BlogBosses BlogWhat happens when you choose a cheap document translation?

What happens when you choose a cheap document translation?

What happens when you choose a cheap document translation?

We have all seen funny translations on sites like

Indeed, we’ve all heard the classic stories of when major brands made an error in translation.

You may know for example the famous car mistranslation for the Chevrolet Nova, which in Spanish markets translates as “No go.” Surprisingly, it still sold well in Latin America!

And when Coke first looked into rendering the name “Coca-Cola” into Chinese it came up with a translation that, depending on the precise dialect, meant either “Bite the wax tadpole” or “Female horse stuffed with wax.”

The common Chinese translation howlers generally occur because a small shopkeeper either doesn’t know where to get a quality translation or can’t afford it. In their situation, online translation services such as Google Translate appeal as they are fast and generally free.

There’s less of an excuse however for the larger firms like Coke and Chevrolet, where perhaps a lack of cultural understanding has had a bigger part to play.

But what is the real danger of a cheap translation?

As a translation company, we’re often in a position where a client will ask for 3 quotations and will simply choose the cheapest. Potentially, this puts us all in a race to the bottom, where the linguists we use can no longer be paid a decent rate. We would be forced to turn to less experienced and less well qualified partners such as students, with little or no specialist skills.

Simply choosing the cheapest option with no regard to value for money or quality may save you a few pounds in the short term, but how could this affect your business in the long run?

Reputation: a mistranslation gives the message that you couldn’t be bothered to get it right. You simply did not care about your audience enough to invest a little time and money in making sure their experience of your product or service was good.

Perceived Quality: if you have a high quality or luxury product or service, a poor translation will bring down that perceived level of quality in the mind of your overseas buyers.

Safety: incorrectly translated safety instructions can of course have a significant impact, from injury to potentially even death.

Sales: a failure to clearly translate your key marketing messages may lead to your products or services floundering in the market, with prospects reluctant to engage with something they may not fully understand or trust.

You could argue that Chevrolet still sold many vehicles in South America so no real harm was done, but this classic ‘translation fail’ still hits the headlines again and again over the years, tainting their reputation in the long term.

At MTT we have worked with the vast majority of our suppliers for over 10 years; they are well established, trusted linguists with proven experience and specialist skills. What’s more, we have built up a real understanding of what they do well and where they have a real flair. Knowing our suppliers’ strengths helps us choose the best person for your project, helping to make sure your messages don’t get lost in translation.

Translation of marketing documents is a highly skilled profession – to be able to write convincingly, understand complex messages and create meaningful, flowing texts from specialised documents in another language is an art. We pay our translators at the right level for their professional service, pitching our prices at a corresponding level to give you value for money for the service we offer.

It’s worth checking who will be doing your translations if you opt for the cheapest offer – you might just get what you pay for.

If you’d like to talk to us about a particular document translation project, get in touch now on 0844 856 1086 or email We’d be very happy to discuss our translators’ qualifications and experience to help ensure you get the best value for money possible.

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