November 28, 2011

By Ofer Tirosh

A New Platform for Chinese to English Translation

A new Broadway comedy written by David Henry Hwang, called Chinglish, is one of the first – if not only – plays to explore problems with Chinese translation, and more specifically, how localization and cultural differences between English and Chinese speakers are a large part of the difficulties. Chinglish is a comedy about an American businessman who sets up business in China, and his struggle to understand Chinese business methods, cultural differences, and obviously, how to get around frequent complications with Chinese to English translation, and vice-versa.

While the Broadway play brings a humorous light to the cultural and linguistic bumps and bends for English speaking business professionals in China, it also heavily substantiates the importance of obtaining experienced translators or professional translation agency when in need of Chinese business translation. Even with the highest level of professional translation there can still be discrepancies over idioms, localized variations, common sayings, etc – and even more so with humorous texts or dialogues. For a business to maintain a desired level of professional reputation and status, smooth and well-communicated business transactions, or any other interaction requiring Chinese translation, the enterprise or individuals who provide professional business translation services, should be delineated over carefully and thoroughly. It is not just a matter of professional reputation and business operations, but it is also a matter of respect and adherence to cultural and linguistic measures of Chinese business and foreign investment. If a business is going to set up foreign operations for corporate gain, that business should also make every effort to assimilate into the culture and country in which enterprises are open. It's a matter of simple logic, on top of everything else. If Chinese translation for business procedures and national regulations is prone to mistakes, inaccuracies and cultural misunderstandings, it can mean confiscation of business properties, and even governmental interference and a shut-down of operations altogether. Chinese business dealings and policies are a complex thing in China, and not something to be brushed aside by using the cheapest source of localized translation resources.

Additionally, not only should the level of translation experience, knowledge and quality assurance be considered, but also the industry in which the business is categorized. Not any or every experienced Chinese translator can perform the same level of professional business translation for any given industry. Highly specialized industries that use a high amount of technical or industry-specific jargon, requires that a professional translation agency have equally specialized translation services.

The Problems with Thrift-Store Translation Services

Recently an article was written up in the The Korea Times reviewing comparisons between Japanese and Korean translation resources. The article revealed the differences in the experience and quality of Korean translation agencies and translators, compared to those of Japan. Essentially the article revealed that resources for Korean translation are limited, and primarily hired at the cheapest rates possible, without much consideration or importance being given to translation professionalism. Earlier this year, such Korean language translation practices led to embarrassing mistranslations within free trade agreements between Korean and the EU, and the US. Another very public occurrence was at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, when the official Korean Football souvenir t-shirt read “Korean Legend/begin to 2010.” While spelled correctly, it simply made no sense.

This is exactly the kind of result that follows when proper and professional translation channels are ignored in exchange for cheap costs. Technical documents in any given specialized field, such as information technology translation, medical translation, software translation, and so on – are documents that should not be translated by any run-of-the-mill translator, and yet often are, yielding all kinds of delays and embarrassment. Not to mention, when seeking a professional translation service, or localization company, quality and low cost do not have to be on opposite sides. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of small business translation companies that offer high quality, low cost translation (ahem, like Tomedes).

We could go on to say that our translation company has a plethora of experienced, trained Korean translators, and that we've provided accurate Korean document translation of all types, and for less money than most people spend on their smartphone – but that is not really the point here (we'll pause to point out that Korea is not a singularly problematic region.  Translation difficulties abound - the Canadian government has also recently advertised its need for an affordable, high quality translation company,). The point is, when translation services are hired with the top priority being the absolute cheapest cost possible, as in the case of the recent Korean government document translation, situations arise that cause all manner of problems. Not to mention, no government, business, entity or individual wants to be misquoted or misrepresented, simply due to sources of cheap, poor translation.

For years we've been preaching the importance of professional translation services for accurate, timely and industry-specialized translations – and now the rest of the world is openly and vehemently agreeing with us. We have never stressed LSP professionalism simply to say “You need expert translators. Use our services.” Whether you use our services, or those of another established translation agency, it is highly important to research and locate translation services you can depend upon, whether for document translation service, localization, interpretation, or any other type or language service. It is not worth the revision costs, reputation risk, or possible damage to professional or political relations, to do otherwise.

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