And, why this approach to professional translation is a disaster in the making.
Cheap things are not good, good things are not cheap.
The Internet is awash in “free”. Free apps, free coupons, free websites, free this and free that. It is, therefore, then, little surprise the length some will go to snag free Japanese translation. This article, a true story based on a series of emails from a perspective client looking for certified Japanese translation services for a legal document, highlights the pitfalls of this approach.
About those emails. The first email received, being laced with excessive platitudes, screams “We’re on the hustle for free translation”. Reading further only confirmed suspicions:
“I elected to test 5 companies among what is said to be the most trustworthy, using a template contract…I am attaching herewith the PDF template, please translate only the third (3rd) and forth (4th) two pages (10 pages template), and attach your translation work back to us by email; within 48 hours by last(est).”
Translators aren’t known for their math skills; however, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out what the game plan is here! Five companies each doing a trial translation of 2 pages? Free professional Japanese translation for that 10 page legal contract. And, sow some confusion with a wee bit of urgency for extra measure.
There’s more. Translation companies generally only do free trial translation for a few hundred words, 300~400 at the most. Obviously some responding companies balked at the 2 page trial translation request:
“Due to the rational request made by most agencies we contacted for this first translation template test, i.e. limit the trial to 400 words, we fairly considered, therefore decided to divide the template...(among) 30 agencies.”
Ten page legal contract by 30 different professional translation agencies all for free -- Mission Accomplished!
Well, we all know how that one panned out, don’t we? What about this one?
Translation is no different from any type of writing -- Each translator has his or her own style. It is, therefore, not difficult to see how 30 different Japanese translators from 30 different translation agencies will produce a patchwork of translation styles in a single document. Poor quality translation.
Is it an aircraft, an airplane or plane? Of course, with 30 different Japanese translators terminology usage will be all over the place, definitely not consistent at all. However, in legal documents, such as contracts, where the same terms may have different meanings based on the specific area of law or the context in which they are being used, inconsistency in terminology can be absolutely disastrous! Lawyers will have a field day if, God forbid, that translated legal contract ever ends up in court…
So, yes, this client did get professional translation for free; but, no, mission NOT accomplished. In conclusion let me leave readers with another pearl of ancient wisdom:
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
About the Author
Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, owner of Translation Services in Japan, Tokyo Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Service
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