“Going Global” can be the Midas touch or death touch of any organization. Understanding the unique aspects of language and culture is time consuming to say the least. In an effort to “get to market” quickly, many companies and non-profits overlook (and sometimes hop over) the requirements for a successful launch into other countries.
For those leveraging the Web, content is a primary source for positioning in the global market. Translating the content is a must and good translation is tantamount to establishing a successful worldwide brand.
The following is adapted from an article by Kim Vitray, VP of Operations for McElroy Translation. Eight “Translation Myths” are exposed for all who are about to undertake a project for translation.
Myth #1 – Anyone can translate who has two years of a high school language, who has lived in another country for three years during childhood, or who can type in a foreign language.
Truth – Writing in another language and translating into another language contain the same kinds of subtle nuances and grammatical education as writing in the original language. For instance, because you speak English, it does not make you a writer. In the same fashion, because you may write in another language does not mean you are a culturally sensitive linguist.
Myth #2 – Translators can translate both ways easily.
Truth – Translators typically translate only into their native tongue AND most translators only have one language. This would be like reading Spanish and understanding or comprehending the information read but not being able to convey back in Spanish meaning, emotion, and cultural feeling.
Myth #3 – A good translator does not need any reference literature.
Truth – Reference literature is enormously beneficial in understanding meaning and making proper word choices.
Myth #4 – Good translators get it right the first time, without the need for editing or proofreading.
Truth – Do you get any of your writing done without the need for proofing or editing? The answer is obvious but, it is amazing how often this process is skipped in the “need for speed”.
Myth #5 – Translators will soon be replaced by computer technology.
Truth – Maybe in the future but, technologies such as AI and Babelfish have a long way to go before they become trusted sources without need of human intervention. For instance, “¿Que pasa?” translated in BabelFish becomes “That it happens?” rather than the more acceptable, “What’s happening?” or “What’s going on?”
Myth #6 – A technical manual that took four months and three writers to produce can be translated by one translator in two days.
Truth – Assuming a manual has 250 words per page and a full-time translator can work at 3000 words per day, a 100-page document would take about 8 days to to translate. This does not include editing, proofreading, or formatting. Outside forces can come into play as well such as subject matter complexity, target languages, translator’s schedule and more. The fact remains, good translation takes time.
Myth #7 – Translating is just replacing the words in the source language with the same words in the target language.
Truth – Many languages have multiple words for any one word. For instance, Alaskan Indians have numerous words for snow in their language while English only has one.
Myth #8 – Spanish is Spanish all around the world.
Truth – The Spanish spoken and written in Mexico is different than the Spanish in Spain, just as the Portuguese in Portugal and Brazil is different — same with Canadian French and France French.
Going Global is an exciting venture for any organization. Translating content into targeted languages is a major part of the endeavor. One last item to consider, especially for mission-minded non-profit’s and elearning providers, is cultural adaptation. Learn how to appeal to users in other countries and study how they’re educated. Learning and training in Europe is different than in Asia or the West. Be sure to do your “homework” and remember not to skimp on translation. Your worldwide reputation is at stake.