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The Translator: A Strategic Problem Solver



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(Press Article)

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 to purchase.

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 their reputation.

”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 investment.

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 requests.

Final Checklist

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
April 2009





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