Why Are Traditional Translation Agencies So Afraid of Direct Communication Between Translators and Client?

By Renata Sternfeld
Feb 13, 2017 · 5 min
Why Are Traditional Translation Agencies So Afraid of Direct Communication Between Translators and Client? | One Hour Translation

In case you haven’t noticed, we are in the middle of a major revolution, the biggest and most profound one since the Industrial Revolution. We are in the middle of the Technical Revolution.

Think about it; the internet and Wi-Fi have changed the world in so many ways. And the technology is still advancing at a break-neck speed, evolving and improving, enabling us to do things we couldn’t do before.

We were given the keys to the library. Information that took days to find is now but a few clicks away. We can learn almost anything about everything without stepping foot in a classroom.

We have become a global village. A tower of Babylon kind of village that speak many different languages.

We can now communicate easily and inexpensively with people on other continents.

We can do business with different corners of the world, with markets we didn’t have access to in the past.

But in order to be able to do all that, we need to be able to communicate. After all, there are 6,500 spoken languages in the world today.

To be able to communicate and do business we need translators.

Sure enough, within the past 10 years, translation agencies popped up in different parts of the world; from India to Brazil, to Russia and Croatia, to North and South America. It seemed a no-brainer. A service is badly needed and there are plenty of people who speak more than one language. All you have to do is become the middleman between the client and the translator.

Because as Google Translate has proven, real translations have to be done by humans.

Surprisingly, most of those agencies discourage communications between the humans; the translator and the client. Seems absurd when you think about it. If the translator has a question, he has to direct it to the agency, which will then be in contact with the client. With the different time zones, this process can take 2 days. A direct email to the client can clear the question immediately, or within a few hours. Things sometimes get ‘lost in translation’ between the corners of this triangle causing delays and unsatisfied clients.

So, why do it? There is such an easy solution and it makes one wonder why do those agencies insist on discouraging direct contact? We all know that the best translations happen when the original author and the translator see eye to eye. Here are some possible reasons:

  • Secrecy - The client might find things the agency doesn’t want him to find. Things such as that the translator is not a native speaker of the target language, or that the translator is not really an expert as the agency promised.

The client also may find out that the finished translation is not checked by additional reviewers. Control the communication and you control the message the client gets. The translator may also find how much the client is paying and how big or small is the agency cut.

  • It can’t be tracked so it can’t be controlled – If a translator has a direct communication with the client, the agency doesn’t know what they are talking about. Maybe the client will employ the translator directly and cut the agency out?
  • Some agencies believe that direct communication will only create chaos - If the translator and the client are talking and changing the date of delivery, they may neglect to let the agency know. The agency will be busy tracking all the different changes and things might go out of hand.
  • Direct communication may cause the project to be too expensive or delayed. The client may ask the translator for re-writes and the deadline will not be met. Translators don't always understand the business side of these exchanges and may agree to something the agency did not.
  • If it ain’t broke, why fix it? – People are creatures of habit and will go with the same supplier until they are really unhappy with the product or the service. Only then will they make a change. The way things are run so far work for the agencies and some clients seem not to care. The world is a very big place, and you know what they say “Suckers don’t die, they just get replaced.”

There must be another way to do business that is based on trust and cooperation between human beings. A process that creates opportunities and success to all.

One Hour Translation believes exactly that. Since 2008 the company has encouraged communications between translator and client. Why? There are two main reasons: Because they believe that direct communication between translator and client is detrimental to the quality of the translation. And because they have nothing to hide and cherish transparency.

Every translation, be it a document, a report, marketing material or a brochure is unique. What the marketing department compiled after two weeks of discussions and careful evaluation of the tone and the message, should be carefully examined when being translated as well. The creativity doesn’t stop with creating the material. The tone of the piece and the message it wants to convey should be achieved in the translated material as well.

It has been known that some agencies take on projects that are impossible for humans to complete. The agency breaks the project down and assigns many translators for that piece, people who work remotely from different corners of the world. Then the agency gathers all those translations into a single file. The result? Huge confusion. Different words are used to translated the same thing, sentence structure is different, names and descriptions are different. Has the translation been done on time? Yes. Is it a good translation? No.

The translation business is changing faster than the translator’s tools. Communication methods have evolved, but surprisingly the role of the translator didn’t change very much. In our world of instant communication, 40 character tweets, and Facebook, taking time to understand what really is being said, and how it is being said is seldom done. 

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