Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Future of Translation is Selling Less Translation

Less will be more in the translation world. To really serve your clients, you will have to convince them that translation to 100 languages is not a good idea. In fact, it’s a very, very bad idea. You will have to prove to them that post-editing your copy is tacky. That crowdsourcing content makes you look shady. That it proclaims that your company stands for lower quality.

The Internet and post-editing provide the illusion of an instant window to reach seven billion people once that pesky problem of the language barrier is solved.

But that is just an illusion. The Internet is really a gigantic hive of mini-niches that require very specific targeting. Revving up the MT engine and spewing garbage in 100 languages will increasingly be associated with those old American waterbed commercials in which the owner announced how crazy he was by giving away his merchandise. That sort of approach to language will quite quickly be relegated to the museum in which the Model-T and the clothing sweatshop function as relics of by-gone eras.

In the future, selling translations will mostly be an exercise in talking the client off the McLocalization ledge before his brand reputation hurtles 150 stories down to the pavement and becomes a mushy goo of mangled, incomprehensible half-sentences. 

Creative Commons License: LaertesCTB

Miguel Llorens is a freelance financial translator based in Madrid who works from Spanish into English. He is specialized in equity research, economics, accounting, and investment strategy. He has worked as a translator for Goldman Sachs, the US Government's Open Source Center, several small-and-medium-sized brokerages, asset management institutions based in Spain, and H.B.O. International. To contact him, visit his website and write to the address listed there. You can also join his LinkedIn network or follow him on Twitter.

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