The $64 Question: What is the Real Value of Translation?

Miloš Matović 7 years ago 6 min read

Whatever the price of professional translation may be, the price of a bad, inadequate or missing translation is always higher

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Let’s be frank – there are people who have a very vague idea of what is it the LSPs actually do and either believe that language services should be a free commodity provided by machine translation systems, or consider professional translation something of an overpriced luxury they can happily do without.

There are several reasons for this, ranging from the decades-long misconceptions about the powers of MT, lack of insight into what a professional translation is (and isn’t) and finally, lack of understanding of the true value of professionally translated and localized product / service.

Can’t read it – won’t buy it

There is a very good reasons why the world’s biggest companies whose top positions are seemingly eternal, from Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google to Coca-Cola and Disney, invest heavily into translation and localization of their products and services every year.

These companies are so big that it’s hard to imagine the contemporary world without them, and yet they are fully aware that potential customers are more likely to opt for a product or service presented in their native language and in accordance with their culture and this is why, in addition to all the multi-million global marketing campaigns, they also invest in professional translation of their products and services.

Simply put, a seller must speak the buyer’s language and translation costs are justified by the global presence stretching from New York to Beijing and from Moscow to Rio.

Bad translation always costs more

Can you imagine paying thousands for a high-end Japanese hi-fi system and receiving user manual written only in Japanese or, worse still, in bad English? What do you think this frustrating experience would do to the brand image and future brand loyalty on the global market, even if the product quality is truly impeccable?

The answer is self-evident and this is why global companies take localization seriously and rely on professional services of established LSPs. Because, whatever the price of professional translation may be, the price of a bad, inadequate or missing translation is always higher.

Role of LSPs in global business

All through the history, language services have been an essential part of business and although we tend to believe it was the other way around, it was the economic activities that spurred the cultural ones.

Writing was invented in the ancient Sumer not because people wanted to write poetry, but for the reasons of trade and taxation. Ancient Phoenician merchants introduced the use of alphabet to the ancient Greek merchants and, in all probability, were the first professional translators as it took a good deal of linguistic knowledge to do business in the multilingual Mediterranean region.

Essentially, the things haven’t changed all that much. The role of translators remains the same – accurate and appropriate communication of meaning between the languages.

However, in the age of globalization and fierce competition, their role in business activities is even more pronounced. Today, LSPs combine linguistic expertise and advanced technologies to help companies do what the ancient merchants had to do themselves – build gateways to global market. And what is the real value of that?

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