The ROI of translation – When is a bad translation good? (J)

Honyaku Plus provides high-quality translation and interpreting services. High-quality  translation and interpreting is generally hard to find, and yet it is so important when you need it. There are lots of “alternative brands” of translation out there that the inexperienced client may unknowingly use, with the obvious negative consequences. This is why we go to such great lengths to educate translation clients through this blog.

A correlative to high quality is high price, and although Honyaku Plus is not the highest priced translation in the market, it is also not the cheapest (we consider ourselves the “best value” brand). You get what you pay for in most cases.

So, what about the client whose top priority is cost savings rather than high quality? They don’t need to “wow” anybody, they just need the information, and they need it within budget. Internal reports and product manuals come to mind. Well, Honyaku Plus can do that too. We have flexible pricing for volume jobs, and we can make other adjustments for the “cost sensitive” project.

There are other options, however.

We created a general consumer education brochure about the translation industry that summarizes these options, which you can download here. A more complete description is given below.

1. Machine translation.

This is scraping the bottom of the quality barrel. With virtually unusable output in most cases, its sole benefit is that it is free. We only include this option because most uninitiated clients have the idea that machine translation is an option, when it really isn’t in most business cases.

2. Automated agencies. is one of the few automated agencies. These agencies are trying to monetize the latent demand in low-end translation: the type of translation that real translation companies don’t need or want because the users of these types of services do not want to pay real money for real translation.

The automated agency leverages technology to cut the cost of finding translators and the cost of matching translators with clients. Some translators sign up because the bar to entry is lower than most agencies. The translators sometimes can just sign up, and sometimes they have to pass a simple test to qualify. If the service is an honest one, the client is forewarned that real quality is obtained from real professional translators (which they will provide for real prices, in which case the automated service is a loss leader for professional translation services).

It is relatively low cost, but it is also lower paying for the translators, and so it tends to attract people without experience, and professional translators tend to stay away, preferring instead to develop relationships with direct clients or professional agencies.

3. Freelance translators.

For the company with a need for translation services over a longer period of time, there are freelance translators that can be hired directly by a company (if your company allows contracting with non-corporate entities, of which many freelancers are). The agency is cut out, and the freelancer may provide lower prices (and maybe not), but the same translator can  be used, which benefits the client over time.

The downside is that the company now has to do the agency’s job by managing the translator relationship and dealing with the absence of the translator during vacations, holidays, weekends, illness, unavailability due to other work, etc. An agency would have many more translation resources available to deal with these situations. The client also has to take on all quality control responsibility.

A freelancer also has capacity limitations because they work alone, whereas an agency can muster enough people to get large jobs done on tight deadlines.

That just about sums it up: a bad translation is good when the quality requirement is low and does not justify the cost of high-quality translation. Honyaku Plus can often adjust the translation process to meet the client’s budget while maintaining quality, so feel free consult our project manager via our web form with the details of your project, or call 03-5913-8115 (international +81-3-5913-8115) between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. JST.