Scams in translation: what you need to know before you hire a translation company

18 April 2021

Scammers exploit weaknesses, and in the case of the unfortunate companies who’ve approached us for support after they’ve experienced a scam, their disadvantage is clear:

they don’t know how the translation process works, and the unethical agency they initially employed took advantage of their lack of knowledge. 

The best defence against a scam is education. In this post, we’ll explain a popular scam that some language service providers pitch to unsuspecting customers who (understandably) have limited insight into how language translation works.

We don’t expect to eradicate this scam with a single post. Still, we do hope that by providing you with our customers’ experiences, we can help you avoid costly issues, and help newcomers to the industry to do better research, ask the right questions, and partner with quality language service providers. 

 

The “better than Google” trick

It’s not a secret that worldwide, there are millions of translators competing for attention and work. Some language service companies try to stand out from the competition by offering a differentiating edge that no one else in the industry has.

They call this edge “in-house developed machine translation”, and they position and pitch it to unwitting customers as a machine translation that is “similar” or “better than Google”. 

And yes, by “Google”, we mean Google Translate.   

It doesn’t sound very sinister, does it? And that’s why it’s such an effective scam. Dodgy companies ask customers for a one-off cost of, say, $3000 to secure the use of their tool. 

The price justification given to newbie clients is that the miracle tool will handle most of the heavy work, and they’ll pay a minimal amount after that for post-editing to tidy up machine errors.

Sounds great, right? 

The problem is, that arguably the best machine translation in the world belongs to Google, and guess what? Their software is free. So it doesn’t matter what claims a translation company makes about their “in-house” tool. The only tools worth using that have the capability and capacity to deliver semi-good quality machine translation are companies like Google, which have access to phenomenal amounts of data to train and perfect their system.

“Hey, I’m gonna save you a lot of money.” 

Here’s the thing, translation can be expensive. That’s why machine translation is such a game-changing tool. Bogus translation companies rely on the fact that customers want a cost-effective solution but don’t know that ethical language service providers (like us) will do machine translation for you for free.

That’s right. No strings attached. We can run your content through Google, Microsoft, or an established CAT tool provider for free. 

The only additional cost to you, the customer, will be post-editing so that you end up with a word-perfect translation.

We tried “in-house machine translation” for you, and it’s terrible

The most upsetting part about the in-house tools that many unsuspecting customers spend thousands of dollars on is that the translated results they provide are shockingly bad. We’ve hired companies to test the quality, and we’re confident that Google, which has been in the market developing machine translation for over a decade, is better equipped to translate your content for free than any expensive in-house solution that an agency promises you. 

 

Do your research, ask questions

Lots of our clients have fallen into the trap of trying to secure cheaper translation by buying into hoax products that promise to save them time, effort and money on linguistic projects. The problem is that once the inadequate quality translation is delivered, they need to double-up on funds and invest in translation again, simply to correct the mistakes of the previous agency. The consequence? A much more costly translation than you originally planned. 

Next time you hire a language service provider, don’t be afraid to question the tools your provider wants you to buy. If your translation company wants to charge you thousands of dollars for machine translation tools that should be available for free, ask why. 

Any good translation company will be happy to answer your questions. It’s to our benefit to educate our clients about our processes, as it makes for a much smoother process and delivery! 

 

Small budget, big project? 

If you’ve got a large amount of content to translate and a less than large budget, then we recommend getting in touch with our team. Ask us how we can support you with free machine translation and paid for post-editing to help you make meaning that’s cost-efficient, fast, and painless. 

Want to learn more about how we use machine translation at e-Arabization? Check out our handy money-saving guide.