Basically, we are talking about standards of excellence and the value placed on ensuring that these standards are met. For the translation industry, ISO Standard 17100 specifies aspects directly affecting the quality of the processes involved in providing translation services. These are the basic provisions guiding the conduct of providers, both large and small, relating to qualifications, workflow and services.
On a different level, the quality of a work product depends on the amount of care put into the translating itself. With so many providers on the market offering pricing ranges or tiers that let you choose the amount of ‘pre- and post-production’ quality control included in the service you pay for it can be difficult to decide on how much diligence and care you should ask for. Do you want a ‘quick and dirty’, rough translation? Do you need something that will make readers take note (and open up their wallets)? Are you looking for equivalence in meaning, tone and voice (not to mention humour)? Or are you just happy to throw your money at machines that can sound like language learners?
Let’s compare the relative costs and outcomes (effects) of different courses of action. First, I’ll assume that you want the best result your money can buy. (And right you are.) You have three options:
- Ask a friend or relative to do a ‘quick translation’ while hoping your message will come across well enough;
- Make use of free translation tools circulating on the internet (because you ‘know’ that they do a passable job on the language(s) you don’t understand); or
- Hire a contractor (a language services provider) to put some effort into getting it all right: the message, the tone, the humour…
The choice is yours and there are good reasons for choosing each course of action. Certainly, your friend or relative will probably not charge you anything (maybe just expect a favour in return). Google Translate, DeepL, Reverso, … all free. Commissioning a professional services provider costs money.
Yes, but what about the outcomes?
All roads lead to Rome? – True. But do you mean the ancient city of Rome, the Italian city in the 16th century or modern Rome?
I decided on this topic for the holiday month of July when a client’s editor recently asked me, ‘Do you really mean "pasties" or should that be "parties"?’ (in a context where both would have been plausible). The question reminded me of the fact that it is vitally important in this business to leave no stone unturned (‘Jeden Stein umdrehen’, as we say in German), to check and double-check, not just for errors, but for the best result in terms of translation quality your money can buy.
I hope that you will always have meaningful choices when it comes to commissioning a translator or a translation agency. It’s what I term ‘ensuring cost-effectiveness’ in translation.
Next month will see another wonderful article written by Summer here in this blog. Make sure to drop by in August!
In the meantime, check out the Witinall Shop for easy ordering.
P.S: In case you wondered: the right word really was 'pasties'. ;-)