Translation skills are undervalued
I have been thinking a lot about educating clients about translation. In May 2014, I attended the International Conference on Economic, Business, Financial and Institutional Translation in Alicante, Spain
(http://dti.ua.es/en/comenego/congreso-traduccion-economica/international-conference-on-economic-business-financial-and-institutional-translation.html). Afterwards, I reflected on what I learnt. The main thing was that, despite the efforts of translation organisations such as the Institute of Translation and Interpreting and the American Translators Association, many companies still do not understand the benefits of professional translation. During the conference, I attended a session on tourism translation. One of the speakers discussed her campaign to convince a regional tourism board to improve the quality of their translations. This campaign which had so far met with little success. Other speakers during the session continued in the same tone. They all agreed that the tourism industry as a whole appears to believe that travellers will accept poor translations as part of the holiday experience. However, studies show that this is not the case and potential customers are in fact likely to avoid tourist attractions as a result of these poor translations. The topic of discussion here was tourism translation. However, many translators with other specialisations have pointed out the same fact – that clients or customers often reject a product or service because of poor or misleading translations.
Why clients still need to be educated about translation
The most obvious reason why translation (and interpreting) is undervalued is that people do not understand what these professions involve. In the UK, the key may lie in people’s attitudes to foreign languages. Languages are poorly taught in schools and university language departments are closing. This highlights the fact that many British people do not regard language skills as important because “English is the global language: everyone speaks it”. Until people realise that this is not true, it will be very difficult to improve the status of translation and interpreting as professions. When it comes to translation into English the situation is more complicated. Potential buyers of translation do not seem to realise the negative impact poor language can have on their business. Many also seem to think that translation is typing up a document in another language and therefore requires less time and effort than writing.
How should we be educating clients about translation?
Since there is clearly a need to educate potential clients on the benefits of professional translation, how should we do this? Many translators suggest sending potential clients improved versions of translated text found on their website, etc. However, care must be taken with this approach not to appear to patronise the potential client.
What do you think? What has been your experience of educating potential clients?