Disadvantages Of Bad Translation

When organizations find themselves in need of business translation services for a new client project or global initiative, the assessment criteria applied to such services can often leave the organization exposed to unintended risks and substantial potential fines and penalties.

Traditionally, the work is measured in terms of volume – how much material has to be translated – and speed – how quickly does the project need to be completed? Critical issues such as context and nuance take a back seat to the available budget for the project.

Regulatory Compliance

Simple translation errors resulting from rushed work or poor quality control may have little impact unless the error involves signage or a book title that ends up as a funny post on someone’s Facebook page or Twitter feed. However, if the industry in which the organization is providing goods or services is subject to regulatory compliance on either end of the contract, the consequences for translation errors can be much more severe.

Medical translation services, for example, would need pinpoint accuracy in the translation of operating instructions for a complex piece of medical equipment.

Similarly, pharmaceutical translation services must be of the highest quality in translating dosage and potential side effect information for doctors, patients and pharmacists. Legal and financial penalties for sub-par work in these areas could be potentially devastating to any organization found to be at fault. In this context, the assignment of work to the lowest or fastest bidder can place the organization at extreme risk.

The Cost of Non-Compliance

If the organization’s conduct in the delivery of the agreed contract should violate any applicable regulations, the quality of the translated material will feature prominently in any subsequent investigations.

For cases of bribery or corruption pursued under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), for example, fines of hundreds of millions of dollars can be multiplied by a culpability score if it is determined that the organization under investigation took steps to either deliberately obfuscate its activities or took no action to proactively comply with applicable regulation.

For example, Siemens settled for $800 million in 2008 for violations in internal controls in its Bangladeshi and Venezuelan subsidiaries, and Alcoa settled for $384 million in 2014 for alleged violations involving the Bahrain government.

With such large financial penalties at stake, every piece of evidence comes under the highest scrutiny. All relevant documentation and communications are examined for indications of proposed and/or accepted impermissible behavior.

Boilerplate user manuals or marketing materials may not draw attention, but invoicing templates, contract addenda, and all correspondence will be examined in detail for context, nuance, colloquialisms, and any “industry speak” for evidence of true intent and any ulterior motive.

Since the culpability score is based on the expectation that organizations should make every effort to ensure that they are in compliance with regulatory standards, poor quality translation work that produces vague and confusing documentation and communication can count against those organizations and increase the potential financial penalties.

Engaging professional language translation services on the basis of cost and availability alone can prove to be a short-term solution that brings long-term problems down the road. Using native translators with extensive relevant industry experience is the best way to ensure work of the highest quality.

This post is written by Andrew Ghillyer, a content writer with Ulatus.

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