It’s a question that might not apply to you. You may know the translators working on your projects very well and go out for drinks with them every week.
But the chances are you don’t know them. Or you think you do, and the reality is very different.
So why is that the case, and why does it matter?
The reason you probably have no idea who your translators are is because of the way the industry works. Most (but not all) companies engage an agency to manage their localization and translation projects, or use an online service to co-ordinate and commission translators.
A few companies find and manage their own translators directly. They’ll know their translators well, but it’s time-consuming and only really feasible if you’re starting very small or if you have a business large enough to employ a team to manage them.
If you use an agency, they find and manage the translators for you. Translators are usually independent freelancers who work for many different employers.
Some agencies and the translators outsource and sub-contract work themselves if they’re busy, adding yet another layer to the supply chain.
Before you know it, you are two, three, or even four steps away from the people dealing with your most sensitive information.
That’s the first problem.
The second is how they’re paid. Badly, on the whole.
Everyone wants something for less. And fast-growing tech firms, with their caring, sharing, ethical values are no different in this regard. A large number of them want and expect cheap translations.
And if they get them, everyone suffers.
The translators at the bottom of the sub-contracting chain suffer, because everyone else has had a slice of the pie before them. They’re left with the scraps.
The agency suffers, because the only way they can win business is by offering cheap rates and providing low-quality translations. Their reputation suffers and they have to fight for work with the other 90% of low-quality providers in the industry.
Most of all, the tech firm buying the translations suffers. Because they’re the ones who are going to get really poor-quality translations. And those poor-quality translations end up in your UI, in your marketing material, and on your website.
Guess what? International users hate bad translations. They like their products to look, feel and function like they were created locally. A poor user experience leads to slow sales, excess churn, and dissatisfied investors.
So what’s the moral of this sad story?
Like many things in life, if you want quality you have to pay for it. That’s no bad thing as there’s a direct commercial benefit to you in paying a fair price for a good quality piece of work. On top of this you can be more confident that the translators behind the scenes are being paid fairly, managed carefully, and appropriately vetted before they get their hands on your content.
If cheap is your only option, wait until you have the traction, revenue, or investment to do it properly.
And if you won’t wait, don’t think you’re kidding anyone with your philanthropic CSR statement and bullshit startup ‘story’. Nobody’s buying it.