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Are You Lost in Translation?

Updated on April 14, 2011

Is Translation Problems Loosing You Business?

Mind your language - As modern technology shrinks the size of world, many companies these days are now facing the problem of communicating with more and more foreign clients, many of who can speak a little or no English. Large companies employ translators to assist foreign clients to do business with them. However, many other companies, instead of using professionally trained translators, cut both corners and costs by using one of the many internet based online translators such Google or Babel Fish as their company translator.

Costly Loses in Translation :

Yes, these online translators will simply translate all your foreign clients e-mails, instructions and contracts in a split second. But, not a lot of people realise is that computer programmes just literally translate the words. While it is possible to get a rough idea of what your clients are tying to say, you don’t get an exact translation and possibly one of your staff could misinterpret a communication, which could result in costly consequences.

Your Computer Only Thinks Logically :

Remember in English, we have lots of words that mean entirely different things. A very simple example of is the word duck. Is it one of feather friends that loves us to feed them bread in the park or is it a word of warning mean mind your head? An online translator can’t differentiate between the two meanings and the are literally thousands of other examples in the English language ready to catch you out. Your computer is not that clever, it only thinks logically. This is where you need an actual translator to correctly identify these words and present them in their correct context.

Possible Legal Consequences :

Another common problem is differences between other country’s grammar syntaxes. Again on a simple level, we say football stadium, which in French, Spanish or Italian is reversed. A computer translation programme will not correct incoming correspondence with these syntaxes – it literally translates what it sees. While in a majority of cases, the words are quite obviously reversed, other syntaxes are not so noticeable. They can completely change the meaning of a sentence and possibly alter the whole purpose of the communication. The worse case scenario of mistranslated could easily end up with your company in court facing the costly legal consequences.

Regardless of language. we all have to talk business.
Regardless of language. we all have to talk business.

The Cheap Option is Not That Cheap :

The cheap option is to use an online translator, but as they say, buy cheap, buy twice. Many companies have staff sending out e-mails and letters to foreign clients, which they have completely translated using Babel Fish or Google for example. When the client receives and opens his or her mail, they can’t make head nor tail at the nature of the correspondence. Consequently, they have to get in touch again with the company to find out what on earth they are on about. Further communication takes place, which takes more time, and time in the finance sector also can cost big money if an important transaction or contract is missed. 

Cutting Translation Corners Affects Business :

Cutting corners with translation also can have a serious adverse effect on a company’s image. You can almost hear them crying with laughter across the English Channel as they roll on the floor after reading a ‘translation’, which has been put through an online translator. Try it out for yourself – type in a sentence or two into an online translator. Now ask it to translate into any language. Just pick one at random. Now take that translated sentence and ask it to translate it back into English - this is what your important foreign client sees. The more words you ask it to translate to the more it gets confused. Now try put in several paragraphs and see what happens. Many English legal contract words will not translate as they do not exist in many other languages. Confused? - so will your client. The more you asked an online translator to translate the more it gets confused..   

Communicating Effectively is Key :

Communicating effectively is key to any business. Words, especially the right business words, are vital in any language. They can mean the difference between you and your competition getting that all-important big contract or deal.  While hiring the services of a translator seems a costly exercise, in the long run it can actually save your company time, money and its image.   

Don’t Let Language be a Barrier to Your Business…

© David Lloyd-Jones 2010

Online translators can cause your business mammoth problems and possible lost of business
Online translators can cause your business mammoth problems and possible lost of business


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    • Midnight Oil profile image

      Midnight Oil 5 years ago from Isle of Man UK

      Communicating effectively is key to any business. Words, especially the right business words, are vital in any language.