Quality vs. Value

For children’s party favors, I go to the Dollar Store. Why pay good money for something that may—undoubtedly will— only be used for 15 minutes?

For my grandchildren, however, I lovingly sew a snuggly puppy out of washable fake fur, each in a different color.

This is quality versus value, the relationship of the personal value relative to the price point. The quality of a product or service has to meet the client’s expectation at the right price.

The Dollar Store favors? The right quality at the right price.

The snuggly puppies? High quality, and also high value for their recipients (hopefully).

Dictionary.com defines quality as native excellence or superiority. Value, on the other hand, is defined as relative worth, merit, or importance. The keyword there is relative.

Some people say you get what you pay for. They mean you can’t expect high quality to come cheap. But do we always need high quality? If we can’t afford it, we sometimes have to settle for something of lower quality. And sometimes, as in the case of the party favors, spending the money for high quality would be pointless. So we are left to evaluate our needs and expectations against the price.

This system holds true in our industry. Free is the lowest price there is, and sometimes free online translation is just what you need. A farmer’s market poster? A yard sign for a garage sale? If the text is understandable and the translation is only going to be used for a few days, good enough is good enough.

Someone recently asked me why we charge anything for what we do. I struggled to contain my outrage at the question as I tried to explain translation by an degreed, experienced linguist plus revision by another similarly qualified linguist plus proofreading plus quality control costs. However, he knew what he knew, and I wasn’t going to change his mind. All we do is write or speak properly in another language, after all!

Learning the value of quality translation is a company who came to us after they translated their website into Chinese using a free online tool and then wondered why no Chinese speakers had contacted them. Then a native Chinese speaker told them that the text was gibberish. Tembua fixed the text for them, but we weren’t free.

I recently read an advertisement claiming that a single project manager could handle a million words a day using that company’s software. I was immediately suspicious. When I worked as a translator years ago, a reviser always reviewed my work and improved it. Then the project manager (PM) went through the document carefully to find missing phrases, run-on sentences, MIA punctuation, a list that jumped from 1 to 3 with no 2. As owner of my own agency for 25 years, I know these things can happen—with or without the latest software. Our PMs are required to allow enough time to review the translation.

I find that PM review stage is becoming less and less common in our industry. The fast pace of business today sometimes demands that a translation be ready by the end of the day no matter what. But we always tell our clients if their timeline necessitates skipping steps.

Tembua offers single-pass human translation—where appropriate.

We also offer neural machine translation revised by a human editor—where appropriate.

For our clients in the biomedical or med tech field, we add review by subject matter experts to the team of translation plus reviser plus proofreader. These SMEs aren’t linguists but rather native-speaker, working PhDs and MDs who read the translation for language that is current and local.

Ask us! We’ll help you decide what you need. If it’s a translation for a one-time, low-stakes event, we might even point you at Google Translate!

Patricia May
President and CEO
pm@tembua.com