What Happens When You Go Cheap on Translation

The cost of translation work is always something at top-of-mind for businesses in need of language services, especially when those businesses are outsourcing translations. However, those freelancers and large translation agencies boasting the most affordable or low-cost translations are often downplaying the true cost of a translation.

“You get what you pay for” is a phrase that honestly represents the language services industry, and how many translators set their pricing models. How much a translation really costs isn’t just about the money that transfers hands, it also involves the hidden, trickling effects that a translation will have on a brand or business. It’s important to ask yourself: can you really afford to hire a cheap translation service?

The High Cost of Cheap Service

Many companies that are in need of translation services are concerned with the bottom line — how much will a translation project cost. The goal? Find the cheapest translations out there.

The most affordable options are often the ones with the most translation risk and fallout, however. Don’t let the cheapest option fool you — prominent English writer and “social thinker” John Ruskin said it best himself:

“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

With translations in mind, there are quite a few hidden costs associated with hiring the cheapest option possible…

Costly and embarrassing errors.

Translation work for most companies includes outward, customer-facing materials – essentially, any text that represents the public face of an international business. This means that every translated website page, pieces of marketing collateral, presentation, advertisement or manual can come back with errors and mistakes that can be difficult to catch until they’re released into the wild.

As one can imagine, this leads to some very embarrassing press and even decreased sales. According to an article published by BBC News, UK-based online entrepreneur Charles Duncombe found that “an analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.”

Cultural nuance inaccuracies.

The most affordable translators are generally the most inexperienced in the field and often rely on the help of digital translation tools, like Google Translate, to do the heavy lifting for a translation project. Beyond the issue of spelling, grammatical, and complete word errors that occur with these online translation “tools,” they also can’t accurately fine tune the text based on specific cultural nuances. Ultimately, these cultural nuances are what connect a customer to a marketing campaign or company brand, and poor implementation will leave native speakers confused or even upset.

Scammers and translator frauds.

Translator websites and directories have done a better job than in the past when it comes to weeding out scammers, but translator frauds still run rampant on the internet. Scammers posing as professional translators will often plagiarize or forge an existing translator’s resume or CV, publishing it online for new “clients” (or rather, prey) to browse when looking for affordable translations. Once hired, these translator frauds will use inaccurate, mechanical translation tools to produce their translations, turning around shotty, error-laden work.

Risky, time-consuming legal issues.

Beyond the costly mistakes that a business can face internally with their budgets, cheaper and more poorly-produced translations vastly increase the risk to the consumer and opens up the company to other complex issues. For instance, if a cheap translation is created for a legal contract or other law-related documentation, any errors may have profound legal implications. And, where translations for medical and pharmaceutical texts are concerned, mistake-ridden translations can even mean the difference between life and death in some cases.

Questions to Ask: How to Ensure High-Quality Translation

Sometimes it’s very easy to tell when a language services provider is the wrong fit for your business or industry, and sometimes it can be a bit more difficult. Luckily, there are a few questions you can ask your future translation provider to make certain that the end-result of your translation projects are as accurate and cost-effective as possible:

1. Does the language services provider understand your industry and hold knowledge of your target audience?

2. Is the language services provider communicative and attentive when you talk with them? 

Does the language services provider have translators that hold up-to-date qualifications and licenses?

4. Does the language services provider use a thorough proofreading and quality assurance process? 

5. Is the language services provider flexible to your project needs and timelines?

At the end of the day, incredible service and quality should always matter more than the cost of a translation. At Language Department, we have direct access to over 120 highly skilled and experienced translators available for any industry, as well as 25+ years as a language services provider offering impeccable customer care. Our translators and our proven translation process go above and beyond to ensure the highest quality translations are produced every time — no cut corners or hidden costs.

Have a translation project coming up? Get a free quote!