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5 Significant Risks of Cheap Translations

In this article, we explore the 5 significant risks of cheaping out on Translation and Localization, showcasing specific examples that underline how costly and detrimental the use of cheap Translation and Localization services can turn out to be for your business.

Author: Andreea Balaoiu

5 Significant Risks of Cheap Translations

As the global business race intensifies and more and more companies seek to Translate and Localize their products and message for faster exposure worldwide, bottom-line costs are always top of mind. The end goal? Achieving brand Globalization and Internationalization through the lowest Translation and Localization costs out there.

'Getting what you paid for' is a very appropriate expression in this case, as resorting to cheap translation services is more often than not directly related to low-quality linguistic output, downplaying the actual effort, investment, and overall 'cost' of a satisfactory Translation and Localization alternative.

1. Machine Translation Inaccuracies

Machine Translation has certainly evolved in recent years, being widely integrated as a 'budget-friendly' translation solution for faster turnaround times. However, the pitfalls are undeniable, especially when considering key Translation and Localization parameters, such as accuracy, context, format flexibility, subject matter expertise, and creativity.

While you can certainly resort to Machine Translation solutions, free of charge, actually using machine-translated content for highly visible platforms such as websites will not only affect the credibility of your brand or product but also cost you, even more, to 'patch up' the translation linguistically.

One relevant example was outlined by, concerning political parties running in 2020 and using Google Translate for their Spanish-language promotion websites, some of which were so badly translated they hardly made any sense, generating significant controversy.

Instead, to achieve a higher degree of quality, you may want to use Machine Translation Post Editing (MTPE), which is conducted by a professional native linguist of a target language. In addition to this, you need to train your Machine Translation Engines.

2. Cultural Dissonance

Cheaping out on Translation costs is detrimental to the aim of ensuring high-quality linguistic output, as it also implies using inexperienced linguists who lack the necessary expertise to deliver according to clients' rigorous demands and expectations.

As cultural nuances represent a firm link between the customer and the market it targets, a poorly translated or localized rendition of a brand's content may lead to confusion, cultural inaccuracies, even political incorrectness, which can heavily impact international business performance and revenue.

One typical example of how a cheap, overly literal translations that don't follow any iso regulated or standardized process at all can cause revenue losses in multinational companies is the British Multinational Bank HSBC, which had to launch a $10 million rebranding campaign in an effort to repair the damage inflicted on client trust and credibility by a previous mistranslation of its slogan 'Assume Nothing' as 'Do Nothing' in various countries.

3. Expensive Post-Corrections

The example given above with HSBC brings us to the third risk of opting for cheap translation and skimping on professional and high-quality services.
That small website mistranslation or low-quality localization of today can mean the alienated customer of tomorrow, as nothing escapes truly savvy consumers with an eye for quality.

Ultimately, your low-cost translation strategy will backfire, and you'll soon realize that the translated version of your website is not converting as per expectations, that your international clients will slowly stop buying, your website won't rank organically, and the bounce rate will keep increasing.

Once a reputation is damaged, through low-quality translation or localization, the revenue will inherently decline as well – too big of a risk for too little investment.

4. Risky Legal Implications

Beyond cultural nuances, the risk posed by the use of cheap, poor-quality translations for highly demanding 'exact' texts such as legally binding contracts, templated law documentation, medical descriptions, or summaries of product characteristics and specifications may have profound and enduring negative effects on any business lifecycle.

The results of mistake-ridden and blatantly inaccurate translations of such documents can also have severe life-death implications, ranging from errors in clinical trials that can lead to deviations from custom practice, legal issues resulting from malpractice, irreparable damage to a corporate image and the credibility of an institution or harrowing drops in Sales that impede the continuation of service.

One tragically famous case of inexperienced, poor medical mistranslation was that of a young Cuban baseball player called Willie Ramirez, taken to a hospital in South Florida, in a comatose state.
When an inexperienced and affordable medical translator and interpreter was called in to translate his state, his unfamiliarity with the Cuban Spanish word 'intoxicado', led to the misinterpreting of the case as a drug overdose, instead of an internal brain hemorrhage, resulting in the failure to successfully diagnose his affliction, and, ultimately, in the accidental loss of the patient's life.

5. Translation Crowdsourcing…. 'Fraudsourcing'?

Given the global context of international businesses seeking immediate go-to-market opportunities in a myriad of language combinations, no wonder companies renounce the golden standard of translation for the lesser expense… And here is where crowdsourcing translation services have gained their momentum.

To put it mildly, translation crowdsourcing entails combining machine and human translation, involving more than one individual in the process of creating the translation, typical case examples being 'Google in your own language' (GIYL), a project that was translated by both users and translation volunteers, The Ubuntu Open-Source translation project, similarly executed, and the Worldwide Lexicon, an open-source collaborative translation platform showcasing a translation memory (database of translations), jointly created by end-users worldwide.

While this sounds like a modern, future-proofed solution to translation and localization and the extremely low rates seem too good to pass, its risks are high, as in most cases, the contributors to the open-source translation platforms are not subject matter experts. You can never know who they are, what background they have, or how to effectively communicate with them for maximum translation output.

So this cheap translation and localization solution can be somewhat of Russian roulette, having no quality guarantees and resulting in amateurish, unprofessional translation output, inaccurate translation messaging, imprecise terminology, and higher costs of post-editing and proofreading, which ultimately impact the Return on Investment (ROI) and brand image for any business employing it.

The bottom line

The illusion of speeding up the process of translation and localization by assuming the risks generated by cheap linguistic solutions not only results in inaccuracies or mistranslations, but also doubles the time and effort invested in the entire translation process, affecting turnaround for the businesses involved.

There are certainly many more challenging benchmarks that a translation has to meet before being considered of appropriate quality and relevant to the cultural background it reflects or to the business identity mechanism it seeks to become a core element of, which is why it ְ's never a good idea to cheap out and give up too soon on finding the most beneficial linguistic solutions that are appropriate for your needs.

At AD VERBUM, we certainly do not disregard translation as a lesser service, nor do we cut corners with the time and attention to detail, investing in each and every step of our linguistic processes for maximum customer satisfaction.

Our top-quality translation and localization services, ensured through excellent subject matter expertise, will help you unlock new ways of overcoming the linguistic challenges your business may face, reducing the risks, so you can boost your confidence to speak globally and pertinently.

Ready to Translate and Localize at scale? Let professionals at AD VERBUM take all the hassle away and do it for you. Get in touch with us today!

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Christofaro, Beatrice. “Democrats Running in 2020 Are Being Accused of Using Google Translate for Their Spanish-Language Sites, Some of Which Are so Bad They Hardly Make Sense.” Insider, Insider, 2 Apr. 2019,

“Radio 4 in Four - Six Epic Translation Fails.” BBC Radio 4, BBC,

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On 28.03.2024 AD VERBUM Ltd. signed an agreement No 17.1-1-L-2024//180 with the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia on receiving support for export assistance under the project “SME Innovative Business Development” co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.