How to Avoid Embarrassing and Costly Translation Blunders

Someone has to say it: understanding a language doesn’t make you qualified to translate for a living.

Let’s be honest with each other. There’s simply too much riding on a translation to leave the job up to a non-native speaker – even a fluent non-native speaker.

Plenty of companies, news outlets, and even diplomats have made this mistake in the past and will very likely continue to do so. However, you don’t need to be one of them.

Companies like G3 Translate provide businesses with multifaceted translation services spanning cultural analysis, editing, and proofreading.

How to Avoid Embarrassing (and Costly) Translation Errors

Have you ever used Google or Facebook’s translation features? The results often don’t make much sense.

Why is this? Well, that’s what happens when you translate something word-for-word.

The truth is, you can translate anything. But a lot like writing, it often requires some editing and rewording to get your point across how you intended.

Understand the New Territory

Don’t just rush into a new market without doing thorough research. This means understanding which types of marketing campaigns work and which flop.

What works in the U.S. or Europe might not work for those in Southeast Asia. Just like you would with a domestic audience, the first thing you should do is understand your audience, their pain points, and how you can help.

It wouldn’t do much good to run an ad for beer in an Islamic country, for example, unless you know there is a high density of non-Muslim western immigrants living there (and if the local laws even allow alcoholic products).

Don’t Think of Your Translator as an Isolated Team Member

Anyone translating for your company needs a good understanding of the product they’re selling. Yes, even your translator is a member of the sales team – they’re effectively writing the copy for your new audience.

Your translator needs this insider knowledge of your product so they can best market it to their native-language audience. What would appeal to regular Germans, for example? If you haven’t lived in Germany most of your life, you probably couldn’t answer this question as well as a German-born translator even if you speak the language fluently yourself.

Make sure a handful of people work on the translation project and they regularly communicate with each other. Not only will this help avoid errors, but it will also make the copy more relatable and digestible to your target audience.

Take Images and Cultural Norms into Account

Colors mean different things in different cultures. In the United States, we consider black appropriate for a funeral but in China, you’d look off since the Chinese typically go for white on this occasion.

And that’s just one example. You wouldn’t understand these cultural intricacies if you haven’t lived in let alone visited a specific place. Unless you specifically ask someone born and raised in the country you’re targeting, there’s no way to know if you’re shooting yourself in the foot with an ad.

Just don’t risk it.

Don’t Even Try to Translate It Yourself

Again, just don’t do it. Yes, you probably want to flex your translation skills but it’s really not worth it.

Sure, if you understand the Arabic alphabet and a few words, you probably already have a better grasp on the language more than an average American off the street. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can Google Translate and improvise your way to an effective advertisement that accurately reflects your brand.

Why Risk It When People Out There Can Help?

It’s understandable that you want to jump into new markets. Places like China have large populations that might love your product. And with how connected we’ve become, there’s no reason you should write off the international market.

If you’re unable to expertly translate content yourself, just make sure you hire a dedicated translator to get the job done right the first time – it will save you a lot of money and trouble in the long-run.

David Reimherr

David is a regular contributor to the ContentWriters blog. He is the founder & CEO of Magnificent Marketing and brings 20 years of sales, marketing, strategy, and branding experience to the table.

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