Advice for enterprising speakers
Don’t Get Lost in Translation
As the world
shrinks and businesses become
find themselves dealing with
audiences that neither speak
nor read English. Recently, I
encountered this with a global
client that licenses my sales
negotiation training program.
This client has a large sales
force in China and needed to
have my workbook translated
into Chinese. Unless you have a backup plan, you
My client offered to do simply have to trust that the translator
the translation, but I decided
to have it done profession- has done a good job.
ally because I wanted to be
in control of the process. I also didn’t
want there to be any question about
who owned the rights to the translated
As I began to research my options, I
discovered that there are two types of
translation companies: in-country translation services that deal exclusively in
one language, and brokers who contract
with translators from all over the world
in many different languages. I contacted
a number of companies in each category and requested quotes. Translation,
it turns out, is a unique business with a
wide range in pricing.
Translation fees are priced per
word. For a 10,000-word document,
I received quotes ranging from $800
to $8,700, with the majority of them
between $1,000 and $3,000. The huge
variance in pricing has a lot to do with
the black-box nature of translation.
You have absolutely no way of evaluating if the work has been done well,
so it’s pretty much a shot in the dark.
Unless you have a backup plan, you
simply have to trust that the translator has done a good job. Companies
that charge exorbitant fees seem to have
developed a high level of trust with clients who are willing to pay high prices
to guarantee a perfect translation.
I knew I would be unable to determine the quality of the translated work,
so I decided to create a safety net. My
client agreed to offer one of its bilingual people to review any translation
work for quality control. Although
some translation companies will offer
to do this added step, it is a much better idea to do it on your own.
I contracted with one of
the less expensive broker
companies with the assurance that an excellent translator would perform the job.
Unfortunately, the translator
did a very poor job and even
used bad grammar, according
to my bilingual reviewer.
The translation company
was quite surprised to hear
about the poor-quality translation, since this translator
was used in the past with no
complaints. Obviously, brokers who don’t speak the language are in no better position than their customers to
evaluate their translators’
work. On the upside, the
company had an excellent attitude and
retained another translator, at no additional charge to me, who did an excellent job, according to my client’s bilingual reviewer.
Lesson learned: When you purchase
a translation, ask a bilingual person to
review it. You don’t always get what
you pay for in the translation business.
Quality control is critical. Before you sign
an agreement with a translation company,
ensure that if the translation is unacceptable based on a third-party review, it will
be redone at no extra charge.
Translation: Just because it’s translated doesn’t mean it’s translated correctly. Always have a backup plan!
For more than 20 years, Michael Schatzki, MPA, CSP, principal of Negotiation
Dynamics®, has designed and delivered hundreds of negotiation seminars for
businesses and organizations in the United States, Asia, Europe, the Middle
East and South America. He consults with clients, helping them navigate and
succeed with their most challenging negotiations. For more information,
contact Michael at email@example.com or visit www.negotiationdynamics.com.