Working with businesses in translation is great, because you get to build up a personal relationship and sometimes even see the direct result of your work. However, when someone who is unfamiliar with foreign languages needs the services of a translator, more time is required to explain the process and ensure that they know what to expect.
For example, a few weeks ago I received a phone call from a client, who wanted to have a budget proposal translated from English into Spanish, and who went on to say: “So I was thinking we could just run it through Google Translate and you could check it?”
Oh man, if I had a pound for every time someone has suggested Google Translate instead of a human translator…well, I probably wouldn’t need to be a translator any more!
I explained to the client what I have outlined in a previous blog post: that while Google Translate is fine for short, casual sentences, I would not recommend running a business proposal through it. The time it takes to rejig Google’s efforts can sometimes be so long, that you might as well just start from scratch and let the translator translate into their native language, to achieve a text that flows more naturally (and has the correct terminology).
This got me thinking: in what other instances would you need a professional translator for your business needs?
It’s not just marketing texts that need translating
When you think of international businesses, it’s easy to automatically think of advertising: translating slogans and websites and brochures, in order to reach more customers, right?
This is a huge part of the translation industry, but it doesn’t stop there: often, companies need their financial statements translated for their overseas investors and shareholders, in which case you’d want a financial specialist to translate them.
If you’re trading between countries, then contracts need to be translated, preferably by a translator who specialises in that branch of law.
If a company wants to branch out into other countries, then the list goes on. Internal communications, audit reports, meeting agendas, training materials, HR documents, health and safety guidelines…it’s not just your customers that need things in their native languages – it’s your employees and stakeholders too.
You may have bilingual colleagues, but…
It’s understandable to think that you can save money by getting an employee who speaks the language to translate things for you. In my old job there was a French girl who was given EVERYTHING that remotely involved a foreign language, even if it wasn’t her department (or indeed, her native language!). The trouble is, while she was willing to help, it distracted her from her normal work, as contrary to popular belief, translations can sometimes take as long as it did to write the original document – perhaps more, in some cases.
Quite aside from there being a wide variety of subjects, as mentioned above, you may also have to consider converting measurements or currencies, ensuring that the tone of the document is appropriate for the new audience, or adhering to a company’s style guidelines or glossary, to keep it consistent with their previous files. And of course, the new document needs proofreading, to make sure that you’ve copied down all those facts and figures correctly.
Sometimes it’s better to establish a close working relationship with a translator, who will not only do a great job translating, but will also get to know your company and any specific stylistic and terminology preferences you may have, leading to a greater consistency in your texts.
Mistranslations can be catastrophic
They may be funny, but these mistakes can be costly – according to a recent study, 82% of Britons would not use a company that had not correctly translated its marketing material into English, and 59% would think twice about using a company that had grammatical and spelling mistakes on their website.
Having translation mistakes in any of your business documents reduces confidence and trust in your company, so professional translations can be an excellent investment.