7p a word to translate, review and quality check? What have I done!?!?

What have I done!?!?!Very interesting couple of days today. Obviously I can’t mention names or give away too many details but it’s been an eye-opener. Maybe I’m just a little naive – you decide.

A very eminent person contacted us. Not a fabulously wealthy person but one whose name reaches places other names don’t. If I were to tell you who, you’d say, “what, HIM?” And I’d reply, “Yes, HIM”. With a rather self-satisfied air because I had actually come into contact with him.

Anyway, you get the picture. Someone eminent.

He needed a translation done. No urgency but he was going to publish it and, since it would carry HIS name, the quality had to be top, top notch.

We gave our best quote and emphasised that our translator would be one of the best we have, an expert in this field. Our reviewer, similarly, would be another of our top linguists in this field. And we’d do a final, double, double-double quality check in-house to make sure it was super top, top notch quality.

We didn’t get the order.

Why not? We called HIM back to ask.

Despite our emphasis on quality, which was simply an echo of the customer’s needs, we were asking more than the competition. The client, this eminent man, told us he went with a company that was asking 7p per word. The translation was from German to English. The company that won the order allegedly will do a translation, review and quality check. And presumably they’ll make a little profit too. All for 7p per word.

If someone tries to sell you a new BMW for a couple of grand, the alarm bells start going, don’t they? What’s wrong with it? Is it nicked? Whatever it is, you know something’s not quite right.

If Del-boy Trotter tries to sell you a “genuine” Rolex from his rather tatty suitcase “down the market”, you know something’s not right, right?

So when a translation agency promises a high-quality medical translation from German to English, with a professional review by another German-English linguist, followed by an in-house double check, all for 7p per word…

Well, you get the picture.

An experienced, qualified, professional German-English translator – a freelancer, without translation agency overheads and without a reviewer / quality check – will cost a minimum of 6p per word. Good reviewers could ask one third of that (sometimes more) – another 2p. That’s 8p per word without the agency costs let alone any profit for the agency.

Something just doesn’t seem right.


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