The dangers of translation – 5 common mistakes to avoid

You want to expand your business abroad and target an overseas market. You realise you need to translate all your marketing materials to effectively communicate with new customers in foreign countries.

But your budget is stretched and time is of the essence – so wouldn’t it be best to use online auto-translation software? Or save on resources and just use one of your multilingual employees to translate?

Think again. When you’re building your business in other countries, the accurate translation of all materials that represent your company is paramount. Ultimately, it forms the basis of every perception your customers have of your brand and company.

So before you reach for that auto-translation, consider what these 5 common translation mistakes could really end up costing your business…

1) Translating words, not ideas

It happens too often when companies have built strong brand messaging in their own countries, only to take them overseas and find they are less than effective. Word-for-word translation doesn’t work when you’re dealing with slogans, sayings or basing your messaging on popular culture. When it comes to translating your business materials you need to think about not just what words you are using, but what it is you are trying to convey with those words.

2) Disregarding dialects

Translating a language accurately isn’t always enough – you also need to consider any regional variations that exist within countries, or across continents. Dialects can differ massively and what works for one dialect could mean something else altogether for another. This is when relying on a professional with specialist knowledge of a country, and a deep understanding of different dialects at play, can prove invaluable to your business.

3) Failing to adapt to your new target market

What proved attractive for your target market in the UK, may not be so attractive for the same market in Japan, for example. Establishing effective marketing overseas demands more than simply translating your previous materials – you also need to think about how to adapt your content to meet the needs of your foreign market. Specialist professionals can advise on who you should be targeting in foreign countries, and how best to appeal to them.

4) Using cultural references

So much branding is based, in some way, on cultural references…to the point that you might not even realise you are using a cultural reference, or assume it to have the same connotations universally. Cultural references are often place-specific and don’t translate well for foreign languages – what’s more it’s surprisingly easy for companies to offend, put their reputation at harm, and even make political statements without meaning to, simply because they haven’t done their homework.

5) Risking liability

While damage to your business reputation is, of course, undesirable, it’s when materials such as business documents and contracts are translated incorrectly that mistakes can prove truly disastrous. It’s been known for business deals to be made, or indeed broken, based on misinformation and a lack of understanding. In these cases, who is liable for damages? And what might the final cost to your business be? All things considered, does the temptation to cut costs with your translation efforts justify putting your business at risk?

If you are preparing to expand your business overseas and need help with your translation or interpretation, get in touch with us here at Sally Walker Language Services – we’d be happy to discuss your requirements with you on a no-obligation basis.