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Off topic: Why are translations used by big businesses so poor?
Thread poster: Eng2Span

Eng2Span  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
May 7, 2004

Hi everybody!

First of all, just wanted to say that I started visiting Proz a couple of weeks ago and have just been thrilled with this place!
The subject of my post is a bit of a rant to big businesses here in the States... seeing how exceptional the translations are from just about everybody on this site... forces me to wonder where do the big companies here get their translators? If you live in the States, you know what I'm talking about... the phone company, banks, even McDonald's reaching out to Hispanics... yet plagued with really poor Spanish.
Maybe we should send these guys a link... KudoZ to all!

Take care,

Jesse (Eng2Span)

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Sol  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
bad translations in the U.S. May 7, 2004

Eng2Span wrote:
If you live in the States, you know what I'm talking about... the phone company, banks, even McDonald's reaching out to Hispanics... yet plagued with really poor Spanish.

My theory is that they are not willing to pay for it. They probably get the same kids that work in their restaurants for minimum wage to do it.

[Edited at 2004-05-08 22:14]

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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:50
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Simple, May 7, 2004

they want to sit in the front row for peanuts or even for free if possible.

As someone said, perhaps they have the kids that work in the restaurants translate the signs instead of having a professional do it.

The fees that they are willing to pay are just so much lower. You get what you pay for.


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:50
Part ignorance, part economics, but not everywhere! May 7, 2004

I think that part of the problem is due to the fact that a lot of respectable business people here still believe that any bilingual person can do translations, so they just give the jobs to their secretaries, waiters and the sort. These same business people also react with surprise when confronted with the rates of a professional translator, since they never thought about it as a profession similar to others like graphic designer, librarian, etc. Thus, there is a certain tendency to try to save money on this field.

However, in my experience, MOST of the business people here mind a lot about the QUALITY of the services/attention they offer their customers, and the ones that realize that good language standards constitute an essential part of their business, look for professional translators and are willing to pay the price. Several of my clients are an example of this.

I guess some fast-food companies are just more interested in catering to the buds, rather than to the eyes, of their Hispanic clientele.

My two cents.

[Edited at 2004-05-07 20:01]

[Edited at 2004-05-09 00:22]

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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:20
English to Tamil
+ ...
The problem is not confined to the USA alone May 8, 2004

It is seen everywhere. The problem is, translation is not recognized as a serious economic activity. If you see the bar chart of an organization dealing with its clients' projects, whose language is different, there is no provision in the bar chart for the time required for the translation. Nor is there a separate allocation for translations in the budget. The attempt is always there to accommodate this expenditure in the 3% contingencies. As a result, a client coming to a translator always sets unreasonable deadlines and is painfully surprised to hear the prices demanded. The tendency is always to make do with a cheap translation done in haste.
And the funny translations abound. There are quite a number of Proz threads citing such translations.

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Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
Money makes the world go round (or stay put) May 8, 2004

I was recently approached for one of the best projects I have ever been offered and it was for a long term collaboration paid by the hour with a certain number of hours per week. Well I offered my fees and they offered theirs, and then I offered something inbetween and they came back to me saying they would pass the job to their branch in the States since they knew it was going to be so much cheaper.... I don't regret it.
Cheap labour is something of the past.

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Pablo Roufogalis
Local time: 11:50
English to Spanish
Priorities May 10, 2004

In many cases, translations for secondary markets are done to meet an internal or external requirement, not because there's a manager who feels it is important to provide a good document.

A known provider that delivers in time is probably all they need. Why risk it if nobody cares?

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Why are translations used by big businesses so poor?

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