Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Globalization's Patent Medicine

Translation Services are today’s Snake Oil and Magic Dust. I have just completed an over 15-hour translation project turning this company's over 75 product descriptions from English into the material for a Spanish/Latin America Catalog. About half of that time was spent with a Native-speaker who is also an industry-insider. At the completion of our translation, I still feel like there may be some confusing descriptions, but at least I've straightened out my terms for "pan" and "tray." You see, the trick in translating Industry-Specific terms, is that even when you have an exactly-right literal translation, it can still be utter nonsense to your expert readers.

So, a Translation Service offers translation into German and is doing the same translation that I just completed, but has no industry experience. She says she has access to an engineer that she uses as a resource to improve the accuracy of her translating. She states that it took 7 hours for the first 2 pages of the document (out of 8 total) and claims it will take 40 to 50 hours to complete the translation. There is no reason given for this time estimate. We pay by the hour.

We have no way of checking that the translation she has provided so far is correct or of verifying that it has taken her as long as she claims. Essentially, our options are:
1) to allow her as much time as she estimates and pay her as much as she requests,
2) to bargain and negotiate based solely on my experience that the Spanish took 1/5 the time she is estimating (and still no guarantee that she is providing usable translation),
3) to find another source that is somehow verifiable and perhaps works faster/cheaper.

She has us at her mercy. Basically, we are going to take whatever she gives us, and we are going to pay her whatever she asks. It's Doc Terminus' Magic Dragon Elixir. The only way to test it is to try it. And if we get back pages full of German words, we have to go ahead and pay her. If only we had someone that knew our industry and was fluent in German?

In October we are going to begin sales into France. We don't speak that language either...

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