The Cost of Quality Translation

The language industry is often subject to quick deadlines and tight budgets, but when a translation project is rushed to meet a deadline, or resources are skimped on because of budget constraints, quality can be compromised. In the end, a poor translation can end up being more expensive. Quality is expected in translation, and therefore is taken for granted; however, as with other services, quality translation comes at a cost. 

CETRA Translation

Reducing translation budgets may save a company money at first, but the higher potential for errors the risk of ending up with poor-quality translations is exponentially higher.  According to a study done by the European Commission in 2012, the direct costs of poor quality are the costs a company has to pay to correct translation errors, while indirect costs are the costs that result from a loss of business due to those errors.  A company’s reputation is affected when a poor quality translation is given to a customer.  These costs cannot be measured, but if a customer is dissatisfied there is a loss of future business and a potential for damage to the company’s reputation. The study states that, “At best, a poor or less fortunate translation makes the reader shake his head and smile at poorly translated sentences, but errors in translation can also have serious legal, financial or political consequences.”

A poor-quality translation can pose a risk to legal certainty, even if the error was corrected after publication.  For example, take Article 54 of Regulation 865/2006, a European Union Wildlife Trade  regulation,  regarding importing and breeding certain animals. The regulation states that in order to import and sell these animals, four conditions must be met to prove that the animals were born and bred in captivity.  However, for over a year the Czech version of the regulation read that the permit would be granted if “at least one” of the criteria was met. Based on the Czech version, more five-year permits would be granted than in a properly translated version.  Once the error was discovered and fixed, many legal issues remained to be solved. What happens with the permits which were issued under the erroneous regulation? What happens to the animals which were imported and sold under those permits, and the people and institutions who participated in those transactions? The potential consequences of translation errors, even after they are corrected, can be far-reaching. 

So, what does quality translation include?  The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation  (DGT) defines the properties of quality translation as:

  • the correct usage of the target language,
  • correct use of subject-specific terminology,
  • consistency, both with the original and in all translated versions, and
  • compliance with specific conventions for different types of texts. 

In order to ensure high quality, the translation provider must follow a quality assurance process. This process often requires the involvement of more than one translator, as well as additional time. Investing in quality translation is necessary in order to avoid a poor result.  The cost of getting it right the first time is a bargain when compared to the direct and indirect costs of a poor translation, which in a worst-case scenario could include damage to your company’s reputation and legal action, on top of the time and money to fix errors or even produce a new translation.