Six Reasons Why Employees and Distributors Should NOT Double as Translators

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Bilingual employees and distributors seem to be the logical option for translation. Teneo Linguistics Company, a full service foreign language translation business based in Fort Worth, TX, addresses six reasons for reconsidering this tactic.

The best and most successful translation products are created in cooperation with specialists on the customer’s side.

Companies who launch their products abroad for the first time typically seek help with translation from their bilingual employees or their distributors located in the target country.

While on the surface this seems logical – these resources already know the language and the product itself and there is the perception of saving time and money – upon closer inspection this is actually not a good idea. Here are six reasons why:

1.    Liability. Employees and distributors are not trained in translation and there is likely no formal review process. If a serious mistake happens who will be liable? Aside from employing QA processes, frequently certified to international quality standards like ISO, specialized translation resources also carry Errors & Omissions insurance policies (Professional Liability).

2.    Branding. Most manufacturers spend a lot of time, money, and effort creating and maintaining the integrity of their brand and their message. Protecting these requires a centralized translation effort. Relying on multiple distributors in multiple markets makes it very hard – if not impossible – to maintain consistency.

3.    Quality. Speaking a foreign language does not mean that someone is a qualified translator. Translators usually have years of education in the art of delivering messages across language and culture. Even though they are excellent writers, professional agencies will still employ multiple quality control steps to proof and review their work. Suppliers of professional services should also have processes compliant with international quality standards that will allow them to provide predictable, detail-and-quality-oriented service, each time.

4.    Cost of rework. A text that is poorly written or riddled with mistakes will almost certainly create an unfavorable first impression and may slow or completely stop any potential growth. In such cases, there are two types of costs: the hard cost of re-translating, re-printing and re-distributing and, more importantly, the soft cost of lost reputation. In some cases, it is impossible to put a price tag on lost reputation, damaged image, and stalled opportunities.

5.    Messaging. By far the most frequent problem with employees and distributors translating is that they make unilateral decisions to change the original message. While an employee may simply look for wording that makes it easier for him/her to translate, distributors frequently change the text so that the product would be easier to sell. Among the most serious issues are changing the wording in description of benefits or warranty statements.

6.    Limited growth. Even if individual employees and/or distributors successfully handle the first few pages of translation, what happens when a large, more complex project comes along? In the case of both employees and distributors, translation is not their main job. Their day is filled with their regular responsibilities and translation takes their focus away. Outsourcing translation provides a scalable solution and also one that should result in leveraging cost over time. Professional translation resources can not only add and subtract manpower at a moment’s notice, they also offer the option of discounts for previously translated content. This is only possible with advanced technological tools – another point against asking non-professionals to translate.

The value of bilingual employees or distributors in the translation process

A truly professional translation provider will seek resources on the inside of the customer’s operation who may be available to discuss terminology, add context, or provide explanation as to the product’s functions. Bilingual people who are familiar with the product and industry make excellent resources for translators, editors and reviewers. The best and most successful translation products are created in cooperation with specialists on the customer’s side.

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Hana Laurenzo
@TLCtranslation
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Teneo Linguistics Company
since: 06/2011
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Teneo Linguistics Company, LLC

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