Do you need to hire a professional translator if you have bilingual staff?

I’ll be the first to admit: I have built my industry knowledge and maintained my translation skills in my in-house software development jobs. In other words, I was part of the in-house staff who spoke languages and so a lot of translation work landed on my desk. However, in many cases, especially in development and testing projects, the localisation of software was actually part of my job and of the project plan. And I am fully qualified to do the job. Not all testers happen to have a master’s degree in professional translation…😊. In short, I am more of an exception that confirms the rule.

So why exactly should you hire a professional to do your translation or localisation work?

1. My employees are fully bilingual so they can translate competently and professionally

Ask yourself this question: You learned to count at school. Does this make you an accountant? Like arithmetic, language is a tool. In translation language is also a tool, but we don’t just speak languages. Native speakers, even if they manage to resist influence of their host country’s culture and language, stay within the boundaries and limitations of their language. A high level of bilingualism is the most basic of the qualifications of a competent translator. Add to that mental dexterity, bicultural competence, industry expertise and strategies required to transfer meaning successfully across those boundaries. 

2. Being a native speaker makes you fully competent in the language

Have you ever read something written by a native speaker and it didn’t make sense? Or asked them about a rule in their language and they just answered: “I don’t know, that’s just how it is.” We speak our native tongue organically, without studying the grammar, syntax or structure. Think of all the risks you take if you rely on a non-professional. The ability to write clearly and accurately is a prerequisite for a professional translation.

3. Do you really need to be certified to do a translation job?

You need a certification to be a plumber, electrician or carpenter. So why are you ready to accept a non-professional service in translation?  Like in other trades, translators complete courses, diplomas, and university degrees during which they learn about tools, technologies, methodologies and resources necessary to perform their duties. It is doubtful that your in-house staff understand how to use some of the tools that professionals use for productivity, such as translation memory and glossaries. As a result, you will end up with a subpar product.

4. My bilingual staff can translate that marketing flyer “real fast” and won’t cost me anything

When you take your bilingual staff away from their primary responsibilities and ask them to translate, you’re distracting them from their actual job. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, employees can experience 50-60 interruptions each day. That’s an interruption every 8 minutes. After each interruption, it can take an employee 23 minutes to return to his or her original task, according to a study by the University of California, Irvine. The financial cost to these distractions is $10,375 per person, per year, according to Harmon.ie. Distractions also take their toll on your employees’ engagement and effectiveness. Harmon.ie’s research shows that 33% of employees had difficulty working and producing because of workplace distractions, and 25% had no time to think deeply or creatively as a result. One in five workers found that distractions caused information overload and 1 in 10 missed deadlines because of them. So, before you ask a bilingual employee to “just” translate that flyer “real fast,” ask yourself what unaccounted costs you may be incurring.

5. How about a quick review?

Sometimes, in-house staff are asked to review a translation completed by a professional. While your bilingual employees may have grown up speaking a language at home, that doesn’t mean they have the same linguistic expertise to understand specific grammar or cultural conventions. Therefore, their edits or suggestions may actually hurt the accuracy of the translation created by a professional linguist. Once again, you are wasting resources on something that’s neither their job, nor their priority.

6. Equal opportunities for all?

Additionally, you may be creating equal opportunity and equal pay issues in your organisation. You may have more than one employee with the same level of education, experience, base pay and performance, but only one receives a small bonus each month for translating documents. The other may feel treated unfairly if they didn’t receive the same opportunity.

So, what is stopping you from assigning the job to a professional translator? 
We are under pressure to keep the costs down

Because of financial constraints, some businesses or non-profits try to save money, often by asking bilingual employees to help translate various documents. By using bilingual employees to complete translation work, you expose your organisation to costly mistakes. Is it really worth the risk? I know this may sound biased, coming from someone who is a professional translator, but the data speaks for itself.

Cost of translation can vary, but on average it is between 0.07-0.15 euros per word. This means that a standard, 350-word page will cost around 50 euros.

Some translators charge a minimum rate, others will offer you a more comprehensive solution that can include translation, proofreading, and testing. It is always best to ask for a free quote, which they will be happy to offer.

Outsourcers don’t understand our tech business

This is a common complaint, especially with large translation agencies. Their vendors can be scattered around the world and will not take time or have an opportunity to get to know your business. However, if you hire an independent translator directly, they should and will ask you for background information, existing documentation and glossaries. You can ask them directly for their credentials, quality processes and turnaround times. (Read about the essential questions to consider when hiring a professional translator here: https://edittranslations.com/what-makes-an-excellent-translator-5-traits-you-should-look-for/ .) Look for a specialist in your industry: e.g. I worked in software development teams, so I’m already up to speed with or can quickly grasp complex technical explanations of your products.

We need to focus on innovation

It’s good to keep everyone up to date in a fast-changing technology world, but do not neglect your brand. A professional translator will help you spread the word about your technology to foreign audiences and this in turn will help you increase your customer base and sales.

Long-term gains

If you hire the same translator repeatedly, they will with time become more productive and knowledgeable of your business. We use technologies, such as terminology databases, translation memories and glossaries, which speed up our work and make it consistent by recycling previous relevant content. Meanwhile, your employees can get on with their own work!

#HireaPro