How translations can explode your best intentions

Many companies use overseas agents or distributors to do their translations. You assume, because “they know our product well,” that their renderings are accurate. But how can you be certain?

Over our 30+ years, we have seen many cases where:

  1. Agents rewrite your message to what they think it should say, not what you want it to say. This creates confusion about your brand. These changes are not cultural; they are about your promises and claims.
  2. Agents add or remove important sections of your brochures or manuals.
  3. Agents add claims for which you, not they, are liable in spite of what their contracts state. If a user dies or is injured, your trusted agent may suddenly disappear. And you are ultimately responsible.

Two cautions: Are your agents professional translators? If not, do you know whom they are using?

Here is a real-life example from Doug Hartley of Focus Asia Marketing in Calgary, Canada:

The excavator manufacturing company I worked for in Korea needed to translate from English into Spanish all our marketing collateral regarding an improvement in engine performance.

As the Spanish embassy was down the street, I asked if they had a good translator who could make an accurate translation. They said they did, and they translated our material. When I got their Spanish translation, I had it back-translated to English. I am glad I did.

We wanted the translation to say that with the new innovation, the firing of the spark plugs would move the engine pistons better and would result in more engine power. The translation we received was that with the new innovation, the firing of the spark plugs would blow up the engine completely, including the excavator driver.

Moral of the story: It is important every few months to ask for a “back translation” into English (or the source language) of your agents’ versions … even if you trust that your agents know what they are doing. It is also critical to use professional translators, not amateurs or diplomats, who speak your industry terminology (as we do, of course). This is very inexpensive insurance.

No translation will match exactly because of nuances and different ways of expressing the same concept. But the back translation will reveal any glaring omissions, changes, or mistakes that you at the home office can rectify immediately. And that is worth having no explosions.

Please send us your files for a free back-translation quote or to go – with guaranteed accuracy – into any of our 120 languages.

Thank you.

Philip Auerbach
Founder, President & CEO
Auerbach International
Headquarters – 415-592-0042 x107
philip@auerbach-intl.com
www.auerbach-intl.com
translations@auerbach-intl.com

 

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