Do you really need professional translation services?

translating cultures

There are many misconceptions about translation, but the most common assumption is that anyone who speaks two languages can be a translator. As a result, bilingual employees may find themselves lumped with translation or interpreting work they didn’t sign up for, and worse still, they may be expected to handle language tasks very quickly, with little consideration given to possible challenges.

This is a highly risky strategy as translation is not always straightforward. Translation is not to simply replace one word for another; there are many factors that contribute to conveying the overall message of a text to a new audience, from grammar and vocabulary to register and tone.

Imagine the potential consequences of entrusting advertising copy to a bilingual with no creative writing or marketing skills, or asking someone who has no pharmaceutical knowledge to translate labels for medical products.

The completed translations are unlikely to be fit for the desired purpose, and in worst-case scenarios, inaccurate translations can cause serious problems that may be costly to remediate and could impact company reputation. One example is Coca Cola’s attempt to combine English and te reo Māori, the language of New Zealand’s indigenous people, in an advertising slogan. Their chosen slogan, “Kia ora, mate”, translates as “Hello, death” to speakers of te reo – certainly not the message the company was going for. A native speaker would have spotted the error instantly, easily averting an embarrassing situation. A native translation specialist would have helped Coca Cola achieve an intelligent, winning slogan using both languages.

Professional translators can help to avoid blunders by advising you on the culture of the target region and important linguistic nuances. Moreover, translators tend to specialise in specific areas so that they can build up industry knowledge as well as an understanding of industry terms in both languages.

However, sourcing qualified, experienced and professional translators that you can rely on can be a headache, especially if you’re not familiar with the industry. Working with an agency can relieve the burden as you won’t have to do any of the legwork yourself. Agencies already have a network of translators they work with, often on a regular basis, so they can delegate your translations and manage practical aspects such as payment. Crucially, your multilingual staff can then focus on their own daily tasks rather than draining resources with translation jobs.

For more guidance on choosing a translation services provider, have a read of our previous post here.