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What Are the Traits of Local Translation Agencies in China?

Sophie Ao, Author
20 July 2016

I still remember the day when Mr. Tomer Yehezkeli, the CEO of Limpid Translations, walked in our Shanghai studio in 2007; he met the team personally, expressed how grateful he was and appreciated our fast and high-quality service.

When I asked how did other vendors perform and how we can further improve, he can’t stop complaining about negative experience and things that drove him crazy when working with other translation agencies in China.

Though he had been studying Chinese for 3 years then, he was still new to China and unaware of its culture. I’d like to share with you the traits that bothered him most from a foreigner’s perspective to help you negotiate better when dealing with local translation agencies in China.

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#1 Very indirect

It’s not easy to get a clear-cut answer from a Chinese. When you approach a Chinese translation company for a quotation for document translation, they tend to avoid direct answers on cost, but ask you about your budget instead. With this indirect approach, you will see:

  1. Hidden charges – one of the reasons of not being direct is that they can always charge hidden fees later on.
  2. Nothing upfront – you will know a bit more if you keep pushing, or nothing if you don’t. For instance, when there’s a possible delay in delivery, they will only notify you unless you ask, or very likely AFTER the scheduled deadline.
  3. A pretty vague time schedule – they tend to reply you as “tomorrow”, instead of “9am tomorrow, CST time”, to reserve some flexibility at their hands.

#2 Bold in claims

  1. They won’t hesitate to claim they are on top of the world in any subject matter and in any language combination.
  2. They tend to first win your translation job, whatever it is, then worry about whether they can actually do it.
  3. They build up empty promises by assuring you 100% whatever you’d like to hear, then came up with excuses for not living it up.

#3 Lost in communication

  1. Important details got lost in internal communications. They tend to accidentally “forgot” what you have told them time and time again.
  2. Hesitation to ask question – when they don’t quite understand you, they tend to cover it up by pretending they know it, posing like a “professional”, until you found out.
  3. Not responding to you promptly or treat you with little priority.
  4. Not reporting project status to you unless you inquire.
  5. Lack of proper explanation – such as “I think this and that sections need your special attention, because original contents were a bit vague” etc.

#4 Unable to deliver

  1. No show
  2. Late schedule
  3. Bad quality (lack of expertise in field, or sounds like machine translation – yes, some translation companies are fooling foreign clients by using free machine translation tools such as Google Translate and then offer an ankle price to non professionals, such as students, to proofreader or post-edit machine translation at price of translation. Very lucrative business even if price seems very low to you)
  4. Quality varies over time (many translation agencies win your translation jobs by using senior translators for the initial collaboration, then swap them with junior but cheaper translators, and keep that secret from you in a hope that you would never find out, because you are a foreigner).

Unable and reluctant to think in your shows

  1. Unable to listen attentively to your needs
  2. Unable to bring up all options available to you
  3. Unable to analyze and suggest best optimal solution for you
  4. Definitely hesitate to promote solution that will save you a lots of money and time.

Beware of cheap options on the market because they are always associated with poor quality. When your highly specialized contents were translated by inexperienced amateurs, expect disastrous results in your business. Poor translation will diminish your chance of winning in China. And no one else is paying for it but yourself.


* Read more on Why you need high-quality translation service 

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Contact us now for a reasonable proposal that covers all your translation requirements.

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