Chinese translation agencies’ biggest challenge: not artificial intelligence

After my graduation from university, I cooperated with multiple translation agencies in China, as a full-time translator or a part-time one. These agencies are situated in large cities like Beijing, Nanjing and Shenzhen, and some of them are very famous.

My greatest feeling in such cooperation was not how good they were, but how they despise translation quality.

I was confused as these translation companies were big and many of their customers were big enterprises in China. Gradually I lost my interest in translating and later became an editor for a news website.

After working with some overseas translation agencies, I rekindled interest in translation and now established my own business. But most Chinese translation companies are still the same as they were.

Based on my experience, there are two reasons why they don’t put real emphasis on quality.

First is that their clients don’t really recognize importance of content. Even English sites of some Chinese giants contain many stupid translation mistakes, just like written by a junior school student.

Secondly, most clients aren’t good at English. These Chinese clients are very careless when selecting translation companies.

They usually focused on only scale and copywriting of translation companies. But a common reality is, the bigger a Chinese translation company is, the worse their translation quality could be –they pursue small margins with great volumes, and low prices would never attract qualified translators.

However, such circumstances are changing now. First, along with development of social medias, Chinese enterprises are putting more and more emphasis on content marketing, as well as overseas markets. And some large enterprises would hire their own translators, to translate small and important documents and proofread large translation projects assigned to translation companies. These translators are usually very good; therefore such enterprises are truly capable of judging quality of translations.

And a fundamental change is that more and more young Chinese people are becoming really good at English, as they have more chances to learn English now – not only on classes, but also through social medias, and as many of their parents are trying to teach them English from childhood.

These young people will eventually become clients of Chinese translation companies, and deceiving clients won’t be a viable option.

As the progress of AI translation is still not very clear, those qualified translators in large enterprises and young people good at English are becoming the biggest challenge of Chinese translation agencies.

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