Business managers who want to succeed in foreign markets are acutely
aware of the vital role professional translators play in achieving
excellence in export. Much documentation is vital to brand image.
How your company literature looks and reads is crucial: from your
website to care instructions, instruction manuals and guarantees.
Savvy business managers also appreciate that translators can become
strategic business partners who are able to impart valuable
knowledge of foreign cultural and business practices that the
company can harness to ensure it is on message.
There are an estimated 700,000 people - including approximately
10,000 in the UK - who market themselves as ‘professional
translators and interpreters’. Identifying the differences between a
professional and a non-professional is a challenge, especially if
documents are translated into a language you do not understand.
Working with the right translator can literally make or break your
success in a new market.
Sorting The Wheat From The Chaff
There are some obvious checkpoints and managers can start by
confirming qualifications, references and memberships of
professional bodies. A professional translator will always be happy
to provide these.
The Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) in the UK has
3,000 members, all of whom demonstrate their commitment to the
profession by joining the organisation and adhering to a strict code
of conduct. This is essential in an unregulated profession.
There are various levels of membership, ranging from fellow (FITI)
and full member (MITI) to corporate membership. To become a MITI,
translators and interpreters must successfully complete the rigorous
testing and entry process where only the best succeed.
What The Professional Translator Can Offer
There is much more to being a translator than meets the eye. A good
translator has an exceptional command of the native or ‘source’
language and can provide outstanding copywriting, proofreading and
editorial services. They usually operate in highly specialist fields
and possess the relevant technical vocabulary. They also identify
unarticulated needs thanks to their acute appreciation of cultural
differences and approaches to business and industry practices.
Professional translators understand that business leaders care about
the effect the documents will have on the business and will ensure
the company communicates effectively to enhance the perception of
your brand and reputation. They will identify different practices
and styles of humour for instance, and guarantee clear communication
to build trust with stakeholders, ultimately generating an impulse
Sloppy Translation Jeopardises Entry Into New Export Markets
Sadly, it can be very easy to get it wrong by cutting corners, and
ITI members are often called in to rectify strategic translation
errors. Rather than hiring a professional from the outset, some
companies believe they can save money and achieve the desired result
by enlisting someone in-house who just happens to speak the
language/s in question.
ITI general secretary Alan Wheatley explains: “Even if you think
your company is already accepted by a new foreign market, poorly
translated marketing literature, company documents and press
releases can result in your brand being poorly perceived, resulting
in limited or no success.
”I hear of companies whose success in an export market is ‘a given’,
but by not using a professional translator they miss opportunities,
waste money, fail to attract appropriate media attention and damage
”At the last minute such companies often decide to hire a
professional who can produce flawless documents in a style the
target audience expects and they are able to salvage the situation.
But this unnecessary risk can easily be averted by recruiting
professional assistance at the initial stage of a project.”
Going Beyond The Call Of Duty
True professionals will ask plenty of questions such as: Do we
really need to translate this? Is it relevant to the target
audience? Are the tone and style appropriate? Is there a glossary
available? Do you have a style guide?
Successful translators know that, in many cases, a ‘straightforward’
translation is not required if there are stark differences between
target audiences. The emotive language used for product promotion in
some markets may not fit the UK market, for example. It takes a bold
professional to speak out to the client and suggest improvements,
especially in a fledgling relationship.
Most companies appreciate this openness and start to trust the
translator, who adds further value by suggesting simple improvements
to business practice such as a different website for a specific
target audience, professional interpreters for a trade show and by
insisting on feedback.
As a result, media interest grows, the target audience becomes
receptive and companies see the first signs of export success.
You Get What You Pay For
Proficient translators command professional rates but, given the
overall savings that can be made by avoiding costly initial
mistakes, hiring the right person from the beginning is a worthwhile
Translators can become strategic business partners, helping managers
achieve their business objectives in a cost effective manner. They
also educate their clients about processes and methodologies, so
that a relationship based on trust and mutual respect can flourish.
This in turn encourages business managers to supply thorough briefs
and allow realistic deadlines. It also means translators can
pre-empt business needs and think ahead to respond swiftly to any
By not using a professional, a business can end up with worthless,
illegible documents, which, if undetected, can seriously hamper
progress in a new market.
Professionals offer consultancy, add value, translate into their
native language unless they are multilingual, ensure the end
translation is fit for purpose, save money, help safeguard brand
reputation, offer specialist knowledge, request feedback, solve
problems, think ahead and advise.
Visit the ITI website at