Fear. This is probably the main emotion preventing people from targeting ethnic US or overseas markets.

In essence, if you can’t read or write a language, how will you know whether your translated brochures, manuals, websites or videos are correct? And if you are not certain, many people prefer to do nothing. But doing nothing withholds your product or service from 6.1 billion people worldwide who don’t speak English.

Some ways not to do it

    1. Don’t rely on Machine Translation, also known as translation software. Increasingly, these systems are accurate. But you can’t be sure. And if your file is full of complex sentences as most manuals and websites are, the software version will be garbled or incomprehensible. Many people have learned by now that if you have anything professional that promotes your company – brochures, websites, manuals, videos – translation software can make critical and comical mistakes. And those do not portray your organization in a flattering way.
    2. Don’t rely on your in-house native speaker or overseas distributor.  How will you know that a job is done correctly? Does this person speak a dialect of the native language? Can you absolutely guarantee that he or she is spelling correctly? Can you really write a grammatical sentence in your native language? Most Americans can’t.
    3. Don’t let distributors or agents do it.  Overseas distributors may do translations themselves or outsource the job to someone “reliable”. But, how will you know whether your distributor:
      1. understood all your technical concepts correctly?
      2. didn’t add a claim that you can be liable for?
      3. doesn’t speak a rural or obscure dialect of his native language that can make you look less reliable?

Over 26 years, we have seen examples of all of these.

  1. Don’t just hire translators from the Internet.
    • How can you prove they are as good as they say they are?
    • Even if you give a language test, how good is your evaluator?
    • And even if the translator is good, you should never rely on just one person anyway.
    • Most business files are already in programs such as InDesign or FrameMaker. Most individual translators don’t have those programs and can’t open or work within your files.

How to ensure your translations are accurate

Professional Language agencies use a three- or five-step process to guarantee accuracy. All selected linguists should:

  • Work only into their native language;
  • Have advanced degrees in the art of translating or interpreting;
  • Have many years of on-going, not occasional, experience; and
  • Speak the technical vocabulary of your industry.

The agency then forms a team of linguists with the qualifications above.

  1. The first translator does a draft translation.
  2. The second translator reviews the draft to make sure the vocabulary, technical terms, expressions, acculturated references and nuances are all accurate.
  3. The translation is then reviewed for correct spelling, punctuation and grammar.
  4. If needed, your translation is laid out in the same design as the English original.
  5. Your laid-out translation is then proofread to check for final accuracy.

All professional linguists use a Translations Memory (TM). This captures repeated terms that appeared earlier in your file or come from previous translations you did into that language.  A translation memory makes sure your terminology is used accurately and consistently in each language, speeding up the process when a lot of terms repeat. Most individual translators don’t have access to your TMs from previous projects.

Managing all these steps to guarantee accuracy is the job of a professional language agency. Yes, you can potentially coordinate all these steps yourself. But what is your time worth? Do you know how to extract your text from your design template and prepare it for translation memories? If you need multiple languages, are you really going to coordinate three to five linguists for each to do all these steps? Can your in-house staff lay out Portuguese, Chinese or Arabic?

Your professional language agency should be your partner to advance your footprint into ethnic markets at home or world markets abroad. And if you share your fears with your agency, they should already have a way to address them. If they don’t, please find an agency that will.