I remember my reaction as if it was yesterday. It was at a meeting with a potential client, and I asked how they were translating their highly technical documents between English and Spanish. When they shared that they were using free online translation platforms for their specifications, I heard a snap in my hands—I just had broken my pen in half.
While free online translation platforms certainly help with translating simple messages, they are probably not a good option when dealing with corporate documents. And surprisingly, quality is the least of your worries, as you will see in the top five reasons to use the services of a certified translator.
- Confidentiality. Free online translation platforms are composed by an extensive and worldwide database of words and phrases available to everybody and everywhere. When you enter paragraphs in a translation tool, they will be added to that database, thereby losing and compromising confidentiality. This is something to consider especially if you are dealing with corporate documents.
- Accuracy. Online translation platforms transpose words—translators communicate meaning. By focusing on the meaning of your message as opposed to the words used to transmit it, a certified translator will understand and keep the meaning and intention of what you say.
- Customized regional use (localization). A translator will ask you about your audience and customize the text accordingly. “Tailings,” for example, must be translated considering your South American region. You say “jales” in Mexico, “colas” in Bolivia, and “relaves” in Peru. In Mexico, “cola” is a colloquial term that means “butt,” and you don’t want Mexican engineers puzzled about technical specifications explaining how to dispose bottoms, only because a Bolivian term was used.
- Critical thinking. At the littlest red flag, your translator will let you know of inconsistent information on your document. I remember calling a client whose report suggested using an OGM geosynthetic to encapsulate waste, wondering what kind of geosynthetic an OGM was. The engineer was proposing to use a 0.6-m geosynthetic liner—“OGM” was a typo. An online translation tool would have probably kept the error.
- Cost-effectiveness. By the time your employee has replaced all confidential information with an X, entered the text in pieces (in a vain attempt to keep confidentiality), copied and pasted the translation, inserted the confidential information, researched terminology, compared the translation to the original, and corrected, copy-edited, re-formatted and proofread the document, you would have probably spent twice the money in payable hours than if you had hired a certified translator. Also, a qualified translator will probably complete the document five times faster than your well-intentioned but inexperienced employee.
My potential client understood these reasons, and we worked together for a two-year project, where all their documents were translated with confidentiality, accuracy and customized for their target audience. The client was always thankful that we flagged unclear phrases (and spotted errors!), saving them time and resources in the process.
Consider this when translating your corporate documents—and remember always that smart client that decided to work with certified translators.
Hellen is an ATIA-certified Spanish translator and interpreter. She holds a bachelor’s degree in translation and interpreting, has 25 years of experience in the industry, and has been the president of ATIA for five years. Her experience brings a solid foundation to the training, interpreting and translation components of WWB. Working for our offices in Calgary and Edmonton, Hellen’s goal is for WWB to be the company of choice for local stakeholders and international business, recognized by its quality in the translation industry.