How to avoid the horrors of translation

Halloween is a great time for some scary stories. To celebrate the occasion, I thought I’d share with you some truly horrible things that can happen with translation projects. The worst part, of course, is that both of these stories are based on actual events.



The Unspeakable Terror of Leaked Data

A family was struck by grief as their beloved grandma had fallen seriously ill. She would need to be transferred to another country to receive treatment. For this to happen, her medical records would need to be translated into another language.

When searching online for a translation agency, the family came across one that, on the surface, appeared to be fine and offered a reasonable rate. However, the agency requested that the documents be sent by email to a project manager for quotation.

Little did the family know that, in addition to requesting the documents by unencrypted email, the agency also sent out their grandma’s medical records, with her full name intact, by email to several freelance translators that they had found in an online directory. Most of them had no non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with the agency. Dozens of unknown people everywhere in the world had copies of her sensitive medical information before any actual work had even been done.

Transfluent’s translation platform uses encrypted file transfers. You can upload your files using a secure connection to receive a quote, and we store them securely on our servers. Files are never sent by email, and only screened translators with signed NDAs can access them. Once the translation is complete, you will receive a secure link to download it. We are fully GDPR compliant.

Agony of Lost Sales

A small online store was looking to grow its sales by expanding into the global market. The products had international appeal, and the owner was able to work out a feasible shipping deal with a logistics provider.

As the company was operating on a shoestring budget, they decided to use machine translation to translate the bulk of the content. After all, it was “free” – apart from the countless hours spent copying and pasting content, of course – and the algorithms are fairly advanced nowadays. Anyway, the company figured that they could never afford to have the full volume professionally translated. Lo and behold, while the end result was far from perfect (indeed, some customers helpfully pointed out that they should probably remove “lark’s vomit” from the French list of ingredients), it nevertheless brought in some new international orders.

One morning, as the owner was going through recent emails, she noticed a lengthy email in a language she couldn’t understand. From what she could gather, it was a quote request, but the machine translation did not make much sense. She tried to reply by using an online translator herself, but the prospective client never got back to her.

Machine translation can do an acceptable job with specific content, such as product descriptions. For best results, however, you should at least have the results edited by a native speaker of the language – such as the ones working for Transfluent. We can polish your existing product catalogue to avoid embarrassment and confusion. Contact us for a competitive quote.

More importantly, you should look for a translation solution for your customer communication as soon as you start to think about international expansion. This is especially true for outbound messages. With Transfluent, this is easy to do and you are not bound by any minimum order quantities. If your volumes are small, you can simply copy and paste your messages into our tool and receive them back, professionally translated. For more advanced needs, we can integrate with several eCommerce platforms, such as Magento, and customer service systems like Zendesk.

We can no longer help the poor victims in these horror stories. However, there is hope for the rest of us, as we can learn from their mistakes. With a good partner like Transfluent, your translation projects are in good hands; we are professionals at what we do and want to see our customers succeed. We take privacy protection very seriously and want to help you grow your international business. Translation is not scary when you reach out to the right people!

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Mikko Heinonen

Mikko Heinonen

Head of Translation Services, Transfluent