It was only by chance that it got discovered.
A couple of months ago, a major Australian tourism and travel operator had their website translated into eight languages, including Dutch. The translations were delivered in Word and as their web developer was uploading the content, he paused when he saw the Dutch version. He knew a bit of Dutch as his wife was Dutch and he asked her to come and have a look. What followed would be every company’s worst nightmare.
The translation was disastrous. It was substandard in every way. The web developer told his client about his discovery and advised them to get a second opinion on all of the translations. If the Dutch translation was that bad, perhaps the others were too?
The web developer happened to be our developer and he knew about our QA procedures and positive client feedback, so he recommended Absolute Translations. My native language is Dutch (being from the northern part of Belgium) and I immediately saw that the Dutch translation was full of errors of all sorts: mistranslations, grammar mistakes, spelling, style, tone, punctuation, capitalisation and the list goes on. To top it off, the translator used truly unidiomatic Dutch while following English syntax. It could as well have been translated by Google. So the client’s nightmare began.
We were asked to start the re-translation process on the Dutch version and review a section of about 500 words on the other translations, so the client could decide whether they were passable or needed re-translation as well.
The feedback was equally bad. The quality of the translations was way below what would be acceptable for a commercial website. It was so bad it was comical, but no-one was laughing…
Click here to read some of the feedback received.
The client had to make the unfortunate decision of having their whole website re-translated, in all of the languages. It cost them not only in money, but also in time and effort. The website had to be up before the start of spring, but it was to take two more months to be completed. A loss of two months’ worth of income cannot be underestimated. The whole situation was painful for everyone involved.
My conclusion is that getting it right the first time around is critical. Your corporate image and reputation are at stake with second rate translations, and you wouldn’t even know about it.
Clearly it’s difficult, but it pays to do your research before embarking on any large translation venture. Testing is vital. All the multinational corporations we are currently working with have tested us prior to engaging our services. It’s obviously a common strategy among larger companies, but seems to be rarer among the smaller ones. I’m sure they’ve had their fingers burned once before and learned their lesson.
If the web developer hadn’t known any Dutch, the client’s sticky situation would have gone unnoticed for who knows how long. A potential customer visiting your website will never alert you of any language issues, they will just navigate away and not give you a time of day.
As the saying goes, only monkeys work for peanuts, so cheapest is not always best. It’s up to you to separate the wheat from the chaff.