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  • Writer's pictureKaren Pérez Herrera


Updated: Feb 8

There are many companies and individuals who offer a service or product and, in order to cut costs, do not hire professional translators. These companies choose to assign the task to one of their employees or to someone they know who has some knowledge of the language, but who is not qualified to translate. This often results in a text that appears strange, sometimes offensive, and even mocking to the intended audience.

Providing excellent service also involves how it is presented: the words (unless only a video and images suffice, of course). Your audience needs to know and understand why they need it, how it benefits them, how and where to obtain it, what it entails, among many other things. And if you intend for your brand or product to cross borders, translation will be your means of transportation.

Translation and customer trust: "Can't read it, won't buy it."

Having quality translations speaks well of companies and their products. Customers feel more confident when trusting those who offer a service or product if the text is clear and well-written in the target language. In addition to being a matter of trust in your company, good translation is about respecting your audience. If you have poor quality translations, strange phrases, or words out of context (I'll give an example I've experienced later), your audience might feel offended and confused, and therefore, they would prefer to choose another company that respects their language.

As a translator, I have experienced more than once the situation where, upon reading a very deficient and poor translation of the content of a company or individual who wants to offer their services, I offer my translation or correction services professionally, only to receive a negative response because, according to these entities, as long as "something" is understood, everything is fine. Unfortunately, it is very noticeable when their translations have not been done by professionals. Your clients may understand your translation attempts, they may sympathize with you, but they will no longer see your company as very serious or professional.

Experiences (and tragedies)

Below, I present some of my experiences with companies unwilling to deal with the value of translation at market standards.

The Korean music agency

When I was just starting my career as a translator, freshly graduated, I was attentive to any translation opportunity. One day, while browsing my Facebook feed, I came across an advertisement from an agency that manages music concerts. The wording of this advertisement in Spanish was quite poor. Upon realizing that something so brief and simple was so poorly crafted, I immediately assumed that their website would be... worse. Just as I had thought: strange phrases, words out of context, sections within a sentence left untranslated, etc.

Anyway, after reviewing the translated content of the website, my face lit up when I saw that it was a good opportunity to offer my services. I wrote them an email explaining the situation, and one of the managers responded. He asked me to please send him some examples of poorly written sentences and my suggestions, which he would then review and contact me about. I did so, feeling hopeful about establishing a good professional relationship with the company. However, I received no further responses.

Four months passed, and with more experience under my belt, I recalled this particular situation. I went back to their website to see how things were going, and to my surprise, they had used my corrections without any notice. Below, I provide an example of my corrections.

Example of corrected translation:

Their translation: *Nombre de la empresa* permite a los fans para iniciar un movimiento y hacer escuchado por sus artistas favoritos.

My correction: *Nombre de la empresa* permite que los fans inicien un movimiento para que sus artistas favoritos los escuchen.

I couldn't stay calm, so I wrote to them cordially pointing out that I was glad my corrections had been helpful, but that there were still quite a few errors in their translation. The Korean sir responded asking for screenshots of the errors, my correction, and my explanations. However, he wants everything for free. Obviously, I pointed out that my profession has its value. I never heard from them again.

The illustrator and her translator mom

Through Instagram, I came across an American artist whose illustrations I really like. In her posts, she always adds a review about the illustration, giving it a certain sentimental and personal touch. I noticed that in some of her posts, she included translations of her description. These translations leave much to be desired; they are unclear and open to misinterpretation. I wrote to her explaining the situation, but she replied that her mother is a translator and that she was the one translating for her, so she declined my offer.

A few days ago, the illustrator posted a new drawing where a part of the original text said: "You can binge a show if you want." The translation she proposed was: "Puedes atracar un espectáculo si lo desea." I couldn't just stand idly by, so I explained to her in a comment the errors in her translation and the different meanings of the word "atracar": from boats and the sea to its sexual connotations. One person from her audience wrote to her, "thanks for trying to translate into Spanish." The girl didn't reply to me; however, yesterday my correction appeared, replacing her version in the illustration.


If your company aims for an international presence, it's crucial to enlist the expertise of skilled translators. While you may be tempted to rely on your own language skills, it's important to recognize that translators offer specialized knowledge and training that you may lack. They excel in expressing ideas effectively in different languages. If hiring professional translators isn't feasible at the moment, it's wise to restrict your content to the original language to prevent any adverse impact on your brand from inconsistent or inaccurate translations.


Getting it right: A guide to buying translations por Chris Durban (miembro de la ATA), versión en español por el equipo Asetrad.


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