Friday, March 2, 2012

Cheap Translation Will not Save a Single Starving Somali Child

Have you come here to play Jesus
To the lepers in your head?
--U2, "One"

There is basically just one way of cutting costs in translation. That is because the central cost in any translation process is human labor.

Do I need to spell it out? The only way to cheapen translation is to slash the rates you pay translators with the cruel zest of Ming the Merciless. That’s it. That’s the only game in town. Go downtown. Force your freelancers into urban poverty.

So, basically, if you have ANY sort of business plan that involves making translation cheaper, you are not Henry Ford or Steve Jobs or Thomas Edison or the guy who invented Post-Its. You’re just another low-rent hack who wants to profit from the reserve army of the unemployed.

I will say it one more time: Cheap translation will not save a single Somali child from starving. If you want to save Somali children, go to bleeping Somalia with a 50-pound bag of rice. DO NOT fly your fat ass on a jumbo jet to a localization conference 1,500 miles away from home to give the same hacky speech you’ve given in Madrid, Los Angeles, Santiago de Chile, Tokyo, and London. 

Cheap translation is only an incredibly unimaginative way for some second-rate “entrepreneur” to turn a quick buck while providing bad service. And, as the ALS debacle proves, it is often a recipe for disaster rather than a vehicle for generating value. Dressing it up under the guise of some sort of dubious technological advance does not make it any better. Or you any less culpable.

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, 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 by visiting the profile or follow him on Twitter.


Darío Giménez Imirizaldu said...

Hats off to you! :-)

Anonymous said...


bacon said...

The whole philosophy of the current British government is to "outsource", i.e. pay some pet private company, who has got to where it is by bribery and corruption, to employ a few people at minimum wage or less to replace valued members of the workforce such as, as we are hearing today, police officers. With some occupations, such as cleaners, it works because the workers are endlessly exploitable. But with interpreters it doesn't work and the British government as a whole is making itself into a laughing stock and worse for this costly mistake. They wanted to save 18 million pounds. The mistake cost them that already in the first three weeks! And we do not know what kind of cases will be brought before the ECHR by defendants deprived of an interpreter, forced to remain in custody unjustly, etc.

quantum mystic said...

Yes, Chav Gav is no entrepreneur, he is a wide boy who wants to cream off our fees and make a few millions. This is how the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer in UK with the collusion of agents of the state who are giving out these contracts. Then, they can show to their superiors and the public that they saved so much on interpreting and nobody need to know that these savings made them spend so much more on appeals or detentions or retrials. Nobody needs to know that and the people in question can keep their millions. The previous system was working well and it was already "contracted out" because we were all small businesses. The only problem with it is that it failed to make a few millions for a few crooks, now it does.