Understanding the value of translation
Translation is often perceived to be a simple process whereby translators simply convert text from one language into another. This lack of knowledge surrounding the process has led to the translation industry being undervalued. Increasingly, companies set unrealistic deadlines and undermine the costs that will be required for translation. Translators and translation agencies often have to clear a lot of misconceptions when dealing with first time clients.
Why is translation undervalued?
Perception matters. In business, the value of a service is based upon its return on investment (ROI), and rightly so. However, translation is perceived by some businesses to be a non-value adding service; often by those who approach translation in an unplanned, ad-hoc way. There is a lack of knowledge around conducting business in foreign markets, especially as a result of the internet. But when translation is applied to income generating assets, like a website, this can help broaden a company’s revenue stream.
This lack of knowledge has led to a myopic view of the industry as a whole and the intricate processes involved in document and website translations. Translation as a means to communicate and market to a non-English speaking audience brings insurmountable benefits to almost any company.
Similarly, the growth of machine translation (MT) has undervalued the translation process – positioning the specialism as an automated ‘one-click’ process. If the reality of the dangers of dependency on machine translation alone were realized, many brands could have saved millions in damage control and brand rebuilding.
What the industry can do to change this view.
Globalization has had a positive effect on the demand for translation services. Companies that identify its value and use it to maximize on new opportunities will inevitably meet their global objectives and subsequently appreciate the processes involved in translation.
Information sharing and collaborative working should highlight the benefits of translation and foreign market opportunities to late adopters. The use of illustrations and case studies to demonstrate the process would be helpful, and should be made available in the public domain. The current lack of information present on translation is detrimental to its image. The language services industry has remained very low key which makes it difficult for prospective buyers to gain necessary information and insight.
The development of a more vibrant community which produces and shares content will help rid the industry of its muted image. This will also help buyers understand the process of translation better and value it accordingly.