generated, the room
for error is increased to a great extent.
In this connection, I would like to present a parallel
in the construction industry. Would it be more efficient to build a house from
scratch, making sure that it is of 100% from the foundation up, or would it be
more efficient to have robots build the house with a lot of structural faults
and try to fix it? Rework is always less efficient than doing something right
the first time.
Due to the price pressure on the translations
industry, some agencies have found a solution to this by finding translators
located in low-cost countries. There are, for example, many Indian nationals
that speak English very well for example asking a fraction of the cost a UK national
would ask for. This strategy is associated with great challenges and risk. The
challenge has to do with finding an experienced translator that works for these
prices among so many people that are trying to do exactly the same. I would
like to draw a parallel to English to Chinese translations. There are millions
of Chinese translators that translate into this language combination and
incredibly inexpensive prices can be found, but only a small fraction actual
translate at a professional level. The good ones are normally not so
inexpensive. Since numerous corrections are required in order to assure the
best quality, this is one reason why the market rate of Chinese translations at
agencies tends to be so high.
On another note, keep in mind that you do not need a
license to be a translator. Anyone with a computer who possesses knowledge of a
second language can be a translator, but that does not mean that they can
translate well or at a very professional level. Unfortunately, a large
percentage of the population has little understanding for this. This is why
good agencies require documented proof of extensive experience, an education in
translation and even ask for test translations. Even then, constant evaluation
has to be made in order to maintain a continuously high level of quality.
Leaving out
the proofreader
The easiest way for your supplier to save on
translations costs is to leave out the proofreader or work with unqualified
proofreaders, assuming that the translation has already been checked by the
translator. In the case of common languages, to save costs, agencies often only
have the target text read without looking at the source.
This may ensure that the translated language has no
errors in it, but this does not ensure that no mistranslations have been made.
All in all, it is not wrong to go with cheap
translations, but it is important to know what you are getting yourself into
and that there is a very high risk of errors being made. Let’s not forget the
good old saying, “You get what you pay for.”

Schreibe einen Kommentar