Understanding Language Translation -- Ten Things I Know

Understanding language translation issues is key to running a company like Rapport International.  If you're confused about the "whys" and "hows" of your company's translation needs, here are a few pointers to consider:

  • Just Do It

A huge share of the business market is being missed if you are only targeting English speaking audiences.  Less than 10% of the world’s population speaks English as their first language, yet if information about a product is in a person’s native language, that person is four times more likely to purchase.

  • Provide Good Copy

Providing well written English copy is the most important first step to insure a quality foreign language translation.

  • Quality of Linguist

Use a trained and reputable linguist from a qualified translation company.  One hospital tried to use a bi-lingual cleaning lady to interpret for a doctor and patient but culturally, the cleaning lady felt uncomfortable questioning the doctor and asking for clarification.  Unfortunately, she told the patient that she needed stomach surgery when she only needed a pap smear.

  • Know Your Audience

Translate for the audience.  If using a Caribbean French translator for Canadian documents, it will look sloppy because of the geographic language differences.

  • Keep a Consistent Voice 

Using different linguists is like using different writers – everyone has their own style.   One may use the word “dinner” and another use the word “supper”.  You want consistency.

  • Use Correct Grammar

Catchy marketing phrases do not work across cultures and languages.  For example “got milk” was translated to “are you lactating?”    Try to avoid double meanings – they rarely ever translate.

  • Avoid Colloquialisms and Slang 

In English, we understand what it means to say “that’s hot” or “that’s cool” but it doesn’t carry the same meaning into other languages.

  • Localize when Necessary

Localizing the document means making it appropriate for the audience in a particular target area.  If selling in a particular country, consumers will want to see the right cultural innuendos, currency, jargons, etc.

  • Review and Edits

Always have the translated document reviewed and edited.  Translation is like writing where the more eyes the better for an important document.  Do not use machine translations.

  • Track Changes

Keep track of all changes when editing the original copy to save costs on translation edits.

Categories: Language Translation, Doing Business Internationally - Exporting


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