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Translation in Business – or How We Don’t Really Understand All That We Are Reading

Translation in Business – or How We Don’t Really Understand All That We Are Reading

26 May 2017

It is so easy to misinterpret what we read today.  Because of that, translation is becoming a more central concern for businesses.  English is being overtaken as the dominant language of the world, not by any other single language, but by a number of diverse languages from all corners of the globe.  The largest concentration of people using the Internet is also shifting, from Europe and North America to East Asia. 


The great importance and difficulty of translation can also be seen when considering that India has 22 official languages – which does not take into stock the numerous unofficial languages used in this country, an important emerging market.  Transparent communication is key not only to get meaning across, but also for Net search and retrieval.


Translation, Transcreation, Transinvention


It becomes increasingly essential for any business that hopes to operate across regions or even countries to think through an approach to translation – or, rather, transcreation.  Transcreation is a term that reminds us of the actual task at hand when we try to replicate meaning between languages.  It is not about literal interpretation of one word to another word, but about trying to take the feeling and connotations of what is being said into a different cultural context. 


Transcreation is even more relevant with brand and product names – especially in fashion, where names and slogans are more likely to come from jokes, nonsense words, cultural phrases, and the like than IT brand names, for instance.  Any business that deals with these points from the very beginning will be well ahead of the game when export and communications across dialects becomes necessary.


This may be sooner than you think.  44% of Internet users in Europe say that they are losing out on stimulating information because of language issues.  Only 18% of online shoppers would make purchases online if pages are presented in a language not accessible to them.  In the UK, the British Council has determined that 75% of the population do not have the skills necessary to make basic purchases in another language - much less carry out complex negotiations.  This means that the awe-inspiring sum of £48 billion in possible exports goes out of the window every year in the UK, according to the Department of Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS). 


What to Do?


Although businesses may be daunted by the numerous options and costs associated with translation, there are ways through, although Google Translate is not one of them.  It can be a helpful instant – not to mention free – tool, and contemporary translation software is much improved by algorithms that store nuances of language for more accurate interpretation. 


However, even with these technical advances, translation will never be an exact science, which means that there is no replacement for the human touch. Ways your business can bring that in include providing FAQ’s, links, and emails that potential or current customers can use to connect with other people at their discretion.  


The most important point is calling upon human translators to collaborate with your business.  It is good to keep in mind that even if someone knows two languages, they may not be a translator.  Additionally, it is useful if the person doing translation for you has some knowledge of what you are talking about, not just how you are talking about it.  Visual design also needs to be looked at to make sure that images and layouts are attractive and clear across cultures.  Different languages take up different amounts of space on the page.


That said, there are cost-efficient alternatives to pricey agencies or freelancers. Bright interns and students may be able to assist with simple texts or documents at lower cost, helping your small to medium-sized business keep investment moderate during initial explorations into new markets.  However, when seeking to translate marketing materials, it’s also important to remember that a message that speaks to everyone may ring true with no one – another reason to make sure that your translators are alive to subtleties and character. 


Here at Anton Dell, we are backed by a team of expert translators who ensure our campaigns, blogs, and marketing materials are worded right for all the markets we work across on every continent of the world.  A lesson we have taken to heart is using clear words in correctly punctuated, short sentences wherever possible, to make the job slightly easier for our wordsmiths. Spelling is even more important, with several versions of a word often being acceptable. Our years of experience help us to give you individualised advice on all aspects of exporting and marketing.


Go in for Words


Roy Allkin of translation company Wolfestone sums up, “A lot of SMEs see languages as a cost and it’s absolutely not a cost, it’s an investment.  We need to change the perceptions that the language barrier is too big to get over, that it’s too difficult to compete with native speakers and that ultimately, everyone out there speaks English – which is absolutely untrue.”



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