This article is not intended to express political views but rather to discuss a professional question in the field of the translation industry.
To those of you that didn’t hear about it, in recent days we see a fiasco taking place in the Democratic party due to poorly translated texts released to the public in Spanish by some of the Democratic candidates. The party is consequently, maybe with a grain of truth, facing accusations for poorly funding the press publications to the Spanish-speaking Latino communities in the USA for the 2020 presidential elections (Check the Link Below). This community will be a key player in the 2020 elections and the Democrats need its support to be able to change the officer in chief.
How does this relate to us?
As professionals in the translation industry, we would like to raise a claim in this article that such a translation, should be performed by a translation agency specialized in media content translation rather than a general translation agency.
In the following article, we will be discussing the new topic of specialized translation agencies and specialized translation services.
Let’s assume you are a customer and you are facing a dilemma:
Should I choose a freelance translator?
Should I choose a general translation agency?
Or should I choose a specialized translation agency?
So, you need a translation, and you’re obviously confused.
You are not alone, the language industry was able to confuse us all, with a huge market and many players competing and trying to increase their piece, this giant industry, that is growing faster than china’s economy and its revenues surpassed the GDP’s of many countries,
Has generated 46.5 $ billion in the US alone in 2018.
So what are the main factors that should concern you before choosing a translation service supplier?
4-Potential damage (in case of undesired outcomes).
5-Official verification (in cases of medical or legal translations).
Now we will try to discuss your choices:
So who are you?
A- Are you a single client that intends to translate a single general document?
B- Are you a company that needs to translate general material in small volumes?
C- Are you a company that needs big volume general translations?
D- Are you a company that needs big/small volume-specific field translations?
Before showing you your options, you need to try to put yourself on the scale (a guide) for the factors mentioned above (Money, quality, time/volume, official verification, potential damage).
Money (1 being expensive 5 being cheap).
Quality (1 being low quality and 5 being high quality).
Time/Volume (1 time consuming, 5 being time/volume efficient).
Potential damage (1 being big potential damage and 5 small damage).
+/- Official verification
Well, first of all, let me say that dealing with a single professional can be comfortable and can many times fairly cost you less money than with a big translation company, furthermore, if we talk about a trusted and highly respected professional, you might also get good quality for the money.
So what are the downsides of a freelancer’s translation?
1- You’ll need to perform the localization process, and it can be really difficult and risky.
2- You’ll need to perform the follow-up, management of the project, and review of his/her work.
3- The volume is restricted, a single translator can’t handle big volume projects (maximal capacity 3k words a day).
In case you’ll contract multiple translators, then you will be jumping into the field of the translation industry, without having the tools nor the experience for such a field (highly unrecommended) consequently this will probably cost you much more money and time.
4- Freelancers can’t provide a valid assurance and insurance for the potential damage in case of inaccuracies in the works.
Scale – Money 3, Quality 4, Time/volume 2, potential damage 1, No ability to grant a verification of a local expert
General Translation Company
Let’s assume now that you have big volumes to translate or that you don’t have time to deal with the management of a translation project or that you can’t take the risk and you have to choose a translation company.
What options do you have now?
That’s not an easy mission as there is a variety of companies.
But what unites them all?
Did you ask yourself this question?
Well, I’ll try to answer this question briefly, the vast majority of them provide translations in any field you wish, they will provide you a translation for sports, law and even translate the holly bible for you.
Is this logical?
Would you hire a worker at your house that paints, does the electricity and also the plumbing?
After all, wasn’t there a reason for people acquiring specific professions?
I would assume that It was the quality and experience that led to such prehistorical manners.
Unfortunately, as statistics show, quality won’t be the key factor that will lead customers to make their choice in acquiring a translation company’s services, at least in the encounter.
In 2019, in the era of the short attention span (by this time most of you already closed 2 other articles besides this one), you will most probably choose the company that had the better marketing department in the topic that you searched for. That’s why the stats show that most companies spend more on marketing from a year to another as it became the main recruiting factor of clients.
So why do I claim that the quality of their service isn’t good enough after all?
1- Increasing competition with lower profit margins:
Because of the ongoing competition, many companies are offering lower and lower prices. This may sound like healthy competition in a free capitalist market but the fact is that there Is a threshold that is being crossed by many companies, so at this point will the companies lower the marketing expenses?
Well, we know the answer, the choice always will be a cheaper working force, unqualified translators, low data security, and of course a lot of damage to the clients. But many of these companies count on one-time encounters rather than long-term collaboration.
2- In order to keep every possible income, companies offer a variety of services that are quite different, beginning from translation, interpreting, subtitling, SEO services, consultations, and more. This lowers the quality of the services, staff, and expertise and translations become only part of the company’s focus.
3- Some translations, need special linguistic experts and also eventually need to be verified by a local expert or practitioner from this field. But in a world that lacks specialized translation companies, companies provide all kinds of translations, starting from tourism, ads, law, and medical translations.
This is a very risky fact and as stated above some fields are very special and need further expertise and focus. But in the sake of more profits, almost no company is willing to give up the other fields and specialize in a certain field.
4- Some fields, especially medical translations, need local experts that are practicing in the field in a certain country to give their opinion regarding the translation.
One very important example that Dr. Shtewy (Internal medicine’s expert from Saudi Arabia) gave me for the importance of the linguistic validation process, was a significant delay in a research performed by a drug company on the effects of a respiratory drug reported by patients (via a translated questionnaire), although the translation was performed by a skilled professional translator from English to Arabic, participants didn’t answer one of the questions as some words in standard Arabic had another meaning in the local dialect of Arabic in Saudi-Arabia and because the questionnaire was not culturally adapted and a local medical expert was not consulted, the patient wouldn’t answer it in that form, in this case, the form had to be changed to the local dialect rather than standard Arabic in order to deliver the idea and receive the desired response.
Scale – Money 2, Quality 2, Time/volume 4, potential damage 1 (the rare ability for verification of local expert).
Specialized Translation Company
At this point, I want to discuss NovimedGroup as a prototype of a specialized translation agency. Established by medical doctors around the world to have a role in the standardization of medical translations and aiming to bring quality and real medical knowledge into the industry.
As a unique player in the industry, NovimedGroup is dealing only with medical and medical-related content.
An argument that is made by a Dr. Ati from NovimedGroup is: “in real life, at sickness, we tend to carefully screen our doctors, and we tend to prefer specialized doctors for specific pathologies, reasonably, we probably won’t choose to undergo a gastroscopy at the family doctor’s office.
The translation is part of medical research, part of medical education and therapies and we would like to see this process of specialization take place in the whole industry as the shortcuts and the chaos that we witness today can have fatal consequences in this field”.
Furthermore, Dr. Ati elaborated: “We believe that if you need a text translation in the field of tourism, we are not your address, we respect and believe in expertise and professions
and we hope that our counterparts at other companies will start the same process of specialization, as it is the fair step towards the clients and in the case of medical content I would say it is safer for our health and for the quality and efficacy of our research”.
Scale – Money 2, Quality 5, Time/volume 4, potential damage 5 ( Ability to grant verification of a local expert ).
So after this quick guide, I believe you should build your own scale, and in case the risks you’re taking are not that big or that you are interested in a simple translation and you have the time and manpower to invest, maybe you can choose one of the first two choices.
If that’s not the case we think you should consider a specialized translation agency in your field of interest.
What about the Democrats?
Believe it or not but language, even in 2019, is still the main means of communication. Whether it is a symptom’s questionnaire to assess the effects of a new drug that needs to be localized to the remote village population of “Hegyeshalom” in Hungry, or it is the presidential campaign of a leading candidate for the US presidential race, you still need to invest into your product, supposing it is for the safety of your clients and the efficacy of your research or it’s for the proper delivery of a message to your voters. People actually care about the investment you made to pass a clear and correct message to them and eventually they will judge you accordingly.
* The author is affiliated with NovimedGroup.