The cost of poor quality translations
A quality translation can be defined as an accurate and well researched translation and poor quality is easy to spot by the native speaker whereas excellence is sometimes invisible. Quality can be taken for granted and the consequences and costs generated by a poor quality translation are often overlooked.
The European Commission’s Directorate General in Translation stands as a centre of excellence and unlike private sector providers, does not suffer a decline in sales or profit margins following poor quality translations, but rather it has an obligation to provide high quality to the community considering the EU has twenty four official and working languages. Therefore, for a professional translation company, it is important to look upon the EC Directorate General in Translation for keeping quality high and eliminating the costs and consequences from poor quality translations, thus ensuring high standards and cost savings to clients.
A study conducted by the European Commission outlines the methods for calculating the costs of poor quality in translation as this can also lead to damages suffered by citizens or companies as well as legal uncertainties and court cases.
The study makes the case that quality efforts in translation are essential and worth every penny, as these costs actually save money in the long run. Quality investments, in addition to quality control measures employed during the translation process also include staff training, recruitment, IT, translation tools and terminological research etc. It is essential for a translation company, as much as the EC Directorate General in Translation, to make such investments to ensure that this quality is passed on to clients who trust in the company they are paying to ensure quality. Thus a translation company must establish a quality system that can be implemented throughout the entire translation process, employing ISO standards in order to certify each process. ISO standard 8402 defines “quality” as the “totality of characteristics of an entity that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs”. Therefore a translation must meet the needs of the requesting client and must be an accurate reflection of the intention and message of the original. Quality has two dimensions: quality of the process and quality of the output, including the timely delivery of a product or service.
It is more expensive to correct errors rather than ‘get it right first time’, but the latter involves an investment into quality that only the most established translation agency can guarantee. Improving quality decreases the cost of poor quality: for most companies the quality-related costs range from 25% – 40% of operating expenses.
The European Commission’s Directorate General in Translation produced a programme for quality management which outlines 22 Quality Actions with the overall aim of improving translation quality and efficiency. Such actions include raising the awareness of translators about the nature and tests, developing contacts with experts as well as using a calendar and improving other capacity monitoring tools. These actions can be implemented and employed by a professional translation company that is serious about achieving high quality, the costs of such implementation being insignificant compared to the cost of a good reputation for high quality and the absence of incurring costs for rectifying errors. Thus to ensure quality, it is also important to establish a solid team of project managers who can ensure that their in-house translators are fully equipped with the necessary quality tools in order to implement the actions established by the EC Directorate General and pass on high quality and eventual cost savings to its customers.
Some translation agencies often outsource their translation projects to freelance translators, thus this quality system and the process that leads to high quality output can be inconsistent and difficult to monitor, which is why it is important for companies to employ a professional translation company who employ full-time translators in offices where they can be supported and monitored throughout the translation process. The consequences of poor translation sometimes cannot be quantified such as the loss of reputation, and poor translation can also lead to legal proceedings: take the example given by Michal Bobek, researcher at the Department of Law of the University Institute in Florence, who argues that corrections to translation errors in legislation should be considered as material amendments not mere rectifications: he recalls Article 54 of Regulation 865/2006 which outlines the conditions under which a specimen of an animal species shall be considered to be born and bred in captivity, the article contains four conditions and in English stated, “a specimen of an animal species shall be considered born and bred in captivity if a competent management authority […] is satisfied that the following criteria are met”. However, the Czech translation of the article stated “a specimen of an animal species shall be considered born and bred in captivity if a competent management authority […] is satisfied that one of the following criteria is met.” Such an error led to permits being granted for animals that did not meet the full conditions of the article. The importance of quality in legal translations is paramount and therefore a translation company that offers a translation process that includes revision, checking and proofreading as well as offering sworn legal services is essential for any company wishing to avoid such complications.
Such example is just one of many cases brought to the attention of the translation industry, thus the cost of translation is not solely the cost of ‘re-doing’ the work but also rectifying any consequences of poor quality translation as well as redeeming reputation lost through the unreliability of language services used. It is therefore extremely important for a company, private or public, to use a professional translation company who employs the actions established by the EC. A company should not be afraid to ask questions about the quality system implemented by the translation company, if there is in fact one in place at all. Ensure the translation company has a team of Project Managers ready to support their translators. A very good translation company will often have established its own research centre, dedicated to terminological accuracy and monitoring changes to language that may occur over time. High quality translations must have been translated and revised by native speakers of the source with contact and support from native speakers of the original language, an added bonus that only comes from using a translation company with in-house translators and international offices. For more information about high quality translations go to www.smgtranslations.co.uk or tweet us @SMGTranslations.
Originally posted 2014-01-10 20:18:16.