Bad Translation can be Bad for Business

Bad Translation can be Bad for BusinessFew businesses can afford to be slack about their business strategy and often there is a weak link in the chain. For any business that markets its products away from the home language environment should not take translation lightly. One could rephrase the title of this blog “no translation is very bad for business.” The fact is that the majority of the world’s population speak languages other than English and base their purchasing choices and business decisions on understanding what they are reading. When a company chooses to ignore this reality it means that any marketing strategy is almost a complete waste of time.

Market research organisations like the Common Sense Advisory have found that a large majority of people prefer to buy products that they can find information about in their own language. In fact, this even applies to the use of dialect and common usage of English regionally in those countries where English is a first language. British or Australian companies that do business in the U.S., for instance, may have more success if they adapt the language they use as well as the actual content to match the people who they wish to reach out to. This is even more important when the target is not English speaking.

The European Commission found that over 80% of people preferred to use websites in their own language. That means that any company that cannot or does not use effective translation services for the translation of their websites or marketing material will not be able to reach that percentage of the population. Even populations which can usually be considered as good English speakers, such as those in Sweden, still prefer to use websites that are in their own language.

The general lesson that no translation is bad for business can be extended by saying that bad document translations are also bad for business. This is not just that bad translations are not understood sufficiently. It can mean that big mistakes can be made that put the reader and potential customer off completely. The history of marketing translation is full of absolute bloomers. It wasn’t that long ago, for instance, when Finnish cell phone company Nokia marketed a new phone with the trade name “Lumia”, not realising that the name meant “prostitute” in Spanish. No doubt Nokia didn’t sell too many of that make in Spanish speaking countries until the name changed!

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