Posted by: patenttranslator | February 24, 2019

The Reason Why My Pokey Old Website Still Works


I keep a list of new customers who found my poky old website in a given year in a file called, predictably enough, “New Customers from Internet 2005 ~ 2019″. Thanks to my domain name expertly chosen twenty years ago and the fact that the website has been online already for two decades, and also because it has a link to my blog in which I have been writing about translation issues for such a long time, mostly about issues relating to patent translation, if you put certain key words into a search engine, my website or/and my blog will come up as a resource for translating patents from Japanese, French, or German to English usually on the first page, sometime on top of page 1 in organic results.

I have never paid for online advertising, which can be very expensive, because I get enough new business from what is called organic search engine results.

For example, 25 new customers found my website thanks to its high ranking in organic results in 2005 (this was the first year when I started tracking new customers in this manner. I had no blog yet, I started writing it in 2010), 20 new customers found my website in 2006, and 10 new customers found me in 2013. Every year, the revenue from these customers represented about 40 to 60% of my income. I probably could not have survived all those years without my not-so-secret weapons – my website and my blog.

The number of new customers from Internet was drastically reduced in the last five years or so, because the competition for both organic listings and paid advertising has become brutal in the last decade or so. But it’s not about how many new customers, mostly patent law firms, will find me in a given year; what is even more important is how much work they will end up sending me.

For example, I see from my list that I gained only 9 customers in this manner in 2016, but one of them sent me work corresponding to about 40% of my income in that year, and then they swamped me with work the next year when they sent me work representing about 80% of my income the next year.

A new patent law firm with dozens of patent lawyers found out about my patent translation services also this month, and so far I finished two translation projects for them: one was an old Japanese patent and the most recent one that I finished only yesterday was a fairly long scientific article, which I translated from Japanese to English.

Why do large patent law firms, which must have been sending work to other translation suppliers for many years, presumably mostly to large translation agencies because unlike small translation agencies or individual translators such as myself, large translation agencies are easy to find in paid listings on the internet, decide instead to use the services of a very small operation such as mine?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but here is what I think.

I think that the decision is in a way similar to what happens when a consumer decides to shop for new produce at a local farmers market instead of buying gorgeous red tomatoes, strawberries and apples shipped from Brazil, Chile, or Argentina to a local store that is a part of a huge supermarket chain.    

The problem with the fruits and vegetables is that although they look oh-so-beautiful, they may be carcinogenic because modern large-scale corporate agricultural methods use too many chemicals to grow the produce. What may be even more important is that good-looking veggies and fruits these huge corporations are selling us, although they look very appetizing, are often almost completely tasteless.

So, many customers will in the end decide to go “bio” and buy products untouched by chemicals and genetic engineering at a local farmers market (which, unfortunately in some cases may again feature fruits and vegetables that have been shipped for thousands and thousands of miles, falsely advertised as produce grown by local farmers).

One could say that the methods that large translation agencies, or mass-producers of translations rely on to minimize their operating expenses and maximize their profits are just as dangerous and toxic to our environment, which is to say to what translation is, or used to be, as they are similar to or have been inspired by the methods used by large producers of agricultural products.

Just like the fruits and vegetables that we buy at a local supermarket may have been shipped thousands of miles from a different continent because the supermarket chain will pay half cent less per each tomato when it has been bought from abroad rather than from a local farmer who does not believe in combining the latest “breakthrough genetic engineering methods” with tons of chemicals for the best results, the translations produced in mass by large translation agencies may be the result of  machine translation algorithms which cobble together texts that may then be edited by unqualified “post-processing editors” who live in countries where this kind of “processing” can be done on the cheap.

This new method for producing translation in the new “translation industry” is a method that is very cost-effective for large translation agencies. A “minor” problem that must be ignored by customers here is the quality of these translations, which may be full of mistakes, just like a supermarket chain customer may have to ignore the fact that so many fruits and vegetables sold worldwide in supermarkets taste like … rubber.

The very cost effective methods that have been relatively recently adopted by the “translation industry” might work for very simple texts that are very similar to other simple texts that have been already translated by educated, qualified and experienced human translators. The modern machine translations are so deceptively similar to a real translation, which is to say a human translations, because they are cobbled together from reused texts of older human translations.

But these machine translation methods are ill suited for the kind of texts that Mad Patent Translator usually deals with. For example, both the Japanese patent application and the Japanese article published in a technical journal were almost three decades old. Thirty years ago, the legibility of original Japanese texts was not nearly as good as it is now. Very small fonts were generally used to fit as much text on a single page as possible. The page was often divided into two columns with four quadrants of text that also includes equations and formulas, figures and photos. This by itself is a formidable obstacle to the industrial type of processing that is so popular in the “translation industry”.

But the problems with the modern methods used by the “translation industry” are even much more complex when the translations are from a complicated language such as Japanese.

The language that is spoken and written in the Land of the Rising Sun is so complicated that as Francis Xavier, a Portuguese missionary in mid sixteenth century in Japan put it, this language must have been invented by the Devil himself to prevent spread of Christianity in Japan. And if it was invented by the Devil himself for this purpose, one would have to say that the Devil did a bang up job because to this day, there are not too many Christians in Japan.

The best way to avoid mass-produced translations that may be full of mistakes because they were mass-produced by mega translation agencies relying on software and translators who lack proper qualifications and experience in a process that is overseen by cheap, monolingual product managers, is probably finding a better fit in the form of a small, highly specialized supplier of translations who really does specialize in a relatively narrow field, rather than “specializing in all languages and all subjects” the way all large translation agencies think translation can and should be done.

And that may be in fact the main reason why my pokey old website, which has been working so well already for two decades, still draws in valuable new customers, as it did this week.



  1. Well said, and well written too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting points. As for old websites, I say… Never touch a running system! Love that Jennifer Rush.


  3. Isn’t she something?

    That first scene with streets and buildings in New York brings me back to America in the eighties, maybe the best time of my life. Every time I watch it, it’s quite a shock.


    • How about that Walkman (1:24 of the video)? 🙂


  4. Could another reason possibly be that you’re less expensive than using some of these “panlingual” translation companies, Steve? (A good argument for using freelancers whatever the language, it seems to me). The ones whose rates I’m aware of don’t sell Japanese translation cheaply. (And in fact some of the larger companies commission translations in less-common fields and combinations from smaller companies anyway).


  5. I think I am less expensive than some of them, and more expensive that others.

    I am not outrageously expensive, but I would not say that I sell my translation services cheaply, especially since I don’t really need the money, as I have a fixed income in my retirement from two pensions, American and Czech, that is more than sufficient to comfortably cover my living expenses.

    I now mostly work because otherwise I might get bored.


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