Language Myths and Realities, Part 4: Layouts & Misused Words

This article is the fourth 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.
  • Part 3 discussed problems using Native Speakers to translate as well as wrong assumptions about localizing Videos and CDs.

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

8. If my Layout works in English, it will work in other languages too.

Layout is the total design of a page or a brochure, including the pictures, graphics and images and the words that wrap around them.

This assumption can be true. Assuming the colors and graphics are not offensive and the English (or source-language) layout provides sufficient blank space.

As was discussed with CDs and Videos, many common languages require more words than English to express the same concept. French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian generally require 20% more while German, Russian and sometimes Japanese require about 10% more.

If your English text is extremely tight on a brochure, where are these extra words to go? Sometimes a professional language service can adjust space between lines and letters or shrink a picture, the margins or the font size to make a translation fit. However, these solutions:

  1. assume sufficient blank space to implement them; and
  2. can cause eye strain on the prospects or clients you are trying to impress.

But if the original is so tight that there is simply no extra space and if you can add no more pages (due to printing costs, for example), the source text itself may have to be cut or abridged.

Cutting involves simply eliminating less important lines or paragraphs. Abridging involves editing a text to delete the extraneous words and still retain the meaning. When these cut or abridged versions remove 10 to 20% of the text from the originals, the translated language expansion should then fit the original layout template.

9. Translate it as I wrote it because that’s how I want it.

While your demand will work in most cases, sometimes the way you wrote your file would be offensive or simply wrong if it were translated directly. This language myth comes in various forms, all summarized as wrong word usage:

a)  Cultural Issues

A common mistake that Americans make in global marketing is to assume that the rest of the world is informal as we are. Most isn’t. To start with, it is always safer to address your prospects by their appellations and last names (such as Mr. Jones, Ms Johnson or Dr. Smith). One can always go from formal to informal (“Just call me Samantha”) but it is very awkward to go from informal to formal.

Our own firm too is guilty of addressing you by your first name in the intro to many of our newsletters, but most of our readers are American and so expect it.

We have seen letters, for example, that start,

“Dear Heinz,

I would like to introduce you and your friends in Germany to our latest product.”

This example has some glaring mistakes:

  • Europeans in business and in general are more formal, hierarchical and title-conscious than Americans. While this definitely depends on the industry (sports, IT, modern art, etc. are casual), the higher the other person’s degree, the more formally one should speak and write. Until you know someone well and perhaps until the person has given you permission, you should address the person by his or her last name (surname / family name) and not his first.Therefore in most business situations and industries, “Dear Heinz” should become “Dear Mr. Schmidt”.
  • Americans use “friend” to mean “acquaintance” and use “acquaintance” very rarely. Other cultures know that friends are the rare two or three people who truly look out for your well-being and support you through good times and bad. Even in our Facebook culture, these words should be used correctly to avoid offending people you are cultivating.
  • While Americans are direct and to the point, many languages – including British English — are more flowery, formal and indirect, especially in this context. In addition, some cultures consider it impolite to start an introductory paragraph with “I”.

Before translating, one way this sentence could be rewritten is:

It is a great pleasure to write to you upon the suggestion of Ms Monica Jones whom you met at ABC trade show. She indicated that our product might be of interest to you and your colleagues at your home office.

Note: Your language translation service may not do this full rewrite for you but could suggest that your original sentence will not work in the target culture.

b)  Expressions with Incorrect Meaning

Nick Clegg, the UK’s deputy prime minister said in a speech:

“It makes people so incredibly angry when you are …working really hard to try and do the right thing for your family and …  then you see people literally in a different galaxy who are paying extraordinarily low rates of tax.”

(Perhaps Americans who think their taxes are too high would welcome going to this different galaxy.)

When “literal” and “literally” mean really or very, they should not be translated literally.

c)  Shades of Meaning

Just as “lay” and “lie” have specific uses which speakers commonly confuse, so too do “wrong” and “erroneous.”

No, they are not always interchangeable. Erroneous is used for fact-based issues to mean incorrect, as in “Saying that the world is flat is erroneous.” or “She was wrong about how much water the tub would hold.”

“Wrong” can be right in those contexts also. But “wrong” also has a moral and ethical meaning as in “Stealing is simply wrong.”

“Wrong” also refers to physical objects or actions, such as to put the letter in the wrong box.

“Erroneous” should be used for abstractions, mathematics, science or statistics, as in “Her political campaign’s attempt to suppress minority voter turnout was erroneous.” One can use “wrong” in this context but then the meaning is ambiguous: Was the attempt simply incorrect or was it morally unethical? Or both?

d)  Simple Mix-ups

“I am not under the affluence of alcohol.”

[Although the police would probably disagree.]

These four types of wrong word usage illustrate where amateurs, students or translation software will usually translate as stated… instead of correcting the mistakes and then translating properly as the best professional language translation services with their expert professional linguists would do.


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 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 – such as from examples above — 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.

How to Speak NOW in Any Language

Quick! Cover the following lines with your hand, revealing just one line at a time.

Q: How do you describe a person who speaks three languages?

A: Trilingual.

QHow do describe a person who speaks two languages?

A: Bilingual.

Q: And what do you call a person who speaks one language?

A: An American.

[You may remove your hand now]

This old joke was truer 50 or 30 years ago than it is now. While many Americans can converse in other languages about food, weather, travel or shopping, very few speak other languages well on a business level. For example, how well can you discuss catalytic converters, computer motherboard circuitry or a myocardial ischemia … even in English?

Most Americans, who form most of our readers, would rather endure dental surgery than conjugate irregular verbs.

But as a professional language service, Auerbach International can empower you to speak to limited-English speakers without your having to learn their language. Through the methods below you can determine your prospects’ needs, seal a deal or just keep communication channels open.

As a reminder,

  • translating is written communication;
  • interpreting is spoken communication; and
  • localizing converts websites, software and mobile apps.

1. Quick Interpreting

Simply enter a toll-free number we will give you, insert your assigned PIN, and choose from a menu of 150 languages and dialects. Within seconds, you will be connected to a Telephonic Interpreter, enabling a three-way communication. You link your prospect as in a conference call. Then you say your words in English, let the interpreter interpret, and let your limited-English prospect understand in his or her language. Your prospect then speaks in her language, and the interpreter interprets back to you in English. Pretty amazing!

If your prospect is in your office or by your mobile phone, simply put the call on Speaker and you can converse in person. If your prospect is in another city or country, the three-way method works just a well.

The good news: This service is available 365/24/7 and costs only $1.85/minute regardless of language + a $15. or $30. flat monthly Admin charge. And you only pay for time used, even if your account has lain dormant for months.

The bad news: Telephonic interpreters will not know terms about tungsten alloys, venture financing or other technical subjects. They do, however, know healthcare and medical terminology. For most other industries, if needed, you can schedule a subject-specialist in advance.

Purpose: If your conversations are not technical and about general subjects or healthcare / medical issues, this method works excellently.

To activate your account, simply call us with your Visa, MasterCard or American Express number. We will charge any calls you make at the end of each month and then email you a usage summary. Again, no usage equals no charge.

2. Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)

For technical or simple subjects, we can also arrange a live interpretation 24/7 through your laptop, computer, tablet or smart phone.

You download a quick link we will provide, and you can see the professionally trained interpreter who can be anywhere in the country or the world. This method is totally private and secure. And this security guarantee can apply to one computer or a whole network as in a Court system or for multiple corporate offices.

You can also use it with videos, exhibits, news, real-time text chat, webcasts, and more.

Whether for a testimony or a presentation, the method works the same way: the speaker speaks, the interpreter interprets, the speaker speaks again, and the interpreter interprets again.

Prices depend on language and duration. To obtain a quote, a full-service agency will need to know your:

  • desired language;
  • dialect (if any) such as Canadian French or Argentine Spanish; and
  • the date, time and subject of your session.

VRI is generally cheaper than on-site interpreting because you are not paying for the interpreter’s travel time, lunch hour or minimum rate.

3. On-site interpreting

This is the traditional method with a live person coming to your office or venue. A high-level language service will always seek to provide a qualified, professionally trained, simultaneous or consecutive interpreter near your city. But if one is not available, the VRI method is a great substitute. Please click here for the required information to give you a quote.


Lack of a common language is no longer a barrier to clear communication… or your success. Whatever your business, let your language service empower you to present your service, have a conversation, negotiate terms or finalize a contract.

How to Magnify Your Impact on the World

If your message remains in English, you are reaching only around 27% of the world audience. To target the other 73%, you need to put your message in other languages.

Book Translations

As a global outreach firm, Auerbach International wants to help you magnify your personal or corporate impact on the world — or at least parts of it.  We will announce early next year an alliance with expert partner firms to get your printed books or e-books written (or ghost-written), published, launched, marketed and promoted via social media.

For now, if your book is already written or almost complete, we can translate it into the top 20 world languages. To maintain a low price per word, your subject must not be technical and we use qualified and tested but not professional translators. Click above for more information.

Website Localizations

Many people contact us asking, “How much does it cost to translate my website?” They often neglect to tell us which languages(s) they want, so that will be our first question back to them.

If your website is very simple, that’s an easy question to answer. But if it is complex with multiple tabs, graphics, videos and links to links, our second question to you will be to ask what parts you want done:

  • all your News articles dating back to 1905? If not, from which year?
  • all your product pages or just some that are relevant to each country market?
  • your videos? If so, with voice dubbing or subtitles?
  • What about the links to your PDF brochures or spec sheets? Do you want those translated also?

Many people also assume that they must localize (to use the proper term) their entire site. Maybe.

But you can also choose, for example, to do your home page, contact page and only key product pages.

Another option is one or two .doc pages describing your services and translated into many more languages.

Whatever your choice — the full site, abridged site or summary pages — we may also need to internationalize. This process ensures that:

  • your site contains no references to US sports or concepts that simply don’t communicate in other cultures.
  • your desired payment methods — such as for consumer-products sites — will work abroad. In some countries people pay mostly by cash, in others they pay through their mobile phone accounts, and some use credit cards that are not common at home.
  • your site contains no images that would offend or be inappropriate in the target market — such as for a shampoo website targeted to Thailand showing pictures of blond women. Thai women are not blond. And does your shampoo work for Asian hair also?

Whether for books, websites and even your CDs or videos, large non-English audiences can benefit from your knowledge or your product. When you are ready to spread it to the world, please contact us.

Expansion, Interpreter Costs, & Speaking

Whether you are new to or very familiar with Auerbach International, to celebrate our 25th year in business we are pleased to present an e-newsletter series of 25 Language Tips. This will also include examples of some of our most interesting projects.

3 – Factor in Language Expansion

The most common European languages require more words than English to express the same concept. For French, Spanish and Portuguese, it is about 20% more. For Dutch, German and Russian, it is about 10% more.

Professional layout artists can often adjust the size of the letters or reduce the margins to make a translation fit if a layout must remain, say, eight pages. But when you have a brochure or manual with very full text with small margins – and if you cannot expand your page count – where are these extra words to go?

Please consider this language expansion ratio when preparing your English versions … or design them with ample blank space to allow for additional words.

The same principle applies to localizing commercials, CDs or movies that usually must remain within say 30 seconds, 4 minutes or 2 hours. If the narrator is speaking quickly, where does your professional language agency put all those additional dubbed or subtitled words?

In either case, one solution is to cut the English text by 10 or 20% so that the abridged translations will expand into the allotted time. Another solution is to use shorter words such as “need” instead of “requirement” whenever possible. But here too, if your corporate writers or filmmakers considered global versions at the outset, their localized productions would be less complicated and less costly to implement.

4 – Interpreters:  Why Costs Should Not Count

In the language business, translators are like doctors and interpreters are like surgeons; professional linguists usually start out with the same training but then branch off to specialize either in written or spoken communication.

While translators (of written documents) can take time to research a specific term or speak with colleagues to clarify a meaning, interpreters (of spoken conversations) do not have that luxury. They literally must think on their feet in meetings, in court or at conferences and render the target language very quickly and often spontaneously.

As with everything else, interpreters come in all qualities. Those with the most experience and specialized expertise such as for diplomatic negotiations about agricultural import tariffs command higher rates.

Just as you would not entrust your BMW to a Volkswagen repair shop, why would you want to risk your business meeting, court case or conference to an under-qualified interpreter with limited knowledge of your industry terminology? In essence, what is it worth to you to avoid mistakes and ensure accuracy? That should be the main criterion by which you evaluate interpreting rates. Is the lowest priced person worth the risk?

5 – You Can Speak Any Time in Any Language

A lot of business and communication is lost because you cannot speak the language of your prospective customer, patient or foreign-born employee. But by using a 24/7 telephonic interpreting service, you can.

Through this medium, you receive a toll-free number, a PIN code and a menu of say 150 languages and dialects. You simply press the language code and within seconds you are connected to a telephonic interpreter.

If you are ringing a limited-English speaker, you simply put the call in conference mode and hold a three-way conversation. If the limited English speaker is in the same room, you can simply put the call on speakerphone. In this way, you can gain the sale or communicate your concerns and demonstrate that the limited-English speaker is important to you.


At 5pm on a Friday summer night, we got a call from a political consultant in New York who was advising the opposition Prime Ministerial candidate for the following month’s general election in Italy. He desperately needed to put his PowerPoint presentation and position paper into Italian for a phone meeting with counterparts in Rome at 8am the next morning. He asked if we could do it.

Out of curiosity, I asked why he came to us instead of to local language agencies in New York. “Because,” he replied, “it’s 8pm here and all agencies are closed. You have a great reputation and I figured you in California might still be open.” –which we were.

Knowing that this would be one of many miracle deliveries we have performed over the years, I said that we could do it. “In the meantime,” I advised, “go enjoy the remaining daylight in Central Park and then go for dinner. Come back to your office around 11pm your time, and we’ll have it done for you.”

So where would we find a team of Italian translators who could do a rush job within three hours on a Friday night? In one place where it was still daytime: Hawaii. Just as we were three hours earlier than our new client in New York, we knew that our team in Honolulu was three hours earlier than we were in California. So we arranged for our translation-editing-proofing team to postpone their afternoon surfing and produce this job for our New York client. Which they did. They delivered to us, we delivered to him and everyone was happy. Except for our client-consultant’s political candidate. He lost his election after all.


As one of the most experienced language agencies in the world, we thank you for the opportunity to serve your company’s ethnic or global expansion needs…though we do not suggest waiting until the last minute to submit your projects!

If You Missed Tips #1-2:  See Pricing and Interpretation Timing

Localization…What Do You Really Mean?

Localization…What do You Really Mean?

Q: “Can you localize our manuals for Korea and our website for Brazil?”

A. “Yes, definitely. Now what do you mean?”

“Localization” is the most misused, confused and abused word in the language business, a profession that is supposed to be about rendering clear communication across languages. The reason for this confusion is that “localization” has different definitions for different people. And if your meaning differs from the listener’s understanding, what you have is a failure to communicate.

1.  Localization = Translation

To some people, localization is another word for translation, as in the request, “Can you localize my manuals for Germany?” Generally, the inquirer means, “Can you translate my manuals into German?”

2.  Localization = Acculturation

This meaning is the most implied but not stated outright, as in “Can you localize our brochures for Mexico?” In the case, the requester is asking whether we can translate her brochures into Spanish and make sure they are culturally appropriate for Mexico.

In the language business, some agencies have invented the term “transcreation”. Personally, that term seems ridiculous because it defines nothing and requires a translation itself. Instead, our agency uses a term from sociology called “acculturation”.

In essence, all these terms mean the same concept:  culturally adapting a home-country piece to host-country norms. Both “transcreation” and “acculturation” are used mostly in the context of marketing or promotion. (By contrast, technical manuals usually translate quite easily into other languages because technical professions use industry-specific terminology that all members understand).

To some extent this can involve internationalizing, which is explained below. But in most cases, proper acculturation means a thorough review and rewrite, if needed, to ensure that your stated benefits and features are appropriate. For example, a US marketing promotion often emphasizes value for money or cost savings. But when selling to Japan, the theme should be how your product or service is very reliable, of the highest quality, and has excellent back-up support.

A professional language agency can translate the concepts of an American marketing piece into Japanese. But the promotion itself — and all your investment — is likely to fail. No matter how wonderful your product or service may be, the English original often needs to be rewritten first to demonstrate benefits that appeal to the target culture. Only then should it be translated.

3.  Localization = Internationalization

Clients sometimes ask, “Can you localize our catalogue for Taiwan?” In this case, full internationalization may be required. This involves:

  • Graphics, images and colors: Do yours have any negative connotations in the target country? Are you advertising shampoo in Thailand with a blonde woman on the label?
  • Numbers: Are these written for the target country? Example: Should they be 5,234 or 5.234 or 5 234?
  • Currency: How does the target culture write this? Example: Quebec writes 12 592.74 $ (with a space instead of a comma and a space before the $) vs. $12,592.74 in the US.
  • Payment methods: Are you asking for payment by credit card when your target country uses cash or mobile-phone transfers instead? Does your target country use other credit cards not used at home?
  • Currency conversion: Are you asking for payment in dollars when overseas customers prefer to pay in their own currency? (A full-service global outreach firm can recommend solutions to this).
  • Does your text contain slang or references that simply don’t work in other countries?
    • Is a man “on the job?” If so, in Britain it means he’s having sex with his secretary.
    • Are you promoting pink products where pink can have a negative connotation?
    • Are you speaking about “creating your own destiny” to Arab countries, where for orthodox Muslims, only God, not people, can create?
    • Are you promoting price reductions where national laws restrict these only to one week in the summer or just after Christmas?
  • Concept disconnect:
    • Is your manual or website teaching cold calling to cultures where sales are mainly done through personal relationships and referrals?
    • Does your survey give rewards to participants in a country where professionals by law may not accept gifts?

For added confusion, some people consider internationalization to be part of acculturation. And vice versa.

4.  Localization = Website conversion

In the language business, this is actually the correct and traditional meaning of the word (in a tradition that extends about 15 years). Many people ask about “translating” their websites. Any professional language agency should be able to translate a website. But translation (converting the words and concepts) is only one part of rendering a website into another language. Other phases can involve:

  • acculturating your message (no. 2 above);
  • rewriting unclear or home-country references;
  • internationalizing your order page, concepts, images, etc. (no. 3 above);
  • laying out the graphics within the source files;
  • engineering the code to accommodate Asian or non-Latin scripts;
  • subtitling or dubbing any videos or spoken Flash automations;
  • testing all the links;
  • and more.

Website localization considers all of these steps to the exclusion of none. And only the highest-level, full-service, professional language agencies have the skills, expertise, staff and knowledge to localize a website properly.


When you ask whether your language service can “localize”, it is best to explain what you mean or use an alternative word. And if your language agency does not ask what you mean (assuming it’s not clear from the context), you should seek another that does.

Very few full-service language agencies understand international marketing concepts. And since your success in overseas or ethnic markets can hinge on that knowledge, it is best to rely solely on language agencies that combine global marketing expertise as well.

The NBA Golden State Warriors Team with Auerbach International

Auerbach International is extremely proud to announce its partnership with the NBA’s (National Basketball Association’s) Golden State Warriors, based in the Bay Area. In October 2013, the Warriors will take on the Los Angeles Lakers in Beijing’s MasterCard Center on October 15 and in Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena on October 18 during two pre-season games this season in China.

To prepare, the Warriors have partnered exclusively with Auerbach to localize their NBA website,, including their team roster and blogs in Chinese for their newly launched Chinese website available at

Following the pre-season games in China, Auerbach International’s rapid deliveries will allow the Warriors to recap game highlights to a huge and growing Chinese fan base. Our partnership will continue through the 2013-2014 U.S. season with frequent game highlights and updates in Chinese for the Warriors’ fans in Asia and locally in the Bay Area.

Auerbach International has been preparing anything written, spoken or electronic into 80 languages for almost 25 years. In so doing, we are honored to expand communications among countries and cultures, and to create job opportunities that world commerce generates.

If your company wants to beat the competition, recruit Auerbach International for all your language service needs. Together we can make a winning team!

Chinese: Why you can’t translate into Mandarin

Understanding How Politics Divides the Chinese Markets

Why You Can’t Translate into Mandarin

Unlike alphabetic languages whose letters represent distinct sounds, Chinese is written in characters. Foreigners must learn the writing, the meaning and the pronunciation of each character individually.

Mandarin, Cantonese, Fukienese, Shanghaiese and hundreds of other dialects are spoken pronunciations of individual characters. Each dialect can sound like a distinct language, and when interpreting – rendering spoken communication — the requested dialect, not just “Chinese”, must be specified.

Before and after World War II, China was wracked by many years of civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists.

  • The Communists won the civil war on the Mainland and declared the People’s Republic on October 1st 1949.
  • The Nationalists fled to the offshore island of Taiwan, ostensibly to regroup and re-invade. They have remained there as a separate government ever since.

In the 1950s, the Mainland Communists started to simplify many complex written characters to improve literacy. Therefore, these Simplified characters are used for translating, which is written communication, for Mainland markets (and Singapore).

Outside of China, Traditional characters are commonly used in Taiwan, Hong Kong (which, as a “special region” of China is now transitioning to Simplified usage), and among Chinese in the US. Traditional also has its own distinct grammar and vocabulary.

Documentation and websites for all Chinese markets must therefore be written in both Simplified and Traditional characters to avoid offending either government and to ensure readability.