How We Use Technology

The translation industry has made a huge leap in the last 30 years. From this …

to this:

And we are all grateful for it.

Our implementing these innovations ensures that you, our clients, benefit from the translation accuracy, quality and speed you need.


As relevant science and technology started expanding a few decades ago at a universal scale, translation was the indispensable ingredient for the success. The translation industry benefited enormously from technological progress and followed right along. When Microsoft, Google, eBay and Twitter – to mention just the biggest ones — are interested in developing and improving language technology, the industry listens and has followed. Technology, far from replacing humans, has become a tool helping them to keep up with growing demand for high quality translation.

How is technology helping language service providers?

Software used in the translation business is of inestimable value, providing: content management systems; project management programs; resource and staff management tools; computer-assisted-translation tools; terminology databases; plus programs for formatting, layout, transmission, storage, instant worldwide communication, etc.

Additional tools for localizing websites, software and mobile apps have opened new branches of business. Machine-assisted translation as well as a machine translation (MT, also known as translation software) are of huge importance paving the future development and new directions of language industry.

Besides basic daily tasks, technology has also opened our door to the huge range of competent translators across the globe with diverse specializations and doing less common languages. And all are vetted before we use them.

The Normal and Modified Processes

To guarantee accuracy, the translation process has three critical steps:

  1. Draft or initial translation using a subject-specialized, professionally trained translator of each target language;
  2. Editing (Revising) using a second subject-specialized, professionally trained translator of each target language to review the draft; and
  3. Proofreading the file for spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting.

When a text has many repetitions or tight deadlines, Auerbach International often uses MT for Step 1 with human translators for the critical Steps 2 and 3. This combination of machines and people maximizes accuracy and delivers quality quickly.

But MT can still make comical and critical mistakes, and does not work well with complex sentence structures and many Asian languages. In these cases, we use a professional, human translator for the draft (Step 1) and another professional translator (or two) to edit and proofread the text (Steps 2 and 3).

Getting language nuances, expressions and colloquialisms right is also challenging for MT.

Technology usually also cannot acculturate. For example, for an interior design firm that “creates soothing office spaces”, we rewrote the text for the Arabic translation to say that it “makes soothing office spaces.” That’s because for devout Muslims, only God can create and not acculturating would doom the client’s promotion.

When technology reaches its limits, we always use human professionals.

How is this technology helping you?

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, communicating across multiple languages and cultures is essential for:

  • launching your product worldwide;
  • developing new technologies;
  • collaborating with world-renowned scientists for research;
  • getting essential information to (minority) populations speaking different languages; and
  • making sales in foreign countries.

New technology integrated into language industry ensures:

  • faster turnaround times;
  • on-time product releases;
  • higher levels of accuracy;
  • consistency throughout all media and brands;
  • improved quality;
  • lower prices; and
  • services adapted to real needs, whether a machine translation for internal use, over-the-phone interpreting, or easy management of your content for translation.

Our process integrates technology to ensure that you get greater competitiveness and better success on the global market, regardless of your particular industry.

Wrong Assumptions about Translations

In culture, in speaking and in writing, clear communication is a major component in international business. But what seems clear in one context or one culture can be totally foreign in another. Even within English, the simple question, “Do you have a rubber?” to Americans can evoke some shock, assuming that the requester wants a condom. But if the requester is British, he or she is simply asking for an eraser (and is likely to phrase the question as, “Have you got a rubber?”). Similarly, the Scottish B&B owner who asks her American male guest, “When shall I knock you up in the morning, dearie?” is not asking for a morning sexual fling. Instead, she’s asking at what time he wants to be awakened.

When dealing with non-English cultures, accurate translations are even more essential. But these do not involve merely restating words. Instead, translations should also acculturate the text to reflect the target country as much as possible.

For example, this text was a direct translation into English from a German file about company valuations:

[box]The question of what a company or a share therein is actually worth may arise for a number of reasons. In addition to tax events (inheritance and gift tax), such assessments play an important role in the arrangements for a company succession, in the admission of new shareholders, in the drafting of compensation clauses in articles of association, or in the context of disputes. Company and office evaluations are also regularly necessary for establishing an adequate purchase price.[/box]

While the translation is comprehensible and technically accurate, it sounds very stiff to the English ear. Instead, the translation can be acculturated to read:

[box]The need to value a company or corporate shares may arise for a number of reasons. These include inheritance and gift tax calculations, arranging for a company succession, admitting new shareholders, drafting compensation clauses in articles of association, or resolving disputes. Company and office evaluations are also regularly needed to establish an adequate purchase price.[/box]

To begin the translation process, many executives make some incorrect assumptions:

1) If you can speak a language, you can translate or interpret.
  • This may be true for simple conversations or dialogs. But it emphatically does not hold when rendering any technical terminology as most brochures, websites, videos, apps, contracts and manuals and meetings are. Business translating (written communication) and interpreting (spoken communication) require advanced degrees to learn properly. Relying on your cousin who used to live there or your co-worker who came from there invites problems: How well does he or she know your business terminology in the target language? Does he or she use a native, non-standard dialect? How can you verify whether your person knows correct grammar? (Most English writers don’t).
2) We can use our in-house, foreign-born employees to interpret at meetings.
  • Even foreign students who get American MBAs do not know how to say typical export or accounting terms in their native language; they learned these concepts in English. The same is true for your foreign-born engineers unless they specifically learned your industry vocabulary.
  • And interpreting at meetings is very mentally taxing. Professional best practice is to have two interpreters for any session lasting over three hours. Each interpreter works for 20-30 minutes and then rests while the other interpreter is on. Only this method prevents mistakes.
3) We can rely on Google Translate.
  • Machine translation (MT), as this software is called, has greatly improved from the day when a simple letter opening with “Dear Marcel, How are your wife and kids?” was rendered into French as “Dear Marcel, How are your wife and baby goats?” Nevertheless, MT should never be used for anything promotional. This includes brochures, websites, videos or even contracts. MT is useful to get the gist or sense of what some foreign document says. But MT still makes major mistakes that can damage your company’s reputation and image, and it does not work well with complex sentences and many Asian languages.


Professional translating, interpreting and localizing require linguists who:

  • Have advanced degrees or equivalent experience in this field;
  • Work into their native languages;
  • Speak your subject terminology (Law, Software, Marketing, Manufacturing, Biology, Automotive, etc.);
  • Have ten or more years of ongoing experience;
  • Can work with Translation Memories that capture recurring words or phrases and re-call them when they appear in the same file or new files; and
  • Have the training to work accurately, quickly and efficiently.

Finally, it is important to use an experienced language agency that:

  • Knows the terminology of your subject;
  • Uses two-three translators per language and per project to guarantee accuracy;
  • Can lay out your translations in each language so that they resemble your original file;
  • Can do a wide range of European, Asian, African and Indian languages;
  • Can acculturate translations so they sound natural and appropriate in the target country; and
  • Provides outstanding service and value as a one-stop shop.

3 Strategic Ways to Target Broader Audience through Translation Services

The world suddenly became smaller when the internet emerged. E-commerce ascends as the need for every business to globalize arises. Transactions are a breeze even without considering the location. But one barrier for smoother commercial operation is language. Less than 10% of the world’s population are non-English speakers. The rise of translation services bridges the gap between the cultural variances among countries. Customers still choose to communicate by native tongue for effective deals.

As competition gets stiffer, businesses are seeking language services to expand their network to lead an advantage over the competition. Here are the 3 tactics you can use to cover a larger audience:

  1. Respect for cultural differences

Sensitivity is a key factor to get the trust of consumers. Consider the culture of each specific country of target. Every country has its own unique set of customs that are sometimes conflicting from others. By understanding its differences, you are sending a message of good reputation for considering individual needs. Thus, providing a quality service becomes your utmost priority.

  1. Specialize in every target market

Different audiences require an approach suitable for their explicit needs. One size doesn’t always fit all. So, it is crucial to study your target industry. Since your business needs a global exposure, focusing on specifics is a key factor to attract target audience as it offers a personal touch. For instance, Information Technology involves creating language conversion of technical documents while in the tourism sector needs local translation to serve foreign customers satisfaction for their travels.

  1. Embrace Smartphone domination

The convenience of instant information paved way to the sales increase of mobile phone application. Even in mother-tongue speaking countries, this market is continuously growing. This means that there will be a stable stream of users in demand for localized communication. Taking advantage of this global phenomenon is worth a try especially to those developing nations. According to recent studies about smartphone ownership by Pew Global and allconnect, there is a noticeable rise of mobile users in emerging countries and they are quickly catching up with the more developed republics.

Expect to reach an audience you thought never existed through cultural sensitivity, focus on specific markets and the power of technology. Translation services enable people around the world to connect and appreciate cultural multiplicity. It is an effective way of bringing linguistically diverse people together.

Your business can be visibly marketable online if you engage in a professional translation website that can boost your business’ performance and credibility. Choose an interactive website that will serve your detailed expectations.

How Translation Services Effectively Attract Global Audiences

If you are looking to expand your business, translation services can entice a broader audience towards your website. A huge percentage of the world’s population does not speak English so there is a greater opportunity if you can reach out to local-speaking customers. From more technical documents to travel brochures for tourists, translating is the most useful tool to connect numerous people globally just by the power of language.

Why stay safe by offering your products locally when you can expand your horizon through the worldwide web. One way to realize the benefits of language services to your business is to use these effective techniques:

  1. Use of Colloquial Language to Connect Culturally

It is not enough to just distinguish the unique culture of international clients to know your products. You can only effectively create awareness for your business by knowing the conversational language of the locals.

A personal touch invites in-depth customer relationships. It will give you an opportunity for better client retention and satisfaction.  Locals prefer using their own dialect because this gives them the opportunity to understand what kind of products they are buying and it provides them chances for selection and analysis without being deterred by lack of understanding.

  1. Create an Interactive Website

A user-friendly website is suitable for connecting with customers, especially to technology-challenged individuals. Provide a feature where people from your target market can easily access the information they are looking for. Customers stay on a website where they can expect dependability and convenience. A live chat option with translation will help clients anytime they need assistance. It is a sustainable tool that will increase customer satisfaction and ultimately earn their loyalty.

  1. Choose an Appropriate Translation Strategy

There are two translation strategies that you can choose from- multisite strategy and multilingual strategy. The first strategy requires several domains assigned to every country of market. Multilingual strategy, on the other hand, is a single website where you can opt to choose the language catered within a region. The first appears more local as it can be directly accessed and secured from the country of search.  While having a multi-language website is cost effective for start-up companies. Both have diverse advantages that specifically cater to your business requirements.

A qualified translation service provider can set your business soaring in the online world. You must, however, check the translator’s credentials before hiring them. Your company’s credibility is at stake in creating a good network. Be sure to keep a reliable service for long term partnership.

72% of the World’s Population Doesn’t Use English to Communicate.

If you don’t speak or write to them in their languages, what opportunities are you missing?

Some countries such as India and the Philippines use English as a second or business language, and therefore aren’t included in the 72%.  But over six billion other people are.  And in today’s rapidly globalizing economy, those billions have both rising purchasing power and the desire to use it.  That’s a huge opportunity for you to expand your global sales and profits, while delivering the benefits of what you do to the whole world.

Here are some facts to consider regarding the negative consequences of keeping your websites, manuals, videos, etc. in English only.

  • In 2013, 79% of the users of the Top Ten Global Websites were outside the US.  A year later that had grown to over 86%.  (Source: KPCB)
  • In a survey of global consumers, 72% said that they prefer to use their native language when shopping online.  56% said the ability to obtain information in their own language is even more important to them than price.  And 55% said they only buy products from websites that provide them with information in their own language. (Source: Common Sense Advisory)
  • 41% of prestige brands maintain at least one Facebook page in another country’s language.  The instance of such localized pages has grown at twice the rate of business pages in general.  And pages in target countries’ own languages register a 50% higher rate of visitor engagement than pages in English. (Source: Facebook)
  • Finally, Fortune 500 companies that expanded their translation budgets were 1.5 times more likely to report an increase in total revenue, compared to those whose budgets remained the same.

The simple truth is that website localization grows global sales, profits, and impact for the companies doing it.  Many companies are already benefiting from this marketplace evolution.  Where groups have been hesitant, a common question has been, “What if foreign prospects write to me or call me? I don’t speak their language.”  But the answer to this is also simple.

Whatever written communications arrive from abroad can be sent to a professional language agency for translation. Assuming such foreign documents or files are relatively short, they can usually be translated into English within a day or two. Then you can write your answers in English, and your agency can translate them into your prospect’s language.

If you receive a phone call from a non-English speaker, full service agencies have Telephonic Interpreting. In the case of Auerbach International, you can be connected 24/7 to a telephonic interpreter for a three-way call in any of 150 languages and dialects, for only $1.85/minute.

Here’s a small-scale example of how this can help.  A boutique skin salon in California had an important client who spoke only Cantonese, and whose English-speaking child was often unavailable to come in with her. The salon owner used our telephonic interpreting service to understand the customer’s needs, and this much appreciated extra effort to communicate resulted in a long-term relationship and many referrals.

Whatever your language needs, Auerbach International can help with customized solutions and award-winning client service.  For more information or to request a quote, please contact Philip Auerbach at 415-592-0042, ext. 107.

Global Social Media: How to Expand Your Reach

Global Social Media:
How to Expand Your Reach

Social media is a fundamental shift in the way the world communicates today. The “Arab Spring” showed how Facebook helped fuel a revolution and Facebook’s user base has doubled in Egypt in the last 12 months. Politicians in India have discovered that social media is a great way to connect to voters, and other countries are learning about this changing paradigm shift for mobilizing individuals and doing business.

Today, 42 percent of all web users live in Asia, almost 25 percent are based in Europe, while over a tenth live in Latin America. Facebook has saturated the US market and is growing quickly internationally.

For companies looking to grow their global revenue, traveling overseas to find distributors or partners, or exhibiting in trade shows abroad is expensive.

Social media marketing is often the most cost-effective way to generate web traffic and find new sales leads today. Using social media marketing for international branding and marketing opens up overseas distribution channels without the high cost of foreign travel.

International online marketing in foreign languages will also help find and identify distributors and retailers, and then “prime the pump” by marketing and branding directly to consumers for sales through resellers. Companies can do this from their home offices to manage international sales and marketing or to establish a “beachhead” to determine market strategy, gain feedback, understand their customers better and build a buzz.

International e-Commerce

If the company’s goal is to sell directly online in foreign countries through an e-Commerce platform, the technical set up is easy. But all the language and cultural nuances need to be addressed to help buyers feel secure that you understand their needs and will support them after the sale.

A company with a headquarters in the US could have customers in an unlimited number of countries. Merchants can have multiple websites in multiple languages, or a site in Germany can look exactly like a US site, if that’s preferred. Depending on the platform, overhead can be reduced because there is one dashboard for all sites integrating in real time and using real-time currency rates. And if you want to advertise in and process host countries’ currencies, excellent global marketing firms can steer you to equally excellent resources to do so.

Other benefits

Google and other search engines love fresh content. This is done with links back to your multi-language websites and international social media channels, with content that users click and respond to. This helps cross-pollinate your efforts and is telling Google that your content is valuable to an audience. This in turn increases your page rankings and Google quality score.
Google is dominant around the world, but not in all countries. An expert social media agency will know what other platforms will work for your market and goals. Merchants will need to update Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques for new markets and websites unique to certain countries. Most e-commerce providers will work with an SEO firm, and they need to find one that has international capabilities.

Global social media and multi-lingual websites:  How to start?

  1. Decide which countries and markets to target. That depends on where you have sales now vs. where you want to be and the overall strategy whether supported through e-commerce or local sales offices. A call center supporting those countries is an added expense internally or calls can be inexpensively and easily provided through a language localization agency’s telephonic interpreting service. These work 365/24/7 in over 100 languages and dialects.
  2. Test market using one-page landing pages to evaluate products and services, ad copy, pricing options, and sales campaigns all at a low cost.
  3. Set up separate Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels by country rather than language. French is spoken in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec, much of Africa and elsewhere, but each has a different audience and different cultural references. And Spanish speakers in the US  — an approximate market of 40 million are usually a missed opportunity but often need to be addressed in Spanish.
  4. Research what social media channel will work best in each country or is an enhancement to other US sites. While Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are big globally, national social media sites such as Mixi in Japan and Renren or Qzone in China should not be overlooked. Expert social media firms and/or a language agency with global marketing expertise can help you configure your campaign.
  5. Personalize for each market. The value of social media is personal engagement and local connections. An effective social media agency will research local keywords and tie into daily news feeds and local trends. And knowing cultural references will make it more interesting and interactive for users.

Social media can be very labor intensive because writers need to post original content, forward relevant content from other sources, and respond quickly to questions and comments. A good agency can run social media campaigns from the US that local users in Seoul think is someone in the next block responding to them.

International online expansion: Where to go for help?

All the services and options listed can be completely outsourced to an international marketing and social media agency. This allows a less expensive testing and roll out of markets and opportunities. Full-time staff can be hired over time as the needs are further defined or you can stay with an agency to handle your efforts.

Qualified language service agencies can update the translations daily or less frequently, depending on your budget and target audience. These social media translations:

  • enhance multiple-language website localization by giving visitors a further way to interact; and
  • provide education and helpful information for visitors, making them more informed and more likely to purchase.

Pay per Click (PPC) campaigns, set up by full-service online agencies on Google, can also run in foreign languages to test products, test pricing, generate leads, stimulate demand right before a trade show, or spur sales prior to traveling abroad. Social media marketing helps enhance other online marketing efforts but can take longer to build. PPC campaigns give a fast response but are more expensive.

Short videos on YouTube give more exposure to companies’ products and services and can tell a story much better than other media. When initially produced, they can be adapted for foreign audiences with voiceovers or subtitles. Using all graphics and a voiceover may be a better option than using the CEO speaking directly to the camera. And the overall budget can be reduced if you specify at the outset that your videos will be adapted to international markets.

Although social media is mostly free, the real value is the content, connection and knowledge of where and how to target your desired communities. A high school student writing a term paper is not the same writing quality as that of a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

  • Companies might have simple content needs, or need a journalist to tell their story, or engage a smart advertising copywriter to come up with promotions on Facebook.
  • And in other countries, it is easy to make offensive cultural gaffes. That is another value of using a culturally-sensitive language localization firm; having a junior staffer or intern handle social media could damage your brand long-term if not done right.

To be effective, social media requires many skill sets including experts who:

  • know website search engine optimization (SEO);
  • have writing skills to blog and post; and
  • specialize in language skills and cultural nuances as with a global-oriented translation service.
  • can link these channels to your main web site. Yet good social media and online marketing agencies can perform monthly campaign management for far less than the cost of a full-time employee.


Social media marketing is the most cost effective way to generate web traffic and find new sales leads today –whether you are in Omaha or Shanghai. Without local middlemen, now you can reach your overseas target audience directly through translated blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube posts and content. Using social media for international branding and marketing opens up new international distribution channels without the high cost of foreign travel. And through a professional translation service with telephonic interpreting, your communications can quickly be rendered in 80+ languages to expand your global outreach.

Bloopers #9

Many decades ago, a lady approached Pablo Picasso in a Paris park and asked him to do her portrait. He agreed, quickly drew her likeness, and requested $800. “How can you charge so much?,” she protested. “It took you only five minutes.” “Yes,” Picasso replied. “But it also took 25 years of practice.”

Most people assume that translations are like fast-food hamburgers:  Anyone can do it, you put in your order and it comes out fully cooked very quickly.  Only one element of that statement is true: Translations can be done quickly IF the right trained linguists are doing them.

As previous e-newsletters have stated, translations are a very difficult skill that requires knowledge of technical terminology in a huge variety of industries: IT, healthcare, law, agriculture, zoology, aerospace, dentistry, on-line gaming, education, HR, etc.

Highly accurate translations follow a three-step process:

  1. Initial pass by a professionally trained, native-speaking translator, with expertise in your industry terminology and usually with over ten years’ experience;
  2. Editing / Revising: Quality Assurance review by a second professionally trained translator of the same qualifications to ensure accurate nuances, vocabulary, sentence structure and acculturation to the target country; plus
  3. Proofreading for spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting.

If a file contains graphics as in manuals, brochures and PowerPoints, extra steps are usually needed:

  1. Layout of the translations within the client’s provided source-file template; and
  2. Post-layout proofreading to ensure no dropped words, lines or captions.

As with Picasso, the skills to implement these projects with all languages working simultaneously — and to guarantee accuracy  — come with a (reasonable) price.

Non-technical websites, brochures, books, etc. can be done using lower-level qualified translators or just one professional translator for less expensive rates.

To some prospects, any price that is not similar to McDonald’s is too high. And presumably, they are satisfied with translation errors from amateurs or software programs that can damage a company’s image and prevent it from gaining revenue abroad. Interestingly, people will usually find the funds to re-do a critical job that was done badly.

Most of our clients, fortunately, want first-rate work done correctly the first time … and don’t want results such as at the Athens hotel above.

If you are in that category, please contact us for your next language project.

Language Myths and Realities, Part 1: Websites & Volunteers

Over our 25 years, many clients have come to us after discovering that their presumed money-saving methods are more costly after all.

This article is the first in a series to expose some common myths about rendering languages so that your firm can do it right…and gain more revenue targeting ethnic and global markets correctly.

1. Websites: All or nothing

Most companies assume that they have to localize their entire website to attract overseas customers. That certainly could be an end goal.

The hardest part of website localization is not the language agency’s ability to do it. The hardest part is for you, the client, to decide exactly what pages, what links, what press releases and what embedded product brochures you want done. And since that decision is time-consuming or involves a committee, you end up doing nothing. In return, you gain limited or no global business.

One alternative is to start with something: your home page, your contact page, and perhaps three-five key product pages. Your language service can localize those selected links quickly and inexpensively.

And if even that partial selection process proves too daunting, you can simply summarize your company in one-two doc pages. You can then afford to translate those summaries into even more languages and gain exposure to many more potential customers at home and abroad.

When targeting foreign markets, be sure also to ask your translation service to get your domain registered in other languages and countries. Then overseas prospects can find you more easily.

The benefit of website localization to gain some business vs. none is clearly illustrated by this client example:

“Two weeks before a conference in Tokyo, we decided it was critical that our company attend. With virtually no time to prepare properly, we panicked realizing that the company’s website needed to be translated to Japanese so that it could be clearly understood by the conference attendees. In just four business days, Auerbach International not only completed the translation, but also provided the needed web-ready files.

Our now-enhanced, multi-lingual website worked flawlessly from the start. We received numerous compliments from Japanese who were surprised that this could be done so well, and so quickly.”

2. Our volunteer translators (amateurs, students, etc.) can do it.

Maybe, up to a point… one that’s reached pretty quickly. The more amateurs you have, the more variations you will get in how to express your message, in the terminology used for the same word or phrase, and in spelling (or misspelling) or (wrong) grammar.

Sooner than expected, firms using “community translators” often discover that their free volunteers become too unwieldy and time-consuming to manage… and that it’s far more cost-effective to use a professional language translation service with its cost-saving methods, industry-specialized translators, consistent terminology and rapid deliveries of all languages simultaneously.

3. My cousin speaks that language. She can translate our files.

Yes, if your files are very simple. Usually they aren’t. And your cousin, friend or neighbor will quickly discover how time-consuming the process can be … especially when you need the translation yesterday.

A professional language service can use entry-level translators for non-technical projects. These linguists are at least pre-qualified and tested to assure some higher degree of quality.

But if your cousin has to look up lots of technical words… they may still be incorrect and the process can incur a lot of time (and resentment). Your supposed cost savings can easily vanish when your project is delayed or contain mistakes requiring more costly fixes.


A professional language service uses a three-step process:

  1. Initial translation by a target-language, trained translator who speaks your industry vocabulary;
  2. Second-translator, quality-assurance review to ensure correct nuances, expressions, terminology and dialect; and
  3. Proofreading for spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting.

Professional linguists are trained in technical terminology, can translate your files correctly the first time, and generate revenue for you more quickly. Yes, it’s an upfront investment.

But damage to your reputation or brand and time-to-market delays are even more costly to repair. And always ask your language service for pricing options to meet your budget. Some are more flexible than others.

Language Myths and Realities, Part 2: Software & Overseas Distributors

This article is the second in a series to expose some common myths about rendering languages so that your firm can do it right … and gain more revenue targeting ethnic and global markets correctly.

4. Translation Software will work just fine.

Also known as Machine Translation (MT), translation software has its purposes. The main one is to get the gist of what something says for internal use. For external advertising, promotions or contracts — particularly for technical subjects — experienced users can attest that MT is at best 80 percent accurate. The issue becomes which 20 percent of your file you want to risk. MT works best when your file is not overly technical and has simple sentence structure.

A technical example of even fairly simple sentence structure is:

English: The latest trucks come equipped with gear-driven transmission and a 3-foot diameter heavy-duty wheel.

French from Google Translate: Les derniers camions sont équipés de la transmission à engrenages et d’un diamètre de 3 pieds roue lourds.

English back-translation of MT version: The last trucks are equipped with gear transmission and with a diameter of 3-foot heavy wheel [incorrect adjective ending of ”heavy”].

Moral of the story : When clear communications and accuracy are important, rely on a professional language service, not software.

5. Our in-country distributors will do the translations

Many global companies have adopted this approach and presume that it’s working fine. No doubt it is for some. But consider:

  1. How to do you know that each country’s distributor is translating your message in the same way? If your worldwide message and image are not uniform, you are diluting your brand.
  2. Since your products are selling well overseas, you assume that your agents’ translations must be good. Perhaps they are. But are they excellent or just “good enough?” And if they are “good enough”, does that mean your company is just average? What does that say about your reputation?If you do rely on your agents’ translations, a quality control is to ask a professional language service to back-translate their versions into English just to be sure. One of our wise clients asked us to do so. And discovered that her Danish distributor had inserted two warranty claims that the home office knew nothing about … and could have been liable for.
  3. How do you know that your overseas offices are not using regionalisms? One client’s distributor rewrote a Standard German brochure using his native Swiss dialect … a dialect not understood by the vast majority of German speakers for whom the brochure was intended. Another client’s rep in Vietnam translated his company’s website using the regionalisms in his upcountry, village dialect. That was not the standard speech of business, and resulted in far fewer sales than a professional translation would have yielded.
  4. How do you know that the versions your distributor translated (or got translated) have no typos, misspellings or wrong word usage?After all, how many Americans or Brits spell properly or can write well in English? Unfortunately, very few.
  • Have you at the home office checked your distributor’s version?
  • Are your foreign customers really going to tell you about mistakes?
  • Or will they simply conclude that if your overseas documentation lacks precision and professionalism, your products must also.One client relied on a China agent to translate his English IT brochure … only to discover that the word “wafer” in Chinese became “biscuit.”

Best Practices

Language industry Best Practices state that a company should consolidate all its translation work with one professional language service at the home or at the regional office. That agency will ensure that all translations are rendered correctly, quickly and uniformly, and with consistent terminology and cost-saving methods. What is your firm’s reputation worth?


Website localization and professional document translation services use a three-step process:

  1. initial translation by a target-language trained translator who speaks your industry vocabulary;
  2. second-translator, quality-assurance review to ensure correct acculturarion:  nuances, expressions, terminology and dialect; and
  3. proofreading for spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting.

Professional linguists are trained in technical terminology, can translate your files correctly the first time, and generate revenue for you more quickly. Yes, it’s an upfront investment.

But damage to your reputation or brand and time-to-market delays are even more costly to repair. And always ask your professional language service for pricing options to meet your budget. Some are more flexible than others.

(Missed Part 1?  read here)

Language Myths and Realities, Part 3: Native Speaker Translations & Videos/CDs

This article is the third in a series to expose some common myths about rendering languages.

  • Part 1 discussed faulty assumptions about Localizing your Website as well as the Misuse of Volunteer Translators.
  • Part 2 discussed the Misuse of Translation Software and Reliance on Overseas Distributors or Sales Agents.

By exposing these common myths, we trust that your firm will gain more revenue by targeting ethnic and global markets correctly.

6. Translation Software will work just fine.

7. Our in-country distributors will do the translations

8. If a person can speak a language, he/she can translate it.

This myth was partially exploded in Parts 1 and 2. But it is important to reiterate it very clearly: Just because a person can speak a language does NOT mean that he or she can translate it.

The assumption may be true for conversational topics such as for foods, schooling, shopping or travel (“Do you have that dress in green?” or “Where is the station?”).

Americans: Be very careful when asking in another language the common question, “Where is the bathroom?” In American English, we say “to go to the bathroom” whereas British and Commonwealth speakers will say, “to go to the loo / the WC / the toilet.” Just as the latter sounds crude to delicate American ears, when you speak English to foreigners, they can easily misconstrue the American usage and point upward to the nearest hotel room. A “bath room” is the room where one takes a bath or a shower. The proper question is, “Where is the restroom?” or “Where is the men’s / ladies’ room?” Of course, if you know others’ languages, you have probably learned how to ask this critical question correctly.

Back to the point:

Translating (for written documentation) and interpreting (for spoken conversations) for most advanced business purposes require expertise in the specialized terminology of your industry. And that kind of knowledge comes from linguists who are professionally trained with a two-year master’s or advanced degree and/or a professional certification.

At the Monterey Institute, the foremost non-military, linguist-training school in the US, all students study translation. But interpreters branch off during their second year to focus on this more difficult specialty. All linguists also learn in their respective languages the most prevalent terminology in politics, economics, law and courts, healthcare / medicine, technology, history and literature to increase their domain and cultural knowledge.

Therefore, if your manuals, apps, website, contracts and conversations focus, for example, on food bacteria or aerospace, the specially trained linguists of a professional language service most likely to know your terminology and can do the job expertly.

Corporate Videos and CDs

Unlike nature videos with many pictures and few words, most corporate videos or CDs present training, manufacturing or sales processes that contain a lot of (rapid) speaking. But the process of localizing videos or CDs does not work the same as the original English.

French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian require about 20 percent more words than English does to convey the same concepts. While Chinese requires less, German, Russian, Japanese and other languages may require about 10 percent more. If your English narration is very tight, filling all the frames, and if your time is maxed at say three minutes, where are these extra words to go? Running subtitles to match rapid English could work … if you don’t want to allow your overseas clients enough time to read them.

Producing videos in other languages is therefore not a simple matter of translation. Your professional language service must also do some or all of the following:

  • Transcribe [write out] your narrative if no script exists;
  • Suggest how to edit down the transcript, deleting extraneous words and non-essential concepts;
  • Translate this client-approved, abridged [or full] version so that the language expansion will fit in the allotted time;
  • Acculturate the text per the foreign audience’s sensitivities. For example, we at Auerbach had to be mindful of presenting Catholic concepts in travel videos about Italian churches to Muslim audiences in Arabic. Similarly, we had to alter a CD on US sales methods because “cold calling” is not as common in Europe; and
  • Match the time codes of the full or abridged translation to the time codes of the original, producing a language version that captures the essence and retains the same time length.

In general, a subtitled CD is less expensive than a dubbed CD and a professional translation service can produce localized versions that incorporate the original music, graphics and other elements.

Voiceovers add an extra step of selecting talents. For each target language, localization services will ask you for your desired gender, age, tone and regional accent (if any) of voice-talent candidates. You will then be given two or three choices for each language.

And voiceovers have additional considerations:

  • While non-unionized talents suffice for most projects, very high-profile companies must determine whether to use only unionized voice talents; and
  • If your video/CD will be broadcast on TV or radio, talents’ charges are usually three times higher than those for non-broadcast purposes.

Best Practices

Language-industry Best Practices state that a company should consolidate all its translation work with one professional language service at the home or at the regional office. That agency will ensure that all your language projects are rendered correctly, quickly and uniformly, and with consistent terminology and cost-saving methods. What is your firm’s reputation worth?


Video localization and professional document translation services use a three-step process:

  1. Initial translation by a target-language professional translator who speaks your industry vocabulary;
  2. Quality-assurance review by a second professional translator to ensure correct nuances, expressions, acculturation, terminology and dialect; and
  3. Proofreading for spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting.

Professional linguists are trained in technical terminology, can translate your files correctly the first time, and generate revenue for you more quickly. Yes, it’s an upfront investment.

But damage to your reputation or brand and time-to-market delays are even more costly to repair. And always ask your professional language service for pricing options to meet your budget. Some language agencies are more flexible than others.