Reasons Why Selecting a Cheap Translation Agency is a Bad Idea

Reasons Why Selecting a Cheap Translation Agency is a Bad Idea

We all like to save money here and there, whether it’s moving to a low-cost hairdresser or switching allegiance to a budget supermarket.

Businesses tend to think along the same lines, always looking to make a profit, only they’re more concerned with cutting operational costs rather than a cheaper short, back and sides or bargain groceries.

A penny saved is a penny earned, as Benjamin Franklin once famously said, but that only applies to the short-term. Brands need to think carefully about the long-term impact of opting for the cut-rate option.

There is always someone willing to do a job at a lower price, no matter what it is and regardless of the industry. But have they got the knowledge and experience needed to complete the work to the highest standard?

That’s the question businesses should be asking themselves when their heads are turned by ‘bargain’ deals.

Here we take a look at the problems and hidden costs caused by going for the cheapest translation suppliers.

Lost in translation

Doing business on the international stage is easier than ever thanks to the development of the global economy and the introduction of the internet. Even small firms can now try their hand at expanding overseas.

We are increasingly working across borders and language barriers – and the demand for translation services has rocketed as a result.

But while choosing cheap translation may seem like a good idea at the time, the inaccuracies it can lead to could leave you extremely red-faced – not to mention considerably out of pocket – in the future.

Below are three aspects of business affected by poor translation.

1. Selling potential

Poor translation will have a huge impact on the ability to sell your products or services abroad. Your message needs to be crystal clear, just the way you carefully constructed it, in order to achieve success in other countries.

Inaccuracies, however, can see messages lost in translation, meaning potential customers will be deterred.

The wildly successful “Got Milk” campaign from The Dairy Association when used in Mexico brought a lot of unwanted attention, since it translated as “Are You Lactating?”, while Pepsi’s slogan “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” translated as “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave” when used in China.

The bottom line is that brands cannot expect to sell their services or products overseas if the client cannot understand the message or if the message is simply not communicated in a professional manner.

2. Brand image

Your company’s reputation depends on effective communication and translation of your brand messages. If you get this wrong, however, it’s not easy to repair the damage, as Bangkok Broadcasting and Television’s Channel 7 found out earlier this year.

The broadcaster in Thailand caused uproar after mistranslating Lao words in one of its news programmes.

It mistranslated “delivery room” as “monsoon room”, “red light” as meaning “light of power” , “green light” as “light of freedom”, “train” as “moving row of houses”, “tissue paper” as “sanitary pad” and “sanitary pad” as “fabric amulet for keeping out blood”.

The lazy translation caused such offence that it had to be dealt with at an inter-governmental level.

Channel 7’s errors awakened the emotions of Lao commentators, and revived the rivalry between the two countries.  The Lao ambassador to Bangkok was even called upon given the sensitivity of the issue.

Needless to say the mistake ended up costing the dignity of the entire TV channel. The same applies to companies selling products or services.

3. Running costs

If translation is not perfect first time, it can end up costing you more time and money moving forward.

HSBC, for instance, was forced to rebrand its entire global private banking operations after taking a US campaign overseas in 2009.

The bank spent $10 million repairing the damage after its catchphrase “Assume Nothing” was mistranslated as “Do Nothing” in various countries. It eventually changed the tagline to “The World’s Private Bank”.

But while you can pay to amend errors, it’s not so easy to turn around bad PR if those errors have caused offence.

A poor reputation could end up costing you dearly when it comes to revenue and profit, as no matter how much money you throw at it to make it go away, the damage has already been done. It’s irreversible.

Always think twice

Just remember that you get what you pay for, particularly in the world of business, so think twice before taking the plunge. Bargain deals usually seem too good to be true – and that’s because they are for the most part!

Companies offering cheaper translation often use machine translation in its basic form – similar to Google Translate – rather than professional translators who are competent in the languages required.

While it’s unwise to pay too much for something, paying too little should also ring alarm bells because it often means that the supplier is compromising on quality for the sake of cost.

Businesses therefore should never scrimp when it comes to translation services.

Written by Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf is Head of Digital at TranslateMedia. He has an interest in how technology can help businesses achieve their marketing objectives. He's been working in digital marketing and web development since 2001 across a wide range of industries and clients.

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