Many companies assume that they can rely on overseas distributors or in-house native speakers to translate their documentation or localize their website content. And of course your people will always say that their translations are correct. But if you don’t speak the language yourself, how will you really know? Can most Americans write a good English paragraph? Can they spell without a spell checker? Do most write with proper grammar? You know the answers. So why assume that your distributors or native speakers can write any better in their native languages?

Are they using some non-standard regional dialect from where they grew up? One company’s German employee wrote its brochures in German … but in his dialect near the Swiss border. And that definitely is not considered standard, professional language.

Have your distributors or native speakers chosen words correctly? In one case we reviewed, the in-house speaker used the term for “salad oil” instead of the intended “motor oil.” Another client asked us to write the simple term, “Happy Easter” in Vietnamese. The version their speaker provided effectively said, “Celebrate Easter.” That’s not the same meaning. Yet another high-tech client’s Chinese speaker translated “silicon wafer” as “silicon biscuit.”

Or consider what big difference a small comma can make as in, “The goal is to try, Max” vs. “The goal is to try Max.” In this second instance, does “try” mean to take Max to court or does it mean to give him a chance at something? (Or “to give him a go” as British English would say). Without context, you simply don’t know. And this is why language agencies provide certainty or at least know what clarifications to ask from the writer.

All these small examples demonstrate why it’s important for your firm to control your message and to use professional, subject-specialized translators. If you do rely on others, always ask your professional language agency to review their edits first. Your agency is your ally and will catch these kinds of mistakes quickly …. saving your company’s image and reputation in the process.