Translation Essentials: Is Translation Service a Cost or an Investment?

translation service

When the decision to have your work translated was made, surely you examined and reviewed the cost of services as you would have for any other business expenditures. When entering the expenses in your ledger, however, you may have paused and wondered where they went. Should they be listed as an investment, something you expect to see a return on, or were your translation expenses simply costs to be listed under general or administrative expenses?

To truly understand the dilemma, you would need to decide what you mean by a cost and an investment. Typically, costs are the time and money spent to create a product or service. They are simply the expenses necessary to do business. The hope is that the total sum of all costs is recouped and the benefits of those costs result in a profit. In contrast, an investment is an asset purchased with the expectation that it will appreciate and bring in greater benefits in the future.

The real question, therefore, is whether the translation of your material is merely something you are doing as part of a process or if you are expecting your materials to produce a return on your investment. Put another way, would the costs of not translating your materials be greater than the cost of having them translated?

When viewing your translations as investments, consider the following:

  • Accessibility

English may be spoken by nearly two billion people on the planet, but less than 30 percent of Internet users use English while on the web. Combine these numbers with research data confirming that three times as many people purchase goods presented in their native language and you have a very good reason to translate your material. Having a website translated into many different languages exponentially increases your chances of bolstering your consumer base. However, the costs of an improperly translated website could far outweigh any benefits. Investing in quality translations which accurately represent your product, the target language, and the target culture maximizes the potential for stellar returns.

  • Localization

When translations are generalized and non-specific, they might be construed as costs. However, if you have taken the time to localize your content there is an expectation that getting it right will lead to positive returns. Localizing content includes concepts as large as transcreating idioms and as small as the formatting of dates. After all, a marking campaign that was to kick off on 2/10/16 would not receive a very positive return on the investment if it were designed to launch on Feb 10 but the locals read it as October second and did nothing to prepare for the February festivities.

  • Technology

When translating documents you have your choice of quality, timeliness, and scalability. If you took the fastest and cheapest route to translation, it is possible that you view your translation as little more than a necessary expense to doing business. If, however, you took your time to choose a translation service agency which utilized the latest technology backed up with an expert post-translation proofreading and editing team it is likely you have made an investment. With an exceptional translation service agency, there are several returns you should expect on this investment.

For example, computer-assisted translation (CAT) processes can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to translate a document. Adding translation memory and lexical glossaries further speeds the process. The faster translations not only reduce up-front costs but speed the time to market by reducing manual tasks and increasing the speed at which content can be extracted and effectively translated.

One of the great advantages to modern CAT processes is the ability to maximize the scale of your project. With multiple markets available, are you looking to translate your work into a single language or many? When many languages are required, there may be a temptation to spend the minimum costs associated with machine translation services. However, there is no substitute for the superior results of an investment in a translation company with state-of-the-art CAT processes backed up by human editors. Once the backbone of your information is in place, additional languages can be added easily.

At the end of the day, determining whether your translation is a cost or an investment is truly a matter of perspective. Have you taken shortcuts in order to get translations out while keeping expenses down, or have you taken the time to ensure your translations are going to generate or sustain profits for you down the road?

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