Translation Mistakes Cost More than Clients

One of the worst mistakes companies can make is to put their company’s credibility and liability at risk. The truth is that translation mistakes cost more than clients. These mistakes are easy to avoid too, and the investment may very well be worth it.

I have a client who I’ve worked for, translating several of her human resources documents. A couple of weeks ago, she contacted me regarding a legal document that needed translation. The document was a “Consent to Release Personal Information” for a background check for her new hires. The document itself had been sent to her by the company that provided her with background check information. In her message, she included the information of the company that provided that service and their contact information so that I could contact them about this translation. They did not have an updated version of the document itself, so it only made sense that someone with experience would do that for them.

A couple of minutes later and before I contacted this gentleman, I received an email from my client with what appeared to be a draft of the document with the following words from this background check provider:“We told you that we would prioritize the final conversion for you but apparently that was still unacceptable. You can have the attached copy of our rough-draft which is not formatted and not ready for distribution. Normally we would never release anything to a client that was not 100% completed, but in your case an exception needs to be made.”

Here’s the issue, my client needed to hire her two staff members right away. This company had not updated their translated documents since 1997. So I decided to call them and offer some help, letting them know that I would be happy to translate the document for him and send it to him right away that evening. His response to my shock was the following: “I have sent her a rough draft of the translation which I have done using Google Translate.” And then he let me know that he KNEW that the translation was “probably not right”. I asked if he was concerned at all about liability issues considering i had read the attempted translation and there were some serious mistakes.

To my surprise, he turned down my translation services with no explanation whatsoever other than “we don’t need them.” My client knew that by law, in order to have her new staff members sign the document, they needed to understand what the document itself said. After having this conversation with this gentleman, I contacted my client and let her know that the “draft” that this gentleman had provided had been done using Google Translate. In turn, my client called this gentleman and terminated the company’s contract with him due to credibility and liability issues. He had not revealed how he had obtained that translation until he spoke with me. Not only did this company lose her as a client, but my client has always been one to refer business. If there were a “Yelp” review from business to business, I don’t think that this background check provider would get a very good review from my client.

In an ideal world, we would all speak one language. However, companies are now learning that although their hires speak and read English, they often feel a lot more comfortable signing a document that they understand completely in their own language. Having a document translated would be a one-time expense, unless of course updates to that document arise. Usually those changes are easy to make, so the investment to provide a good quality service to your clients and customers just makes sense. What saddens me is how simple it was for this mistake to be avoided and for him to not have to pay the price of losing more than clients.