There are a few reasons why you might consider hiring your distributor for translation services. The two that come to mind immediately are the cost (it will be cheaper than hiring a professional translation service) and motivation (they will be eager to get the job done for you). However, there are some risks to consider before you go this route.
Your Marketing Message
Distributors are typically salespeople, not marketers. You’ve spent considerable time and money to develop a marketing message with clear benefits and differentiators describing why your product is better than the competition. Now you want to make sure those messages are clearly communicated in different markets. Marketers and distributors have inherently different motivations and communication styles.
Distributors are basically salespeople who tend to use more of a tactical style to communicate things like price and delivery. Marketers, on the other hand, emphasize market research and how to best position the value of your product. Choosing a distributor to do your translation may result in losing all the work you have done on positioning the value that your product will offer in the marketplace.
The Best Translators are Fully Bilingual
Distributors are often located in your target market and speak English well enough to work with you in the United States, or in another English-speaking country. As such, they can easily communicate with you about what needs to be done. But that does not mean they are fully bilingual, educated on proper grammar and punctuation, or have lived in the native language culture long enough to know hidden meanings of words in those areas. If you use your distributor and they are not fully bilingual, you’ll likely end up with a sloppy translation.
Read about managing a global workforce in our blog: The Language of Global Business – Managing a Multilingual Workforce.
The Best Translators are Professionally Trained
If a distributor is translating something for you that has a meaning they don't understand, they may make a best-guess and end up converting it to something entirely different, and then you've lost the original marketing message.
Distributors also have a lot of competing priorities. Therefore, they may either rush through your job, or simply get to it when they can, which may not serve the needs you have for a quality translation.
Who Will Upload the Translated Content to Your Website?
Once the translation is done, will your distributor have website access to upload the document, or will they give it back to you for your website administrator to upload? In either case, there may be issues that arise. On one hand, giving your distributor website access is risking the integrity of your site. On the other hand, your administrator will likely not be familiar with the different languages, so they may not catch dropped text or may use inappropriate spacing, which can also cause problems.
Read more about getting foreign language layout right in our blog Foreign Language Desktop Publishing Explained.
Getting the Most Use Out of Your Translation
Distributors may translate, but they won’t necessarily understand the larger marketing questions. For example, now that you have website copy translated, you may also need a spec sheet, a handout, or a brochure for a conference. It makes good business sense to leverage the translation you just completed for other projects, because you want to keep your marketing messages consistent. So, you want to make sure whoever does your translation, they are thinking through the multiple uses that you can get for it.
Changes to English Language Content Adds Another Layer of Complication
Another thing to keep in mind is content changes. Whenever changes occur on your English version, such as updated product specs, those edits need to be applied to all translated documents as well. This can be cumbersome to manage. This added layer of responsibility will also add cost and complexity for anyone you choose for translations.
Deciding Who Should Do Your Translation
Whoever you choose to do your translation, take a moment to think through the ultimate cost and ROI for your business. Here are five questions to ask yourself as a starting point:
- Does it have the ability to affect your bottom line? If it's marketing materials, or if it's something that can cause you pain, you will want to hire a trained professional translator that can deliver what you need so you don’t negatively affect your bottom line.
- What is the liability risk? If it's a legal contract, release materials, distributor agreements, etc., you’ll want to think through your potential liability because it could lead back to a huge legal case that could cost you. Professional legal translators are going to advise you on things like which language will prevail if there is a question between the translation and the original.
- How accurate do your translations need to be? If you need 100% accuracy, you want to hire a professionally trained translator that can make sure they're getting all the grammar, punctuation and message correct so you look good in the marketplace.
- Who’s in charge of version control? If you go willy-nilly and have anybody do your translation, then you'll have versions all over the place. Then, if you need to do edits later, it won’t be as easy as making the edits and updating the translations. Once you have multiple versions it can cause confusion and be difficult to manage.
- Do you consider translations a pure cost or a return on investment? Large companies are starting to think of translations as a return on investment rather than a pure cost because they can now measure who is going to their website and consuming the translated material. Plus, research confirms that people would much rather consume information in their native language, even if they speak English (and they're willing to pay a premium if they can get services in their languages).
As you can see, there are a lot of considerations to factor in before you say “yes” to hiring your distributor as your translator. Consider these tips and questions then contact us if you need more information. We’ll help you develop a plan for translation and a matrix that considers the cost and return of your translations.
Rapport International specializes in multilingual communications, providing language translation and interpretation services that are accurate and culturally appropriate. We use the right voice and the correct terminology to avoid liability, customize services to your needs, and deliver on time and within your budget. With our 100% satisfaction guarantee, you can trust that it’s done right. Contact us today if you would like more information or to get a free quote.