When your business is expanding into new territories, it’s a very exciting time. You’re doing well. Well enough to scale up and knock on new doors with new customers.
Expansion, however, has its challenges, especially if the new customers behind these new doors don’t speak your language.
We know this can be a daunting scenario. The question arises: “How do I shift languages to take my product or service into a new territory with the best chance of replicating the success I’ve had in English?” At LinguaLinx, as a Language Services Provider (LSP), we see the terror in people’s eyes when it comes to translation all the time. And we help them through it.
It’s largely down to not understanding that translation has its own pitfalls that must be avoided. When you see them laid out in front of you, they seem obvious and easy to overcome. Which they are, especially with the help of a good LSP. What are the problems you need to watch out for? Well, here are the biggest ones (and you might be surprised by the biggest of the biggest ones).
1. Terms That Don’t Exist In Other Languages
Most languages have terms that are unique to them. They don’t have a direct translation. Obviously, when translating these, the translator has to draw on their experience to use other words and create the right context for an accurate translation.
For example, in Portuguese, the word “massa” is translated into “pasta” in English. Simple, until you also realize it means pastry, batter, cake mix, and dough too. Do you really want carbonara sauce on your cake mix?
2. Seeing Translation As Just Words
Translation projects often deal with far more than just words, just language. They address the whole spectrum of content and make sure everything is ready for your new audience.
Take translating a website, for example. Of course, there are words that need to be translated. But there’s also the design of the site that needs to be adapted too.
These all have to be considered in the design of the site. And images or video content? If you’re going into a heavily Muslim country, you need to make sure your images are translated properly, too, with women respecting the conservative views on showing the body.
Or you may have a thumbs-up emoji on your site to translate. Be careful, however, because a thumbs-up means “up yours” in Afghanistan, Iran, and parts of Italy and Greece, so you might want to change that.
3. Relying Solely On Machine Translation
Machine Translation (MT) has its place, but you have to know what that place is. If you don’t have experience with translation, making this call can be tough.
Maybe your translation is simple, and there’s a lot of it. The cost of using human translation for all the content is prohibitive. Go it alone, and some AI-based software will translate it for you for very little. But is it accurate?
Where an LSP can make the difference is they can advise you on all the different types of translation options; what will work with straight machine translation (MT), and what could get you the right results with MT followed by a bit of post-editing – a human eye giving the translation a once-over. It costs a little bit more than just MT but nowhere near as much as full human translation.
4. Thinking The Process Is Like Other Processes
Project management is the same regardless of what industry you’re in, right? Actually, this is right. But what’s different in translation, and all industries for that matter, is the process that needs to be project managed.
Don’t get fooled into believing that the process will have the same lifecycle or checks and balances that you go through to research, build, test, and roll out your product or service.
One big difference? If you’re localizing content to move into a rural area of China, you might be hard-pressed to find a translator outside of that specific area. So, your Translation Project Management (TPM) needs to consider things like how you’ll have contact with them and how the rest of your team will work around their time zone.
5. Hiring A Translator
And finally, a strange one, but maybe the biggest mistake you can make in translation. Yes, hiring a translator can cause you a lot of problems.
So, how do you get your translation done? You hire an LSP. Why? Here are just a few reasons:
- LSPs have a deep roster of translators. If one has a personal accident and can’t complete a project, your LSP is the one who finds a suitable replacement, not you.
- A translator doesn’t look at where your business is going and see how they can positively impact your business or save you some money in the future.
- What’s your translator’s Quality Assurance (QA) process? How do you know if their translation is accurate? You don’t speak the language, after all. Do you think they’ll send you to a competitor of theirs to have it checked? Not a great business model for them. An LSP has a thorough QA process which includes independent, third-party translation checking.
- Not happy with your translator? Tough. You hired them. With an LSP, if there’s anything you’re unhappy with, you have an account management team to sort things out. They advocate for you within the translation process.
- You’re happy with the German translation, but you quickly have to get it sorted in Spanish. Great . . . now you’ve got to go through the whole translator procurement process all over again and put your trust in someone you don’t know again. LSPs have deep rosters of translators for multiple industry sectors in multiple languages. All of them will be qualified and vetted, so all you have to do is say a language, and the LSP will put the wheels in motion to get it done.
How To Avoid All Translation Problems
If you want a new car, it’s unlikely you’re going to buy the 30,000 or so pieces yourself and assemble it from scratch. Instead, you’re going to get one that’s been put together by a car manufacturer with a reputation that you trust.
If you want your translations to be smooth and someone to be on the lookout for you as your business moves forward, then do the same thing. Don’t go it alone, find an LSP with a reputation that you trust.
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