The Unexpected Costs of Free Translations

“I speak French. I’ll do it for you.”

If you have a translation task you need undertaken and are working within a limited budget, this offer might seem like a great deal. After all, your friend was born in Belgium, and she is very generously offering her time for free to help you out. Perhaps this is a leftfield opportunity that could get you out of a tight spot?

Think again, though. There are several good reasons why you might want to engage a professional. Taking shortcuts in translation can lead to some very undesirable consequences, which could result in you spending more money than you’d planned, in order to repair the damage.

Two Shortcuts to Avoid:

1. Hiring Friends

Professional translators are fluent in both source and target languages, meaning that every nuance, idiom, and stylistic inflection will be caught.  The translator will come back to you with any queries they may have. You can be fairly assured they will stay faithful to the original text.

With a friend, you won’t be sure they’ve done a good job unless you check it with a professional translator. In which case, you might as well have hired a translation agency in the first place.

2. Online Translation Software

Even the most sophisticated AI or machine-learning-based translator won’t understand all potential subtleties of a given text. Features frequently missed include irony, slang, style, and idiomatic expressions. The cost here might not be felt until you discover your end user has missed the point of what you’ve written.

Project bids with evident language errors tend not to impress their recipients. Google Translate may have become increasingly sophisticated since its 2006 launch, but at times it might not go far enough to provide the level of accuracy you need. If you want to read more about The Limits of Machine Translation, click on the link.

Hidden Costs

It’s not simply the fee you’ll be paying for a professional translator to clean up bad work. There are several potential hidden costs of taking short cuts, including:

  • Lost opportunities – bids and sales lost through poor writing.
  • Lost time – you may miss deadlines and risk angering clients.
  • Lost communication – downstream costs due to errors not picked until it’s too late.
  • Lost confidence – clients reading your badly translated documents may come to question your overall quality control.

The next time that helpful friend offers a favor, thank them sincerely, then engage a professional language service provider. It might save you more than you can imagine.