Cutting Corners is Risky Business

Being accredited to provide certified translations, I regularly receive requests to translate birth certificates and similar documents. Occasionally someone will ask whether they could translate it themselves (because they have A-level French) and I could then just correct it and certify it for them. Unfortunately, fixing a DIY translation takes much longer than doing it right first time; so if the idea is to save money, it is unlikely to work.

While I can appreciate that even a short translation can represent a fair sum of money for an individual who will not recoup a penny from his/her investment, I was recently surprised to see a fairly prestigious brand adopt that very approach. Now and again, a colleague of mine commissions me to proofread another translator’s work for a particular client. In the latest project we’ve worked on, one of the documents had been translated by one of the client’s members of staff. The result included: mistranslations to circumvent tricky sentences, ungrammatical clauses, typos galore, inconsistent terminology and literal translations that made no sense at all. As much as checking the professional translator’s job was a breeze, correcting the client’s own translation was more like a hailstorm.

Why the client chose to translate that part internally is not clear (was it a trial to see whether their staff would be up to the task?), but the outcome of the exercise was very clear: many changes to their translation resulted in a higher proofreading invoice (and an unimpressed proofreader). The project coordinator later told me that the client was very grateful for and delighted with the work. They will hopefully have realised too that the work is best left to the professionals.

tree trunk over river

… Or you could use the bridge a few hundred yards further down.


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