It is often tempting to have bi-lingual employees translate your content when there is a sudden need, when translations haven’t been planned for or you simply want to save a few dollars. While your bi-lingual employee seems a good short-term fix, there are some longer-term consequences that may render this choice a misdirected one at best. Why?

Linguistic Proficiency Does Not a Professional Translator Make

There is a certain amount of education, training and experience associated with most professions and are generally required in order for the person to do it well. Translation is no exception. You wouldn’t ask your sales manager to do your books, nor would you want your finance director to cold call, so why would you have someone with a similar lack of training translate important business or marketing documents? Without this knowledge you may end up with a translation that is understandable, but the syntax is completely wrong (like the heading for this section)!

Languages are complex, rife with nuance and extensive. Just because someone speaks Spanish well, does not mean they know all the correct terms and conventions associated within a specialized field (medical, automotive, legal, etc.) or genre such as nuanced marketing text that contains important subtleties that need to be conveyed.

Bilingual staff may miss the point or worse, translate something incorrectly. Incorrect translations can cause everything from embarrassment to legal ramifications if a mistranslation causes someone to get hurt.

Like many of your specialist employers, translators are highly trained individuals who have degrees in the subject, often with specializations in subject matter and type of content. If the message is important, why not invest in having it translated by a professional and getting it right the first time?

Opportunity Cost

Having your bilingual employee work on translation pulls them away from their core task. Depending on their role and how much time the translation takes, this could end up being a false economy. If they are working on translation, they are not getting their “real” work done and since they aren’t a translator by profession, they are likely to more slowly than a professional translator to complete the translation.

What impact does this have on your business and how much money or time is it really saving you?

Ad Hoc Process = Ad Hoc Results

 Since they are not trained translators, few bilingual employees follow any kind of translation process to ensure quality and consistency. They may cut corners to save time by using Google Translate, where they could unwittingly violate privacy law or security policies (see our post Why Free Online Translations May Not Be Worth the Savings).

Translation companies and their freelancers follow well-developed processes that enable them to select translators with exactly the right subject matter expertise for the work, use translation tools to ensure consistent use of terminology and style and project tracking systems to ensure the work is done on time. All of these processes save time. You get the translation faster and your employee hasn’t wasted time away from their core responsibilities.

Professionals also use technology that will enable you to reuse previously translated content, which over time could save you significant sums of money.

Moreover, translation companies have systems and policies in place to ensure the security and privacy of your content.

Then there is the question, what will you do if you need the translation in yet another language? Will you tie up another employee’s time to get it done?

Perhaps send it to a professional translation company, such as Gateway Globalization, that can produce as many languages as required and deliver the same quality across all languages and delivery everything fast and at the same time. And your bilingual employees haven’t had to steal time away from their core responsibilities.

 

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