The Relationship Between Pay and Quality: A Few Words from a Translation Company

When one thinks about translating content like games or manga, you might think the jobs go through competitive bidding. The company wanting translation pits the prospective translation company’s portfolio and the systems against the quoted amount. At AGM, we get requests for quotes quite a lot, and we’re not always chosen. We make sure to ask why, and the reason given most often is price: “The quality is good, but we found someplace cheaper, so that’s what we’re going with.”

From the client’s perspective, I understand that cheaper is better. Yet, I also think about our company’s prices, which are relatively cheap when compared to translation companies in Japan, the US and Europe, and wonder at what cost would they have used our business?

Of course, there’s no reason to believe that a translation done at a low price automatically equals low quality. The point is that to guarantee quality, you need the people to perform the translation and all the checks that go with it. At our company, the translators and the people doing those checks are different native speakers. It’s going to cost a certain amount when you have to include them, plus the project managers who manage the project, as well as other staff.

At our company, not only do we get translation requests, but requests to check translated text as well. When those requests come in, I can’t help but imagine that they went to a company that could get it done cheap but weren’t satisfied with the quality in the end.

Below you’ll see my conversation with our Executive Officer, Higuchi, and our Sales Manager Yoshimasu. They often get the chance to speak with our clients. The question is this: Is the price of translation and quality proportional?

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Higuchi: As you mentioned above, a low price doesn’t guarantee low quality, but there is a high probability of it (Laughs). On the other side, there’s a lower probability that a translation at a standard rate will be low quality. There are times when cheap translation results in additional checks and revisions that make the whole thing cost more than a standard rate would have, and even times when the content needs to be retranslated. I think it’s safe to assume there’s a reason it’s so cheap.

Yoshimasu: Even yakiniku restaurants fluctuate in price. Expensive restaurants will give you good-quality beef. At cheap restaurants, you’ll get what you pay for. Both restaurants are in-demand. No one’s going to complain about low-quality meat at a cheap restaurant.

On the other hand, there’d be many complaints at an expensive restaurant if the meat wasn’t up to par. Companies do their best to rein in costs, but there’s always a sacrifice. I was talking about yakiniku, but with translation, what is “correct” can be vague because of preference. A poor translation might become wildly popular, while a well-translated text might get the worldbuilding wrong. It’s essential to tell the translation company about the game world, specifications, budget, etc., so both sides can meet expectations. At AGM, we will propose the optimal method and budget based on the customer’s wants. Let us be your partners in success for international expansion!

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Recently I have seen fans and users complaining about poor translation quality on forums and social media. I’m glad that the attention on translation has risen, but the quality won’t bother the clients. That’s why we need to work harder. Bad writing will affect the game’s reputation, so I urge companies to consider that before giving translation work away.

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