Home Business Don’t Let Bad Translation Ruin Your Business

Don’t Let Bad Translation Ruin Your Business


Many business owners view the translation of their product or service into another language as something that’s almost automatic. They imagine something that’s quick, easy and which can be rolled out of the door very quickly. The proliferation of machine translation services such as Google Translate may have led to an even greater impression that professional translation is simple – and even that it’s free.

Leaving aside the question of whether machine translation works a poorly translated text can mean that…

  • You make a costly incorrect business decision based on a poorly worded agreement or document
  • Your company suffers potentially huge PR and reputation damage, which can also be expensive to repair
  • You damage an important business relationship by not understanding what your partner actually meant when you discussed your plans

The internet is littered with articles detailing seemingly hilarious blunders which huge international brands have made when entering foreign markets. But just think of the amount of damage that even one of these little “hiccups” in the translation process will have caused these brands – in credibility, in reputation and in sales.

It’s enough to make anyone think twice about the Language Service Provider they choose…

How to pick the right translator for you and your project

If you’re wondering how to choose the right translator for your project there are several simple steps that you can take:

1) Ask them exactly what they do

Some companies provide only Translation and Proofreading (you’ll see this abbreviated as TP) while others provide full Translation, Editing and Proofreading (TEP) as well Quality Assurance. This will probably be the reason behind any big variations in the cost of translation you’ve been quoted.

The number of steps they include will usually show you the kind of quality you can expect in your final translated piece.

2) Tell them what you want

Giving your translation partner all the information you have about the project. Including: the where, why, how and what of your project is always going to return better results.

3) Plan in advance

High-quality professional translation takes time. If you have a large project you’ll need to send Requests For Information (RFIs) and Requests For Proposal (RFPs) to several Language Service Providers and the entire process could take several weeks.

4) Make sure your text is completed before you get it translated

Changing sections of text at the last minute or after work has been started will dramatically impact the timeframe for the completion of your project and may result in extra cost too.

How to avoid problems with translation

Some of the most common translation problems include:

  1. Trying to save money on translation – using a cheaper or basic service to translate marketing collateral for example, where a freer approach – usually one involving trans creation – is usually called for. Good value for money depends on the type of service you need, not just how many pound signs are attached.
  2. Failure of project scoping – your Language Service Provider should give you a clear time frame for your project. If in doubt, ask for one. Ordering a project and setting a deadline for it in stone with no knowledge of how the translation process works is asking for problems at a later date!

Most of the biggest issues can be avoided by taking the steps outlined in points 1 to 4. Usually, the solution is obvious:

Talk to your translation company. If this is an agency that wants your business, they should be keen to talk to you about how they’re going to deliver the quality, speed and style you expect from your latest language project.

Got a great tip for a choosing a translator? Or have you heard a brilliant anecdote about a brand which tried to enter a foreign market only to shoot themselves in the foot with a poorly translated product?

We love to hear these! Add your comment below…