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Language Translation: What Global Companies Should Know

Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon

What to expect when your business is international.

Imagine having your company's press release read worldwide, or doing business with prestigious overseas clients. Your small business may not be there yet, but thanks to an increasingly global economy, those dreams are becoming a reality for many companies.

As the business world continues to go global, the need for language-translation services is greater than ever. Translation experts shared their thoughts on the latest industry trends and what international businesses need to know.

Businesses have many different motivations for translating content for international audiences. It may be to facilitate an overseas business partnership, or to expand their market reach and sell to global consumers. But regardless of the reason, businesses are becoming more particular about which pieces of content they put energy into translating, and for whom. [The Best Business Translation Services]

"People are moving away from taking a [piece of content] and making 19 or 20 different quick translations," said Dougal Cameron, chief operating officer of e-book publishing platform Pubsoft. "There's more of a focus on why it's translated for a specific audience. A good translation can make a huge difference in how content is received."

Ian Henderson, chief technology officer and chairman of global language service provider Rubric, noted that a low-quality translation can give a bad impression of your business.

"Poor quality negatively impacts your branding," Henderson told Business News Daily. "If you're an overseas hotel and [a native speaker] reads your description online, he or she may seriously question your reputation based on a bad translation."

When a business wants to translate a piece of content, it generally has three options: machine translation, a professional translator or crowdsourcing. Each one has its costs and benefits, and each serves a specific purpose.

  • Machine translation tools, such as Google Translate,are usually free to use and give you an instant translation when you copy and paste text into it. Keep in mind that these tools only provide basic translations and are often not completely accurate.
  • Professional translators are native or fluent speakers who will provide a high-quality translation of your content for a fee. Unlike machine translators, a professional can take grammar rules and colloquial phrases into account to make the content flow more naturally.
  • Crowdsourced translation may take some time to complete because you're dealing with volunteers who likely have little translation experience. However, crowdsourcing is less expensive than hiring a professional translator and still provides a comparable quality of translation.

The translation tools you use for specific content depends on your business priorities.

"You might use high-end translation for your advertising or creative copy, machine translation for internal use, and crowdsourced translation for user-generated content," said Robert Laing, CEO and co-founder of translation service Gengo. "The main trend is getting smarter about your content and choosing the right quality appropriately."

Cameron agreed, advising businesses to determine whether a professional translation is worth the investment based on the nature of their content. For example, instructive how-to content with simple language may not require much more than a free machine translation. An engaging article or book, on the other hand, should be professionally translated to preserve meaning and linguistic elements.

The task of translating just one piece of content can be difficult enough, so multiple pieces of content and ongoing translation efforts can be a massive undertaking. Distributing the work among different parties might be the best option for large-scale projects.

"Companies don't realize that the bulk of [business] translation is cutting and pasting all that translated text back into your website," said Francoise Henderson, CEO of Rubric. "Split the project up into pieces, and ask multiple translators. A good project management system will make the difference."

Image Credit: shironosov / Getty Images
Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon Member
Nicole Fallon has written hundreds of B2B-focused articles on topics such as marketing, business technology, leadership, and HR/organizational management. In addition to covering small business trends and software reviews, Nicole runs a digital marketing agency, where she and her team create high-quality content for a wide range of B2B and B2C brands.