The High Cost of Choosing the Wrong Professional




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    Hiring the right translator for your project is just as important as the time, money, and effort invested into the project itself. The following article shows how choosing the wrong professional can be costly and embarrassing for your business or organization.

    This article is from the Colombian newspaper, El Universal. The article, published on October 9, is in Spanish but it contains the English/Spanish verbiage noted below. The short version is this:

    The City of Cartagena (where yours truly is from), rolled a tourism signage initiative. The city wanted to place information posts throughout key areas of the city with verbiage on their historic relevance. The signage had the Spanish and English version side by side. This is a great idea considering that Cartagena is a notoriously touristic city attracting visitors from all over the world.

    The city claimed to have hired an official certified translator but unfortunately the product delivered was filled with repetitive phrases, poorly used verbs, improper use of the English language, colloquial words not used in the English language, grammatical errors and such. On top of it all, this was approved by the Industry, Business, and Tourism Ministry and other related agencies.

    You may ask, how could it have gone so wrong if they hired a certified professional? This is where being an informed consumer is just as important. You see, just because this individual is a professional certified in translations from English into Spanish, Spanish being his/her native language, it does not make the person the right choice to translate into English. When translating into the target language, the translator should have a strong command of it, should be familiar with colloquial references, and proper sentence formation. Based on the translations in this article, I can clearly see this individual does not have proper command of the English language.

    Now, that being said, it does not mean that a translator cannot work in both directions and translate into the non-native language. I have many colleagues who work on multiple language pairs and their work is superb. The key here is, that as a translator, our job is not to make assumptions. We must research, ask many questions, and have our work proofread to ensure a professional and accurate product. Based on the errors highlighted in the article, it is obvious this was not the case. This translation lacked research and most importantly, it was not proofread.

    The moral of this story, just because you hire a professional, it does not necessarily mean you hired the right person for the job. Do your homework, ask questions, see examples of their work, look at the feedback received from former clients. An accurate translation is just as important as the project itself.

    [This is the article referenced above, published in El Universal: http://www.eluniversal.com.co/suplementos/facetas/la-senalizacion-turistica-una-penosa-colombianada-237317]
    Ginna Ma

    About Ginna Ma

    English and Spanish translator with 10+ years of experience. Working experience in HR, manufacturing, business, and administration. Have also done translation work in Christianity and social services.

    One thought on “The High Cost of Choosing the Wrong Professional

    1. Ginna, great post! I’ve basically experienced a lot of what you’ve mentioned, and my only advice for any translation buyer out there is “Do your research,” like your very well suggest. As I shared in one of my previous posts, many translators can translate into their nonnative language just fine, but there are certainly others who do it and probably shouldn’t. In the end, it’s all about language competence and writing skills. Thanks for the reminder! Here’s a link to my previous post: link to theopenmic.co

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