Why You Need a Language Professional for Your International Marketing Plan

Having an international marketing plan in only one language could severely limit the reach of your brand. For example, both domestically and abroad, there are nearly half a billion people who speak Spanish.

Think of all the customers who could be served by utilizing the services of a language professional for your international marketing plan.

There are over 80 major languages that are used in the business world. Keep reading to find out how to reach the billions of customers outside your network.

Expanding Your Market

If you find yourself shipping products beyond the borders of your home country, it’s a necessity to be able to communicate about your products and offerings.

You may want to work with customers you feel you have the most in common with, but you also want to avoid bias. Language bias could alienate your customers. It could also leave them feeling underrepresented in their company.

The solution is to prepare a customer service strategy to welcome new and potential customers.

In the United States, many companies have realized that their main market is Spanish-speaking. After decades, they’ve begun to focus on that market.

As the world continues to globalize, more people from various countries welcome new immigrants. The products that stick out to new consumers will be the ones that speak their language.

For instance, being the first dish detergent or car company to welcome new immigrants in their own language could build a lifetime of brand loyalty.

Adding Translation to Your Company

Consider hiring a professional translator who is a native of the language market you’re targeting. It’s important to have someone who is comfortable with idioms and regional slang.

They will help you write clearer text about products and translate your training materials.

Technology, legal, and medical companies must hire someone who is well versed in those fields. This can eliminate confusion or problematic wording.

A full-time in-house translator might be too expensive for your company. Instead, find part-time translator services as needed. It is to your advantage to outsource this task to  professional translation services who specialize in this type of work.

A member of your team who has moderate translation skills is not enough. Finding someone who knows a culture intimately is a much more worthwhile investment. A translation company is such a service.

Make sure you’re communicating the concepts and not simply literal translation, which can be a turn-off and confuse your intended message.

Adding Translation to Your Website

Add search engine optimization to take advantage of the foreign language market. Then be sure you’ve added language translation options to your website.

You want to ensure that foreign language speakers can understand why your product works for them and how it fits into their life.

A website without the possibility to translate can be alienating and drive their business to a competitor. Get your translator in touch with your web design team to ensure that the site looks good for your new international market.

An International Marketing Plan Increases Profits

If language is your main hurdle to expanding into European, African or Asian markets, you’re lucky. This is a simple problem that you can overcome by working with a language professional.

Expand your market by adding translation services to your videos, website, and marketing materials. Contact us to determine how to grow your brand with language services.

Auerbach International is a leading global marketing and translation services firm with expertise in the top 80 languages.

10 Steps to Successful Global Expansion

To start global expansion overseas, it’s first important to start at home. You must be willing to dedicate manpower and money for these fundamentals … and to adapt to what works abroad. Read on to learn the 10 key steps we’ve identified as essential to your business success.

  1. Evaluate Your Names and Slogans in Other Languages

Before you spend huge amounts in global expansion ventures, first determine the basics. Do your company name, product names and taglines have any negative meanings in other languages? Take a look at some of these humorous translations.

For example, Coors’ slogan “Turn it loose” was interpreted in Spanish as “Suffer from Diarrhea.” Colgate introduced Cue toothpaste in France, unaware that Cue is a French adult magazine. Ghana’s popular soda Pee Cola wouldn’t sell well in the U.S. or U.K., and neither would Pet Sweat, a Japanese bottled water sold to humans. Even multinationals make mistakes.

Evaluating names and slogans before market launch is very cheap insurance. A professional language agency will often inexpensively research approximately seven names and slogans in the top 10 world languages. Catch these gaffes before they catch you.

  1. Adapt to Target Countries’ Marketing Methods

Purchases overseas may be done in cash as is done in much of Africa or by swiping a cell phone as occurs in Korea. Are you willing and equipped to accept less common payment methods?

Do you market at home via e-commerce, social media, direct mail or telephone? Will those methods work in your target countries or must you change them? In much of Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, for example, getting a personal referral or introduction is the main way prospects will talk to you.

Will your benefits and appeals work in your target countries? U.S. advertising that promises low prices may have to be rewritten to focus on the family, education or the environment, motivators of many buyers abroad. A professional global-expansion firm can guide you on connections and marketing methods,

Have you planned to localize your website? Over 72% of global consumers prefer to use their native language when shopping online, even if they speak English well. Additionally, more than 56% say that obtaining information in their own language is more important than price. Are you working with a professional language localization firm that understands both culture and translation?

  1. Willing to Acculturate?

You must be willing to adjust your product and marketing messages to local cultures. This can involve selling methods, content, packaging, pricing, names, benefits and appeals, and most other factors. Correct acculturation can help you succeed in your target country and provide other expansion opportunities. If you aren’t adaptable, global expansion isn’t for you.

For example, McDonald’s sells lamb burgers in New Zealand and mainly has vegetarian offerings in India. There they also had to establish two kitchens so that cooks don’t mix vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes or utensils together.

In the U.S., shampoo is typically sold in pricey, medium-size plastic bottles. However, if you sell shampoo in small packets for one or two hair washes at a time, your market greatly expands to the cash economies of developing countries.

  1. Build Your Home-Market Demographics

Build a profile of your expected or current customers. Ask the following questions:

  • Who buys your product or service – children, men, women, both?
  • What are their age ranges or education level – urban or rural, consumers or other businesses?
  • If businesses, what titles or levels purchase from you?
  • Is your target audience growing or shrinking over what time period?
  • What income levels can afford your product? (For example, candy requires minimal income while golf clubs require an upper middle or upper income).

Be as specific as possible. Then determine whether your product or service will appeal to the same profile abroad or whether other audiences are possible. You might have too much competition at home to target other niches, but those niches might be available overseas.

Also, don’t assume that reliable infrastructure (i.e., efficient ports, roads, Internet, electricity, health services, refrigeration) is readily available abroad. If your target countries don’t have these, what is your Plan B?

  1. Received Inquiries from Abroad

While unsolicited, incoming inquiries may be flukes, they can indicate sources of market interest. Look on the Internet for in-depth reports about these countries and their lifestyles, spending habits, business practices, etc.

At trade shows, foreign distributors or agents may ask to represent you abroad. Consider this option as part of a whole global expansion strategy. Plus, be sure to ask a global marketing consultancy how to vet these people before you decide to hire them. Their extensive contacts and reputation may not be as sterling as they present to you.

  1. Determine Complementary Products or Services

For example, if you’re selling a sports drink, similar primary products are sportswear and sports equipment. Search online for market studies of those products’ international sales and their biggest country markets. These indicate the volume and revenue to be gained.

You can also search the Internet for market studies of your product’s or service’s expansion. These studies are often done by independent research firms or sometimes by Master’s or PhD students.

  1. Examine Foreign Trade Publications

Does your product/service have trade publications in the U.S.? See what their international circulation is, and then research what trade publications exist in other languages and countries. For advertisers, each publication publishes its circulation figures. Those are an indicator of market size and country interest. Do be sure to distinguish between paid and unpaid subscribers. The paid numbers are a stronger indicator.

  1. Read Secondary Market Studies, then Cross-Reference

Many large databases such as Business Monitor International, Thomson and the Euro Monitor Passport analyze the present and future growth of many industries around the world.

See what market studies are on the Internet. These may be domestic or foreign. If foreign, see whether there’s a synopsis in English. If not, a professional language agency can translate these for you. Don’t skimp on this expense. It’s a miniscule part of your overseas research and expansion budget.

Through the many sources above, you should have obtained countries that may be good markets as well as stats about population size, income, growth, etc. Now let’s cross-reference.

Let’s say you’re selling sheet music for pianos. Your main target market is children from ages 6 to 16. Which countries have huge populations in this age range? Some are in Europe. Others include Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, China, South Africa and Egypt.

However, sheet music requires either a piano at home or access to one outside (such as at school or a music academy). In addition, most piano students’ families are middle to upper income. In developing countries, these are the elites.

For example, Egypt has forecast rapid population growth among 6 to 16 year olds but most Egyptians are poor. Therefore, the market for this product is very limited and concentrated in the wealthy sections of a country’s big cities (Cairo and Alexandria). Is it worth your expense of targeting this limited group?

By contrast, China overall has a low per-capita income because the population is over 1 billion people, but huge segments are middle class and wealthy. Chinese parents spend heavily on children’s education, and music is a big part of that.

This method can give you a list of around ten potential overseas markets.

  1. Evaluate Your Current and Potential Sales Methods

How do you sell domestically? Do those methods apply overseas? For example, cold calling is not done in most countries. Also, in the U.S., retailers usually open every day and many operate until 9 p.m. on weekdays and until 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. on weekends. Some countries restrict Sunday selling (stores must close by 1 p.m. or 3 p.m.) or prevent sales on certain religious days (such as Fridays in Muslim countries). How will those affect your expansion decision?

If you’re seeking reps abroad, be sure to contact your nearest District Export Council. These are offices of the U.S. Commerce Department that provide trusted and vetted manufacturers, distributors and agents in other countries.

Countries’ commercial attachés at embassies in Washington and at their consulates in many cities can also help link U.S. companies with overseas partnering opportunities.

  1. Examine Countries’ Laws and Customs

Adaptability is critical. Ask yourself the following kinds of questions:

  • Does your service require a license of some kind? What are the licensing laws in your target countries?
  • Are you accustomed to interacting with senior CEOs? That’s more common abroad than here.
  • Are you offended by nepotism? In Latin America, for example, companies employ family members because they’re more trusted than outsiders.
  • How strong is your stomach? Can you tolerate spicy foods and many courses? Dining is a major way to build trust with overseas partners. If you’re not accustomed to their process, you’ll not succeed in building critical relationships.
  • What is your budget for market entry? China may seem appealing but generating a profit first takes many years of constant investment and customer cultivation.
  • Do you speak the native language? If not, are you prepared to work with an interpreter?
  • Do your desired countries permit your bringing profits home? Or do they have currency export controls?
  • How involved is the government in your overseas venture?
  • In most other countries, it’s hard and expensive to fire employees. Are you prepared for that or will you use reps or agents instead?

Getting the Right Guidance

The first steps will help you create a list of potential overseas markets. The final steps will help you narrow your list. They also illustrate the flexibility you’ll need when doing international business. Many more steps and examples can be added.

With this guidance, you can begin the process of gaining lucrative revenue streams outside your home market (U.S exports were 196.8 billion in September of 2017 alone). This pie is too big for you not to get your piece.

We at Auerbach International are a full-service language agency (translating, interpreting, name screening, etc.) and global-marketing consultancy (countries to target and strategies to enter them). Contact us today to learn how we can team with you to create your successful global expansion.

Key Issues in Marketing Globally

Global marketing ands Globalization used to be important to only large, multi-national companies. But with rapid advances in communication technologies, global marketing communications are relevant to many businesses around the world.

Whether you are in the beginning stages of expanding or an experienced expat, targeting a global audience is a nuanced and important aspect of Globalization marketing that deserves a dedicated staff to make sure it is done right.

The Importance of Translation Services for Global Marketing

Globalization has become an extremely controversial topic. While many companies and individuals benefit, some obviously lose out. But let’s focus on some advantages provided by the independent research firm, Common Sense Advisory:

  • Businesses that expanded their translation budgets were 1.5 times more likely than their Fortune 500 peers to report an increase in total revenue.
  • Companies that translated information to communicate with and retain their partners were 2.67 times more likely to experience revenue increases. There was also a 2.6 increase in the probability of generating improved profits.
  • Fortune 500 companies that translated to keep up with or to gain an edge over their competitors were 2.04 times more likely to have an increase in profits and 1.27 times more likely to generate augmented earnings per share.

It does not matter whether you are a Fortune 500 company or small enterprise. The same trends apply: Going Global increases companies’ revenue and profits.

Globalization contains many elements. Among these are understanding the competitive environment; knowing other countries’ HR, tax, investment and accounting laws; possible product reconfiguration and design; local pricing and funds collection; after-sales servicing; and product shipping and distribution.

While all this can seem daunting, it does not have to be if we take the process one step at a time. And among the first and most essential steps, even for Anglophone markets, is to translate or acculturate your content, because (also according to Common Sense Advisory):

  • 72.4% of global consumers prefer to use their native language when shopping online;
  • 55% only buy products from websites that provide information in their own language; and
  • 56.2% said that obtaining information in their own language is even more important than price.

Again, whether you are B2C or B2B, customers prefer to buy from companies that address them in their own language. Even if your target market speaks English excellently, the cultural connection of using the audiences’ primary language cannot be overstated.

Globalization With Marketing that Makes Sense

Before translating any content, it is essential to verify your company name, product names and tagline in key languages to ensure no gaffes.

  • Clairol, for example, introduced its Clairol Mist into Germany without first discovering that “Mist” is German slang for “manure,” not very appealing on ladies’ hair.
  • Entenmann’s and other US bakeries were bought by a Mexican conglomerate, Grupo Bimbo.  The parent company is now called Bimbo Bakeries.

Both examples present these firms comically instead of professionally. They are great additions to our Bloopers list but not to the firms’ credibility or reputations.

This element of global marketing communications is extremely cheap insurance before you invest huge sums in overseas selling and/or manufacturing. (Our firm will evaluate up to eight names in ten languages for $1500, including Chinese, which has its own complications. Please contact us to discuss.).

Website Localization

After verifying names, an easy way to start the global expansion process is simply to localize your business website. Then you can see where orders originate and plan further expansion accordingly. If localizing even part of your website proves difficult, simply do a one- to two-page summary of the company and products in various languages.

If your business is B2C or does online sales, you will also have to ensure that your website is provisioned to accept foreign currency.

In either case, you should localize your website meta tags and consider getting your URL translated and presented on the search engines of key language markets. After all, the point is for overseas prospects to find you. [Our firm can assist you inexpensively with these aspects as well].

The Language of Global Marketing

When expanding into new markets, there are a lot of variables to consider in your global marketing plan. With a professional language translation service, you can avoid potential cultural faux pas by translating into native languages.

In addition to providing the basis for global marketing communications, professional translation services can also help you connect to your global customers and executives working overseas:

  1. Your language agency can translate emails into English from your overseas contacts and can translate your responses written in English into your target languages, usually all within 24-48 hours.
  1. If an overseas prospect calls or you need to call abroad, you do not need to speak the local language or find an employee who does. [And if you do, how well can you evaluate whether the employee speaks some local dialect, educated speech, or with off-putting slang?] Instead, you can use our 24/7 telephonic interpreting service which connects you instantly – and only when needed — with a third-party interpreter in 240 languages. Please call us at (415) 592-0042 ext.107 to register.

Auerbach International can always assist with all these basic steps to get you optimized for global marketing communications. For the more advanced steps, please contact us for a free consultation to explore your needs.


The author Philip Auerbach is president of Auerbach International, a 26-year-old firm that translates any content into 80 languages, identifies countries to target and provides strategies to enter those markets. Please see www.auerbach-intl.com.

 


 

Culture Cues for German Business

This article from Auerbach International presents some Do’s and Don’ts to help expand your business.

German Business Culture and Language

There are many opportunities to expand your business into Germany. However, to succeed, you must know the differences in business culture between Germany and the US. You can fall into some definite traps if you do not appreciate those differences.

Cultural Differences

  • The German business culture and overall culture tends to be more formal than what we are used to in the United States. When people have an advanced degree such as a PhD, you address them by that title by calling the person “Dr.” followed by his or her last name.
  • You do not call people by their first name unless they offer it first. (They are not likely to offer that until much later in the process, if ever).
  • When you speak to people in English, you need to speak more slowly than usual because your German counterpart speaks English as the second language. He/she learned English (likely British English) in school some time ago. It is best not to use slang or highly idiomatic phrases.
  • When you want to do business in Germany, you must be well prepared. Chances are you would not even get the meeting unless the German company or organization has already done some homework on you. Now you need to show them that you really have what they need and expect. You have to undergo a thorough and somewhat time-consuming due diligence process. Expect that your German counterparts will subscribe to the principle of “uncertainty avoidance,” i.e., they want to be very sure that choosing you is the right choice and that the choice will not come back to haunt them later.
  • When you meet in person, make sure you give good eye contact, and a firm handshake. Also, make sure not to drag your feet because Germans may think it indicates you are lazy. When your nose is running, make sure to use a tissue promptly. These small issues can add up to your making a bad or good impression.
  • Communication is often dominated by giving precise, short answers, which is not considered rude but simply viewed as efficient.
  • Once you have survived the time-consuming, due-diligence process, are through the door and have impressed your German prospects, you are most likely going to enjoy doing business with them for a long time.

Need to translate?

  • Yes, many Germans read and speak some English. Yet, ask almost anyone whether he or she would rather consume your information in German – and whether it saves the person valuable time. Of course, the answer is Yes on both.
  • When translating your American website and/or offline marketing materials into German you must consider the cultural differences in the localization process.
  • You need to make sure the content on your website is researched well, factually correct and professionally presented. It does not serve you well to be too informal in your writing.
  • Research your target clients’ needs. They may be somewhat different that those of your American clients.
  • Become familiar with the right terms.

What about dialects?

Let us also talk about the different dialects you find in Germany. Different areas in Germany use different dialects in their spoken everyday language. But on web pages and marketing materials, it will not matter; those are written in “High German.” However, if you plan to do business in the German-speaking part of Switzerland (or Austria), some major differences in the language can occur.

All of the above illustrates that you really need a partner who can help you to expand your business into another country such as Germany. It is well worth doing, if and when you have a well thought-out marketing strategy and your product is needed in that market.

  • You must be clear on your intentions;
  • You must be well-prepared; and
  • You must have a partner who helps you look and sound your best.

With that in hand, you can create a business-expansion opportunity that likely will serve you well for many years to come.

About the Author

Dr. Stephie Althouse is the founder and CEO of Top-Notch CEO™ which guides talented companies and their people to greater productivity and profitability. With a PhD in chemistry and 20+ years’ experience in C-level leadership, she received the TR100 award as one of 100 “most promising young innovators under the age of 35” by MIT Technology Review magazine. She has also won two “Technology of the Year” awards; is a certified executive coach; and a member of the Institute of Coaching, affiliated with Harvard Medical School. For more details, see TopNotchCEO.com.

As a global outreach firm, Auerbach International is both a premier language agency and a world marketing consultancy (distributors, research, strategies, cultures and skills to penetrate overseas markets). Please see www.auerbach-intl.com and contact us at 415 592 0042 x 107.

 

Newsletter – April 2016

This Month’s Featured Video

ROLE OF NATIVE SPEAKERS IN TRANSLATION

 
 

 

SEE MORE
VIDEOS HERE

Many companies assume that they can rely on overseas distributors or in-house native speakers to translate documentation or localize website content. That can work if done correctly, but usually the process isn’t. People don’t appreciate how difficult translations can be and how long the process can take, particularly for anything technical. And when the home office does not control the message, lots of problems can happen: sentences get deleted, added or rewritten; unknown claims get added that you may be liable for; words get misused or misunderstood; the same term can get translated in many ways or incorrectly; and your branding gets inconsistent and garbled. The best-practices role for qualified native speakers is to act as reviewers of the translations and consultants about in-house terminology, not to do the process themselves.

For the last 26 years Auerbach International Inc. has been translating the technical and marketing collateral of your industry into over 80 languages, with accuracy and effective cultural sensitivity. Over that time we’ve worked with dozens of well-known firms — such as Google, Twitter, Roche, Colgate, Home Depot, and the NBA Golden State Warriors.


Advantages of Auerbach International:

 Global marketing perspective emphasizing cultural acceptance.
 Industry-specialized language teams.
 Full menu of supporting services, including product name evaluations, page layout, audio dubbing, telephonic interpretation, and more.
 Available, super-fast delivery times.
 Award-winning personal service and client satisfaction.

Success Stories:

The NBA champion Golden State Warriors were playing a series of exhibition games in China against the L.A. Lakers in October 2013. The Lakers already had their website in Chinese, and the Warriors needed their own done well and done quickly. They turned to Auerbach International localize their team name, players’ names and website content in Chinese. That allowed the Warriors to generate pre- and post-game publicity and sales, both in China and among Chinese in the US. Read More

Language Bloopers:

FAQs

Do computers / translations software do the translations?

Never! Computer translation programs do help professional translators. They can also be helpful where “lay” people just want to get the gist of a document. But a professional translation still needs to be reviewed by a speaker of that language. For example, a software–generated translation which we had to correct had rendered “a board meeting” into Chinese as “a collection of planks of wood.” An accurate rendering but not quite conveying the correct meaning. At Auerbach International, we use only skilled, native speakers in the translation and editing process to ensure top quality translation. Computers simply cannot get the nuances that a human native speaker can. Please see Machine Translation. Read More

 

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.

Conclusion

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.

What Works Here May Not Work There

To celebrate our 25th year in business, we are pleased to share with you our Top 25 Language Tips, hard won through experience.  Here is Tip #7, plus another example of a successful project for one of our clients.

  1. Other cultures:  What works here may not work there.

When preparing promotional materials for use in other countries, many US firms merely translate the words that worked at home, and assume that they will work equally well in the country they are targeting. Usually, this is a large and costly mistake.

Firstly, word-for-word translations into any language generally convey the wrong meaning in about 10 to 20% of the translated sentences. This is especially the case when using translation software, but also applies when using distributors, agents or bilingual friends who are not trained in business- or professional-level linguistics.

Differences in grammar, usage, and idiomatic expressions can be large. To ensure that your concepts are duplicated and understood by your foreign prospects, marketing materials should always be adapted by professional linguists who can accurately convey your intent, not just translate your words.

Secondly, even when your ideas are correctly translated and understood, they may not have the same effect in your target country as they do at home. We don’t notice our own culture because we’ve grown up in it. But to natives of other countries, American values and customs can seem strange or even offensive. If you don’t modify your message to conform to your foreign prospects’ values, customs and business procedures, you will be rejected immediately, no matter how effective your marketing materials have been in your own country.

Here are some examples from our own experience:

A design firm had wanted to use their US tag line “Create interest. Create a market. Create value. Create profit.” in the Arab world. They didn’t realize that this would have been totally offensive to devout Muslims who believe that only God – not people – can create anything. So we toned down the language to something acceptable while still being motivating: “Generate interest.  Make a market.  Design with value.  Generate a profit.”

Sun Microsystems came to us to translate an English brochure into German. The brochure headline was, “No Limits to Your Success.” That’s a great headline for the US, the land of individual opportunity. But to Germans, such a line would sound arrogant and not at all credible. We converted it to, “Gateway to New Horizons,” which worked fine.

A Japanese firm had success promoting its beverages in non-English-speaking countries, using the product name “Calpis.” When they became aware that this name sounds like “bovine urine,” they wisely changed the US product name to “Calpico.”

And, speaking of Japan, don’t ever use a discount offer there. The Japanese people are devoted to quality, service and long-term relationships, and regard special-sale offers as evidence that your products and company are second rate.

To sum up, don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish” when translating your marketing materials. Avoid amateurs and don’t underestimate how different a foreign culture may be from your own – and even when promoting to the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc. English usage, vocabulary and images differ even among countries with a common language. In the US, for example, “hydro” refers to water but in Canada, it refers to electricity.

Use a professional language agency that knows the culture you wish to penetrate, knows how to get your message understood, and can predict how it will play there. After all, the fees you pay to your translators are an investment in your future profitability. Getting your translation job done right the first time will save you money in the long run.

PROUD PROJECT

An American firm in the psychological assessment business publishes a test to measure the compatibility of job applicants with client companies’ existing employees and business philosophy. With the high cost of replacing new hires who “just didn’t work out” and the effectiveness of the test in filtering out poor fits, this test is very beneficial.

The test’s emphasis on applicants’ fitting in with the group does not always jive with the US culture of equal opportunity, individual success, and personal aptitude and productivity. Since the US market was limited, the publisher decided expand into Europe where such tests are culturally acceptable and commonplace.

That was a good move. But when we were asked to translate the test into 12 European languages, we rapidly spotted a major problem. The test presented a series of common business scenarios and then asked several questions related to each, along the lines of, “If X happened, would you conclude A, B, C or D?”  But many questions were very US-centric, involving concepts that simply did not relate in Europe.

For example, one scenario involved jury duty, as is common in the US. But outside the United Kingdom, juries are not part of the European legal system. Other scenarios involved personal charitable giving and the hobby of beer-can collecting, both of which are much less common in Europe. The test also asked for applicants’ personal demographic information such as whether they were Native American, Pacific Islander, African American or Asian American – totally irrelevant in Europe.

Obviously, many questions just wouldn’t work with Russians, Danes, Turks, Belgians, Poles, Portuguese and other European applicants. So before embarking on the translations, we advised the publisher to rewrite parts of the test so it would resonate with European job applicants, and thereby be of value to European employers.

The client took our advice. The revised and translated tests sold well. And the publisher made a very nice profit.

Here at Auerbach International, we have over 500 professional linguists assisting companies with both translation and acculturation into 80+ world languages. For a free consultation regarding how we might be able to help you with your global marketing, just send us an email reply to this newsletter, and we’ll call at a time convenient for you.

Thank you for helping us to become one of the most enduring and experienced language agencies in the world.

If You Missed Tips #1-6:  See our Newsletter Archives

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.