Like practically every other sector in the Netherlands, the translation industry suffered the negative consequences of the crisis. The volume of translations fell owing to cutbacks in government and corporate spending. Pricing pressures increased. For example, government ministries decided to combine translation orders in order to secure the lowest possible price in calls for tenders. Companies like PostNL economised their internal translation departments out of existence and outsourced translation jobs to the cheapest provider of translation services. Quality lost its prominence as a criterion.
Increasing price pressures have created market space for low-cost providers, whose sole purpose is to secure as much market share as possible by offering their translation services at rock-bottom prices. Many of these price busters do not employ any internal translators; instead they engage the services of cheap and inexperienced freelance translators and ask them to process large volumes of translations at the lowest possible rate in the shortest possible time. Nor do some budget agencies baulk at using machine translations, patched up by some post-editing if the client is lucky.
Due to the increasing market share of price busters in the past few years, traditional translation agencies have had to reduce their rates substantially in order not to lose out. However, agencies that continue to focus on the quality of their translations will probably survive the downward spiral caused by the crisis. More and more clients – government and corporate alike – are discovering that a bargain can turn out to be a costly affair. Government bodies which have combined translation volumes to secure the lowest price in calls for tenders are beginning to realise that the results of this practice are far from ideal. Their contracts with low-cost agencies are now expiring and some ministries and ministerial departments have already decided to outsource translation assignments independently and to refocus on quality as the prime criterion. A similar trend can be observed in the corporate sector. We are registering a notable increase in the number of requests to re-edit translations originally done by budget providers. And when they experience the benefits of high-quality translation, many companies decide not to return to their cheaper alternatives.
Now that the end of the economic crisis seems near, there is a growing awareness among companies and government institutions that translation is an art in its own right, and that polished and authentic translations reflect on their own professionalism. A poor translation is poor PR – in any language. That applies to official contracts or documents as much as to web texts or instruction manuals. If the translation lacks the right tone of voice, is a stylistic mess or uses awkward terminology, the party whose image it reflects will seem unprofessional and is unlikely to be taken seriously.
However, the problems are not over yet. Many companies and institutions are still suffering the consequences of the economic crisis. The downward spiral may have come to a halt, but it is far too early for any price increase in the translation sector. Even so, now that quality has re-emerged as a significant factor in addition to price, we cannot but conclude that translation is once again regarded as a profession in its own right that must be performed by professionals. The translation sector seems to have found the path out of the crisis.
Metamorfose Vertalingen is a NEN-certified translation agency in Utrecht (the Netherlands) that provides translation services to businesses, Dutch and European government institutions and private individuals. Our primary focus is on quality. We find the most suitable translator for each individual translation assignment. We submit legal texts exclusively to legally trained or experienced translators; for marketing texts we attract experienced copywriters in the target language concerned. Our internal and external translation teams are among the best in the Dutch translation industry, with each translator boasting many years of individual experience. Needless to add, we only engage native speakers of the target language. After the translation process we submit each translation to a second translator who checks it for errors or issues in terms of style, terminology, interpretation and accuracy. Customer satisfaction surveys have shown that our clients are highly positive about this approach.