In a recent post, I explained how a higher price might have a positive impact on translation quality. However, as productivity increases and competition becomes more fierce, the general long-term trend in the translation industry pricing is clearly “bearish.” This topic is now hot in the blogs and translation forums (e.g. see posts by Wendell Ricketts or Jill Sommer), as translators are increasingly pressured to lower prices. Here is my two cents worth:
Indeed, customers are increasingly interested in discounts. Some also insist on applying a standard minimum translation rate to each project instead of negotiating the prices individually, depending on the difficulty or deadline. As a translator, this is certainly frustrating for me. I do believe, though, in the supply and demand rules of the free market. If buyers have an increasing demand for cheap, lower-quality translations, they should be able to buy them. I think this is a natural trend in the sagging economy and therefore see no reasons to resist it specifically. If the end users are happy with this quality, there’s no reason for a translation buyer to pay more? Otherwise, such buyer will lose some of the business due to low quality, review the lessons learned, and exercise more caution next time.
Recent Quality Issues
Unsurprisingly, we are now receiving more requests to re-do someone else’s work after it was rejected by the client. One of them was a large, almost 100K-word translation. Personally, if some day I am forced to always deliver this kind of quality of work and face the risk of similar embarrassment because I cannot get any better-paid projects and therefore have to translate more to maintain profitability, I’d rather quit this business.
We have recently translated a medical user manual from English to Russian. This job involved using a translation memory created by someone else. In many 100% matches, the word “haptic” (element supporting intraocular lens) was translated as “sclera lens.” While this is an outrageous error itself, it is the fact that it still resides in the TM that is more alarming. This error was once made by a translator and then missed by an editor and proofreader (or were there any?). It might have been spotted by the end users, but no one cared to correct the TM, hence about the quality of any future jobs. Or, this manual might have never been read, so high quality is just unnecessary.
The other day, I proofread a Russian to English translation made for a large global client. While I had my share of bad translations as an editor over the years and developed a thick skin, this nightmare penetrated my low sensitivity threshold easily. It was literal and unprofessional beyond readability, with the meaning of many sentences escaping me completely. I guess the only reason why such translations make it so far in the supply chain is the low price.
We did not decrease the prices and are unlikely to do so. As the cost of living in Russia continues to increase drastically each year while the USD/RUB exchange rate remains basically the same, our rates are bound to increase only. Regardless of the current trend, we will continue to pursue quality and serve our clients to the best of our ability.
If you would like a combination of a great translation and affordable rates, we might be a perfect match for your English to Russian translation needs.