Cheap translations can be very costly

Essentially, you get what you pay for. In his classic bestseller, Total Quality Control, Armand V. Feigenbaum warns that a business either pays for good quality or is forced to spend money rectifying the consequences of poor quality.


Cutting costs and scrimping on translation services will certainly reduce expenses in the short term. However, businesses run the risk of relying on poor-quality translations, which cost more in the long term.


Infamous errors in translations include:

l In 1980, a Spanish patient was admitted to hospital in Florida and a staff member translated “intoxicado” as “intoxicated”. However, a professional translator would have translated it as “poisoned”. Unfortunately, the patient’s family sued the hospital for malpractice for USD71 million.

l In 2009, HSBC bank inflicted itself with a classic failure in marketing launched a rebranding campaign with the tagline “Assume Nothing”. Unfortunately, it was translated in “Do Nothing”. The bank then had to relaunch their campaign tagline at a cost of USD10 million.

l In the late 1980’s, KFC launched it’s franchises in China, but mistranslated it’s slogan “Finger lickin’ good” as “Eat your fingers off”!


Poor-quality translation can risk further hidden expenses:


1) Prevention and appraisal costs: these are the hidden costs incurred to prevent negative quality issues. No company would want a poorly translated website to represent their company or products. For instance, the company would have to find a bilingual staff member and occupy their time with rechecking the translation. Alternatively, the company might need to hire another translator to prevent quality issues.


2) Internal failure costs: these refer to products or services that are found to be faulty before delivery to the client. For example, realising printed T-shirts have incorrect spelling on them or when a translation is delivered full of mistakes. New problems and expenses can also be caused by missed deadlines, cancelled orders, client complaints, bad PR and reputational damage.


A poor-quality business translation can create a domino effect leading to spiralling costs. Therefore, companies would do well to choose a reputable translation agency to provide high-quality translation. This will help to maintain your professional image, because at the end of the day, you are what you say.




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