In many respects the business world has never been smaller. The growth of the internet has put international markets within the reach of even relatively small companies. Improved video-conferencing and telepresence systems allow face-to-face meetings around the globe, while high-speed transport infrastructure provides a means for goods to be shipped long distances with relative speed and ease.
Though physical distances may have decreased in importance, linguistic and cultural barriers still present challenges to businesses entering foreign markets. In an attempt to conserve resources, many smaller companies rely on automatic translation services for all kinds of international business communications. More often then not, this results in messages being lost in translation causing needless set backs, headaches, and lost business.
To surmount the challenges inherent to international business communications, frugal small businesses in particular should consider using professional translation services.
Translation Professionals Versus Automatic Translation
Simple software translation programs like Google Translate can offer a free and easy translation option. But these automatic translation tools can be prone to errors, and often don’t deal well with linguistic variations such as colloquialisms, slang and abbreviations. Professional translators can help avoid contextual errors and can also bring cultural knowledge and expertise. Moreover, sometimes a straight translation is not the best option, such as when launching a product in a different culture. Transcreation (a combination of translation and copywriting) takes the original message and adapts it for a new market, retaining the intent and context.
Professional translation providers may themselves use sophisticated automatic translation in order to reduce costs and translation times. But this process will be rigorously overseen, with experts using a human eye to add nuance and cultural and contextual relevance. Many language service providers also have access to translation memory tools that help streamline the process by storing segments of text that have already been translated. These can be used to scan new projects for matching content, keeping down costs and helping to achieve a level of consistency.
Professional Translation Offers Experience and Human Resources
A small company that is able to hire multilingual employees may decide to designate translation as part of their duties or to take on new employees especially for the role. But this will limit translation to certain pairs of languages. Professional translation companies typically have access to a huge pool of translators specializing in different languages and specific language pairs.
Translation requirements are unlikely to remain consistent over a given length of time and working with language professionals will allow a company to scale their resources up or down as circumstances dictate. If a special project comes up, or the company expands quickly in a new market, the resources are available to help deal with that. For periods requiring little or no translation services, there will be little to no wastage of resources or expenditure.
In addition, the translation pool will include professionals with proven expertise in a variety of fields. This may include areas such as marketing, technical and legal skills. A good translation services provider will also be able to provide advice to help you avoid common pitfalls and plan your internationalization strategy.
How Can Translation Professionals Help a Small Business That’s Going Global?
Translation service providers can help with pretty much any source material that requires translating or adapting for another language or culture. This can include such things as:
- Website localization. Website localization is a key part of most companies’ internationalization strategies. English is still the most widely used language online, but it only accounts for around a quarter of total usage. Although many surfers use English as a second language, a recent study conducted across the European Union found that more only 18% of Internet users would make online purchases from a site that was not in their own native language. Language professionals can help you set up foreign language microsites or fully localized websites dedicated to different target markets. This may involve translating and adapting content as well as working with things such as keyword research, which can help boost search engine optimization (SEO) in those local markets.
- Marketing materials. Marketing can involve a number of different approaches, including TV and radio commercials, brochures, business to business materials and social media campaigns. Translation professionals can translate copy directly as well as bringing a creative input aimed at specific cultures and target markets.
- Internal communications. If your company establishes an operations base in another country, your teams will need to be able to exchange information clearly and effectively. Language professionals can provide a conduit of direct communication as well as accurately translating reports, white papers, company guidelines and anything else that needs to be understood across different divisions.
- Packaging and instructions. Products exported or designed for release in foreign markets require packaging, instructions and documentation that can be easily understood by the customer. These may be quite general or they may be more precise and technical in nature. Online help files and other documentation may also be required.
Case Studies at Lingo24
Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 170 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over forty million words for businesses in every industry sector, including the likes of MTV, World Bank and American Express.
Lingo24 worked with a specialist sports media consultancy to provide English to Arabic translations during the 2010 soccer World Cup. Articles from a major English soccer news website were translated for simultaneous publication on websites in the UK and Middle East. It was recognized that the project required more than just core linguistic skills. Members of the team were also required to have exceptional knowledge of international soccer to ensure that all references and colloquialisms specific to the sport were translated correctly.
Audio electronics company. An Oklahoma-based audio electronics company has required 50,000 words of translation since 2008. This has covered a range of texts and materials, including marketing materials, packaging, legal information, user manuals and technical product information. Copy has been translated from English into Chinese, French, German and Spanish.
Automotive engineering. A specialist team of translators and proofreaders with automotive manufacturing experience was assembled to help this automotive parts producer. Lingo24 has translated more than 40,000 words a month from English and Chinese to German, covering everything from brochures to white papers, internal communications and legal contracts.