Sunday, November 20, 2022

Keeping costs down in translation – on time and money


[man skateboard slaloming*]

This week, one of my favorite agency customers and I negotiated a price for a complex and urgent two-certificate translation. Since the buying customer was not prepared to compromise on the amount of material, the deadline or the price, we fortunately came to a mutually beneficial agreement involving the agency preparing a proper template and I reducing my price demand. As the price should reflect the time and effort, all parties felt they received proper value, the best of all outcomes. The key to this compromise was ideal document preparation, specifically format, content and deadlines,  a step that can reduce the time and effort required by translators and allow them to minimize rates in good conscience.

The major factor complicating translation is actually formatting. The most convenient documents to translate are in Word. Unfortunately, customers send many documents, especially certificates, in pdf or jpg format. For a variety of reasons, including a lack of awareness, the quality of this images is often quite poor, sometimes preventing conversion of the PDF into a Word document and, in that case, a significant reduction of the translation speed due to the need to look back and forth from original to the translation in progress. Even when the PDF is sufficiently clear to convert it into Word. The process  takes time, with the longer the document, the more time it taking both at the initial stage before translation begins and after translation in terms of arranging the formatting. In simple terms, working with PDF adds time, which is ultimately reflected in the price. The best way to limit translation costs is to provide a Word document.

Of course, the content of the document also affects the speed of translation. Here, the buying customer has much power to influence the matter. First, if the text involves technical vocabulary, especially if it is specific to the company, the translation purchaser should provide a glossary of the terms they wish to use. It is not uncommon for even an experienced translator to spend up to 30 minutes finding the correct term in the target language, a time investment that can be avoided. Even worse, too many customers mention their preferred terminology only after the translation is delivered, creating negative feelings for everybody. Another important choice by the translation purchaser is the actual translator. No professional is knowledgeable about everything. In translation, the difference in speed and quality between a translator with knowledge and experience and one without them is quite significant. An expert can do the work quickly and proficiently while even the most diligent translators working outside their comfort zone struggle to produce an ideal text. Therefore, a customer wishing to control costs needs to hire a relevant translator and provide the required terminology.

Finally, there is a correlation between the tightness of a deadline and the quality of the result. There is the expression “There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting”. To a large degree, in translation, there is no such thing as good translation, only good QA. Same day service is a recipe for disaster, often leading to dissatisfaction, poor results and higher ultimate costs. Professional translators have a financial interest in delivering as soon as possible but are also aware of how long the proper translation will take. I strongly suggest planning ahead, listening to the translator and being realistic. Also, keep in mind that Friday afternoon and Monday morning are identical to the customer in terms of assessing and using the translation but, for the translator, what difference a day (or two) makes, as the song goes. If the customer has no choice but to receive it truly urgently, the result will frequently be a higher price due to the rush status and lesser quality. A bit of planning by the customers can avoid those issues.

Consumers do not control inflation and unpleasant surprises. However, at least in translation, they can eliminate the factors that add cost to the service. When they do so, translators are often willing to compromise on price, knowing that the job will be less time consuming. Personally, I will deliver the translation with the feeling that not only the customer and agency receive good value but I also will be properly paid. That is the basis for a long-term business relationship.

* Picture captions allow the blind to fully access the Internet

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