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Quality-cost equation of translation
There’s no shortage of options in translation types - Computer Translation (machine translation, computer assisted translation), Post Editing Machine Translation (PEMT), Translation Crowdsourcing, Translation Clouds, and Professional Translation (freelance translation, translation service companies) - or translation providers.
Click here to beef up on the different types of translation
While knowing your translation types will definitely give you a leg up when it comes time to determine which translation provider is right for your project, you’ll still find yourself in a veritable minefield that could sink an important translation project, any project really, in short order!
That is, there’s a lot of misleading information about the translation industry, such as methodologies, tools and services etc, out there, much of it propagated by tech (illiterate) journalists operating out of their depth. For example, so-called industry leaders will try to convince you that machine translation is perfectly acceptable for the business domain. Others will push machine translation software as a service. Some even claim a translator’s pool of tens of thousands of translators potentially making them some of the largest employers in the world, which is obviously quite ridiculous. And, many translation providers will despite the nature of their offerings -i.e. being crowdsourcing operations relying on volunteers- and in spite of the semantics involved, present themselves as professional, a service, or a combination thereof.
The list goes on; however, I’m sure you get the message.
In this free-for-all that is the translation industry, how do you protect yourself against all the marketing hype, exaggerations, false promises and blatant lies?
The solution to that seemingly impossible conundrum is relatively easy and straight forward:
- It depends on your project requirements, which will determine
- The translation type best suited for your project
As a professional Japanese to English translator with over 20 years of experience there are certain types of translation, such as machine translation (MT), that I would never ever use; however, this does not mean that machine translation does not have utility. A case in point would be if you got an unsolicited email in a foreign language (and who hasn’t?). Drop it into a free machine translation software and you’ll discover through the crude translation returned it’s SPAM -- No action required!
Now suppose you require certified Japanese translation (with a Statement of Certification issued by the translating entity attesting to translation accuracy) of, for example, a koseki tohon (Japanese family register), for an immigration application. In a situation where you can’t afford rejected documents because of poor quality translation, would you be looking to save a few pennies by going with a translation crowdsourcing outfit of volunteers? No, of course not -- That would be penny wise and pound foolish. And, you’d still be out of that required Statement of Certification, a Red Flag
How about Japanese business translations, book & script translations, travel & tourism translations, marketing translation, or website translations? Essentially, the issue is the same for most kinds of translation; As the potential cost to you of poor quality translation increases (i.e. rejected documents, economic loses, cost of litigation, penalties and fees of regulatory violations, etc), the quality you should expect in your translation must increase. In most cases, certainly those described above, professional translation should be your preferred choice of translation type.
(Click here for the comprehensive guide to professional Japanese translation)
Visualizing this relation in a graph will help put things into perspective. Think of required quality as the x axis, and cost as the y axis. The further out you get along the axes the higher the quality and cost. Obviously, movement along one axis without corresponding movement along the other axis will produced skewed results, either free professional translation (not possible) or expensive, poor quality translation (very possible).
In summary, essentially, you get what you pay for. But, know that there is no such thing as a free lunch: You pay upfront for quality translation, or you pay later for poor quality translation. Choose your poison wisely!
About the Author
Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, the owner of Tokyo Translation Services Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services
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