My localization service is often five times more expensive than the lowest bidders on translation projects on freelancer.com. Despite that, I’m continuously chosen for many projects. 59 out of 60 of my past clients have given me a perfect five-star rating in terms of quality of work, communication, expertise, and would hire me again. The 60th client (also one of my first) gave me four stars. My rate is between 0.08 and 0.15 USD per word of English to Japanese translation, depending on the complexity of the medium, topic, and the format of the original document(s). According to Proz, the market price of translation from English to Japanese is 0.09 to 0.13 USD per English word. Even if I offered only a basic translation, my price is still very competitive.
On the other hand, there are translators for Japan who charge less than 0.05 USD per word, and they get jobs and positive feedback on freelancer.com. How is that possible? How can the price of this service be so different? Unfortunately, many translators out there use machine translation or are non-native Japanese speakers who don’t care about the quality of their work or the success of your business. Employers may either not know how to read Japanese, or they blindly trust that an accurate translation has been delivered. I once was presented with a “Japanese” website for proofreading. It was actually in Chinese; the employer had apparently paid for machine translation, and they hadn’t even gotten the target language right. To make matters worse, the machine translator had been given a five-star review by the employer!
You may ask yourself, “Do I really need to hire a localization expert?” “Is there really such a big difference between localization and translation?” The answer to both of these questions is yes, you should hire a localization expert if you want a high-quality translation. In the long run, you will actually save money by not needing to hire a second (or third, or fourth…) translator to fix the low-cost translation. There are many benefits of focusing on localization and not simply translation.
Localization experts are creative and goal-oriented
Are you afraid that someday, robots will replace you at your job? I am not afraid that localization experts will be replaced by machines. Some aspects of translation, such as financial records, can be replaced by machine translation. They are very logical and the vocabulary used is very limited. Many translation projects require creativity and expertise in various fields.
Do you want to simply translate, or do you want to use translation to achieve something bigger? There are several types of documents where linguistic integrity must be protected. When you create a website, draft a contract, or write software in your native language, you have a specific goal in mind, such as:
- selling your product or service by creating a kickass website with cool sales copies
- formulating legally binding agreements such as contracts, terms and conditions, or privacy policies
- making a user-friendly, intuitive user interface with short but clear instructions and consistent keywords
Companies hire copywriters, lawyers and UX experts with typography knowledge. But when those same companies want to translate, they hire an ordinary native speaker with no background in any of the aforementioned fields. Why? Translating text by machine or cheap translators will not further your company’s message because it has not been tailored to the country of the target language.
Localization is translating a company’s message in a source language to a target language and optimizing the message to a business goal such as communicating customers into buying your service. Localization takes into account the legal, linguistic, cultural, and aesthetic aspects of the target language. Web content translation has five often overlooked elements to make localization contribute to your business goals. Unfortunately, there are many translators who do not care about these elements because of two reasons:
They can’t be bothered to create a beautiful copy by being creative because they get paid for the number of words they translate
Translators don’t need to take responsibility for the content of the words, just the words themselves, making it “safer” to follow the content of the original text. This kind of thinking can lead to issues of the company’s original message being “lost in translation”, like Nike’s Fa-fu blunder
- The website that they translated helped sell their client’s product or service well
- The contract they translated saves troubles
- The software user interface they translated is easy to use
Good translators are honest with themselves and with you, and they will tell you what they cannot do
Haruki Murakami is one of the best modern Japanese novelists, but I am sure he is not one of the best female teen fashion magazine writers. Translators are like writers, there are things they can translate well and things they cannot translate well.
However, not many translators tell you they can’t translate your document because that means they cannot secure the offered job and get paid. They know and I know that not many clients actually proofread or claim the quality of translation is poor. I have seen many poor translations and proofread many poor translations after my clients already paid the translators and gave them five stars on freelancer.com.
You get what you pay for. Eventually, you will find out the translation is low in quality because your websites don’t perform well or when customers point out that text is difficult to understand. You will need to hire different translators, have them proofread your website, and hire them at a rate three to five times higher than the first translator. I know this because some of my translation projects have been like this.
Good translators are honest. They will tell you that they don’t send price proposals to projects that are out of the realm of their expertise. They honestly tell you that they need more time when they are busy instead of delivering a lousy translation. Hiring good translators will save you time and money in the long run…and save you from bad publicity.
Good translators are also good consultants
People think customers have power and control over your business. In the translation business, that’s not always the case. Customers tend to know little about translation. Many of them think that translation is a simple task that can be done by almost any native speaker who understands the source language, and there are no quality assurance processes in place as in manufacturing.
However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Good translation utilizes several quality assurance processes, including making glossaries (a keyword list to ensure consistent translation) and tracking issues. Localization is even more complicated because it involves marketing, legal, design and technical processes depending on the topic and medium. These were covered in an earlier article, “5 overlooked elements of Web Content Translation that makes successful localization”.
Even the most basic translation service requires at least a glossary. Localization requires localized sales copy, design, and content. Both of them require good communication between translators and customers. However, not many translators or even translation agencies give you this advice, because the time they spend on correspondence are often non-billable.
Skilled, creative and goal-oriented localization experts are more expensive because they provide more complicated and creative services that require more time and attention. They also add more value to your message on the global market. Even though they may be up to five times more expensive than non-creative translation, and even though machine translation costs only the time it takes to plug text into a translation program, good translation that actually serves your company’s purpose is a shrewd investment.