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Thinking Global? Don’t Get Lost in Translation

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 5:23
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By: Nancy Cardone, Across Systems

Planning for globalization is an intensive process that requires a ton of pre-planning. There are many things to consider as you market your business internationally and one key area that can often be overlooked is translation. By not addressing translation as a part of your global planning process you could hinder your ability to successfully penetrate these new markets and to quickly get your product to market.

A VP of Sales for a manufacturing company once told me a horror story about inadequate marketing materials that his foreign counterparts were presenting at a trade show in China. Unfortunately, his Chinese counterparts gave the assignment to the lowest bidder and ended up with marketing materials that were poorly translated and formatted. Once he saw the materials he immediately knew they would reflect poorly on his company and could ultimately damage their reputation, which people in Asia take very seriously. Since the materials were not translated and formatted professionally, his company image was compromised, they were not taken seriously and he lost potential sales as a result of not putting the right process in place from the beginning.

After being a business professional in the translation field for 14 years, I have learned firsthand the many roadblocks that can get in the way of getting a product to market efficiently. Most times, problems occur because people do not have a clear understanding of how translation works and do not budget as much time for translation as they do creating their English content.

Some of the common translation mistakes that can seriously impact your success when marketing your products globally include:

  • Believing that free online translation services or machine-translations are acceptable solutions for quality translations. Machine Translationis great for determining the gist of what someone is saying. However, it is not a viable translation tool to help you achieve a quality translation. You can test this out by inserting professionally translated materials into a translation tool in a foreign language, especially if it’s Chinese or Arabic, and see what English translation is produced.  You will be surprised by what you will see.
  • Assuming that “everyone” speaks English and there is no need for translated materials.  Although many people globally do speak English, there is brand credibility that comes with having your documents translated at a local level. People will be more likely to buy from companies that take the time to translate materials into their native language.
  • Using unqualified people to handle translations. Employees, external language service providers and freelance translators can be great options for your translations; unfortunately, they may not be fully qualified to translate your marketing materials. Translation is a special skill that not everyone possesses. Just because you have traveled or even studied a foreign language does not qualify you to translate. If a quality translation doesn’t take into account local jargon, terminology and dialectical differences, the reputation of your company could be jeopardized. Quality should not be ignored since a single translation error can change the entire meaning of a message which could result in a damaged business reputation, loss of sales and even death if you are in the medical industry where translation mistakes could kill people.
  • Addressing translation too late in the global planning process. If translation is not incorporated early on into the global planning process, you could incur significant expenses due to inadequate processing time, high cost rush projects, low quality products and product launch delays. I recently spoke to someone at a medical device conference whose launch was delayed by two weeks because the materials were not sent to translation soon enough and the translation timeline was not adequately considered in their overall launch timeline.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid these mistakes. By following these guidelines, you can incorporate a translation strategy that will help you get your product to market quickly with reduced costs.

  • Use a credible translation technology solution for process efficiency and consistency. Not all solutions are created equal and offer the same controls and benefits.
  • Work with a professional language service provider to provide the human intervention necessary to appropriately handle subject matter, terminology and locales.
  • Incorporate a solid translation process early on when defining your global strategy to realize significant cost savings by using authoring solutions that help you craft your English content to be more understandable, consistent and quality.

Today, as you are expanding your business on a global basis, it is essential that you implement a solid translation strategy from the beginning. You may have a fantastic product or service, but if you are not communicating effectively with your customers, employees and business partners, you could lose valuable business opportunities. In addition, your marketing materials could be sending the wrong message or even worse, offending your customers which put your company’s reputation at stake. In this global economy, you can’t afford to take that risk. A proactive translation strategy will save time, reduce product development costs, increase sales opportunities and keep you ahead of your international competition.

Nancy Cardone, located in Pittsburgh, PA, is a localization professional and Across Systems’ business development manager for the Americas. Across provides translation software that helps companies go to market faster through process and workflow automation. In June, Across will be releasing version 6 with a user interface redesign, enhanced functionality and increased speed. Nancy can be reached at 412-486-3819 or at


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