If you’ve invested money and time crafting marketing material about your products or services for the domestic market, when you’re trying to break into a foreign market your messages need to be just as clear and compelling to your new audience.
If you don’t believe us, try this. Type a sentence from the text you’re thinking of translating into Google Translate and then translate it into, say, Malay. Then copy that translation, and turn it back into English. It’s probably not quite what you meant. Here’s what happens if we translate some of Yorkshire Tea’s advice on how to make a good cup of tea out of English:
Treat your water kindly. Run the tap a little so the water’s nicely aerated, and only boil it once to keep the oxygen level up. Oxygen in water helps flavour!
And into Malay (and the Malaysians know a bit about tea):
Treat your water well. Remove the pipe slightly so that the water is well ventilated, and only boils once to maintain the oxygen level. Oxygen in the water helps to taste!
This is just one example of why it’s worth investing in a professional (human!) translator. But you’ll also need to invest some time to brief your translation agency clearly – and to allow the translator to complete the work.
So how much time is that? A good rule of thumb is to assume that a translation will take around the same time that the original copy took to write. The translator may well need some time to research the subject, reflect and go back to it, to get it absolutely right. Be clear with your translation agency about the target audience for your text, too.
A set of instructions for manual labourers on how to assemble a product will have a very different tone and positioning from an arts brochure or a scientific paper. And marketing material aimed at teenagers and young adults will be different again. Get it slightly wrong, and you’ll lose credibility – and lose the interest of your key audience. In short, take exactly the same care and pride in your translation as you would in the original language.
If you’ve never used a translation agency before and don’t know where to start, check if the ones you’re considering are members of a recognised professional body, such as the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. The ITI’s professional code of conduct requires its members to act with honesty and integrity, with professional competence and to maintain client confidentiality. Check what will be included in the price, too – proofreading is usually an optional extra, but if you’re not fluent in the dialect or language, it’s worth paying for. Your foreign text should be flawless, to reflect the high standards of your goods or services.
And if you find you have to wait a little for your copy to be translated, recognise it as the good sign that it is. The best translators are always busy. They’re also worth the wait.