Yes! I found an incredibly cheap translation agency!

 

or

 

How translations are handled by translation agencies

 

Translation agency (TA) versus professional freelance translator (PFT)

 
This text will show you:
  1. how you can make considerable savings by opting for a PFT
  2. why PFTs are a safer option than TAs when it comes to quality
  3. why and when PFTs are a better and safer option for you
  4. how to get free advice on finding the right translator for you
  5. how to check up on your previous German translations free of charge
 
 
Content
How translations are handled by translation agencies
Pray and hope the translation will turn out right
Down spiraling contracts
Why should Western Translation Agencies take this risk?
Fair Trade means: Better Price, Better Value, Better Quality
Rome was not build in a day!
Finding the right translator for you– Free advice and free personalized search
 
 

Pray and hope the translation will turn out right

In the last five years, the translation business has seen a free fall in prices. For end clients this may seem like a windfall. At last, you too can afford a cheap translation and go ahead with your multilingual project. However, on the day of delivery, you may be in for a bad surprise. Low cost paid you off with low quality, and you will soon have to spend time and money again, to redo the job. You will soon find out, how carelessly your project has been handled from start to finish, in spite of all the quality assurances given and ISO labels shown on the providers professional and superbly designed Website. Soon you will find out how indifferently your project has been passed down from one provider to another. Most of the intermediaries are actually not linguists themselves and actually do not know what it takes to get a good quality translation. Nor do they really care. All they are interested in is to get a share of a big contract and thrive on it. What you are left with is, pray and hope that the translation will be at least of acceptable quality.
 
Unfortunately, most of the clients do not know about the workings nor do they always have the means to check on the quality, as they may not speak the target languages. They have no other choice (so they think) and blindly trust their well-written documents to an apparently promising translation agency, which will pass it down to several sub-contractors.
 

Down spiraling contracts

At best, your document will be passed down up to three providers, if not, your job will be transferred to four or more subcontractors without ever knowing, who the job eventually was translated by. At worst, if the final provider was unable to find a bilingual person (willing to work for such a low rate) he will have it translated it by software or an online translation engine. 

 
Here is how the subcontract spiral works: 
Translation Agency (TA) passes job on to a Pseudo-Translation Agency somewhere in the Middle East or in Egypt (PTA) > PTA to Scammer Translation Agency in Gaza STA) > STA to non-professional none qualified “translator” (bilingual person – NQT) or if they cannot find a NQT they will directly have it translated by a Software or by Google Translate.
 
Pattern of the sub-contract spiral in short:
(1) Agency A > (2) Agency B > (3) Agency B > (4) Non qualified Bilingual Person
 
The price spiral corresponds to the following pattern:
Direct Client (DC) pays 0.12 USD per source word > TA pays 0.07 USD to PTA > PTA pays 0.04 USD to STA. Consequently, a Direct Client pays 0.06 USD or more for the transferal of a translation job to a non-qualified translator.
 
As a result, you will pay 0.12 for a job that you could have actually have had for 0.04 (for the same poor quality):
 
$0.12 > $0.07 > $0.04 > $0.03 or $0.02 
 
In other words: If your job has cost you $1,200, you could have had it for $3,000 or even $2,000 for the same (mediocre quality)! If you had hired a standard quality freelance translator, you may have paid only $7,000 for a quality job. This may seem a paradox, but it is unfortunately true: Clients get today less quality for higher prices when they turn to translation agencies. On the other hand, clients may have had a good quality for $1,200 five or more years ago, but most Western Translation Agencies would not dare offering you a translation at $1,2000 for fear not get the contract! So they go down to 20 or 30% without being able to find the quality translators for it! If you turn to a freelance translator, you will get better quality at a better price as you will pay only the translator and not the translation agency or any other pseudo translation agency behind it. 
 

Internet agencies sourcing out translation services 

Internet agencies sourcing out translation services to add value often ends up in reducing value to what could have been otherwise a splendid and impeccable product: A modern website with an appealing and fresh look, but with a terrible translation! 
 
So, beware of Webmasters proposing translation services. If website developers wish to add value to their Internet service by adding a translation service, you may want to check the quality of their translations before, as they will simply outsource this service to the next cheapest bidder as well (to keep the overall cost low and not loose out on the contract due to the added translation service). If you cannot check the target languages yourself, kindly decline their offer. On the other hand, do you want to end up paying for a botched job without you knowing it? 
 
Buying a translation without speaking the relevant target language or without being able to check on this translation is like buying a pig in a poke.
 

Why should Western Translation Agencies take this risk?

Why should Western Translation Agencies (WTA) take such great risks in sub-contracting their contracts? After all, they might loose their clients…
 
  • Because most of the clients do actually not realize the fraud or have no means to check the quality, as they do not speak the relevant target languages. 
     
  • Because translation agencies are hard pressed by market constraints and unfair competition from emerging countries.
     
  • Because Western Translation Agencies are often so hard pressed nowadays, that the risk of being found out is not greater a risk than the risk of filing for bankruptcy if they did not accept your contract.
     
  • Because many end clients have become increasing spoiled by the offer and have been successfully been fooled by a skillful window-dressing. Translation agencies, to survive on the market, accept nowadays nearly anything: 10k words in a day, 50k words in a day, you name it… Anything is possible, you just need ask! They will farm it out to several subcontractors, and they in turn will shift it again to yet another subcontractor… However, do not check the quality afterwards! This may make your day! Not even 10 years ago, biggest translation agencies would put a limit to their capacities and said stop at 10k words per day. 
     
  • Because of the ignorance of clients trusting unfair low-cost ‘translation’ agencies, not knowing what these end clients may be in for. If they have no means of checking the quality, they will remain in the dark about the delivered poor quality until the day, when a reader or customer draws to the attention to this issue.
     
  • Because software translation software and Internet translation engines have leveled down overall quality standards in the translation business (Websites are now automatically translated via a click on the national flag) and trusted for the top quality, without the client actually knowing about the poor and often incoherent translation or without being able to check up on it.
 
Western Translation Agencies are also under increasing pressure from such intermediary agencies based in the Middle East or Egypt. They often have no other choice but to outsource contracts in order to stay on the market. For them it is a simple question of survival. 
 
More and more formally, solid and well-established Western Translation Agencies are in fact struggling to get along, to keep up appearances. They pass on the price pressure to their translators, who in turn have to struggle to survive with the poverty pay they offer them. That is how they keep themselves afloat: Not through quality but through quantity and serious quality trade-off.  Increasingly, often big or medium sized translation agencies simply default on payments, especially when it comes to ‘smaller’ amounts not exceeding 500 USD. (That may be smaller amounts to them, but for freelancers, this may be important sums to make ends meet!) Translation agencies count on freelancers not to follow-up on their invoices, as employing a debt collection agency may prove to be more costly than the actual amount of the invoice, or they simply have no time and nerve for it. 
 

Fair Trade means: Better Price, Better Value, Better Quality

If you have medium sized or smaller translation projects and you do not need more than five major languages, you are best advised to contact a professional freelance translator yourself. You will find them easily via the Yellow Pages in your country, and most Western Countries have an association for translators, where truly professional translators are registered! Type in “national translation association” and your country, and the search engine will come up with useful results.
 
By choosing a freelance translator you can make not only considerable savings, but on top of that you get often a far better quality and you help translators up on their feet, so that they can live again on the highly creative and intelligent work they do! 
 
In addition, you would help to get rid of all those intermediaries, that just want to get a piece of the cake and do not have the faintest idea, how important it is to find the right specialized translator for a particular project, nor would they care. After all, the end client is several levels away from the subcontract spiral, and the end client would never know, who has actually done this terrible job. If you work with a freelancer, at least, if any thing should go wrong, you know who to blame and you will find another, better linguist! 
 
The common wisdom applies also to the translation business: Quality comes at a price! 
 
The more readily you give away your precious project to the cheapest available translator, the more likely you are to fall on your nose with this choice. 
 
Remember: Having to retranslate or redo the work will draw very much more of your resources than expected or budgeted for: It will take additional time and additional money to pay for another, this time professional, translator who has to straighten the job out again. 
 
The paradox is, this spiral system is the demise of many big and medium sized translation agencies in the West: If a project goes wrong, the end client will refuse to continue collaboration with them. The disappointed end client will then work with another agency (often another established agency that faces the same competition problems and market constraints or they will come across a freshly set up business that soon will face the same problems and has not sufficient experience in handling larger projects…). Translation agencies from merging countries, however, who bungled the job, get away with it and remain anonymous. Most of the new startup translation agencies are short-lived undertakings, that last no longer than 5 to 7 years.
 

Rome was not build in a day! 

Important: You should prepare your translation project well in advance, so that you will have plenty of time for the translation. This is particularly important, when it is about documents that you want to publish. The illusion to get a first rate translation of 10k words a day (or 50k words in a week etc.) may  cruelly make feel the jolt of dashed expectations and hard-edged reality on the day of delivery, unless you have a proofreader in house, that can assure harmonization and correction of the lot within another 5 days.
 
All taken into consideration, you should expect at least 0.08 USD for a medium quality translation carried out by a freelance translator and for a top quality translator at least 0.10 USD. Anything else is a sham. 
 
 

Finding the right translator for you– Free advice and free personalized search

If you wish to advice you on how to find one or several quality freelance translators, I will be more than happy to help you with that search. This help will be free of charge, and you will have direct contact to the translator. 
 

Check up on your old Website translations free of charge

If you have a doubt already on a translation carried out some time ago and you wish to check up on this, I can do this for you free of charge for translations into German only.
 
 
 
 
 
(C) Frank MÖRSCHNER - ARTECH TRANSLATIONS December 2013