We all accept that when reading business emails from colleagues whose native language is not our own, a few typos may creep in. Grammatical mistakes in emails that cross borders and linguistic divides on their way through cyberspace are hardly surprising. However, we shouldn’t let our standards slip when it comes to translating business documents.
The power of poor translation
Inaccurate translation can have a major impact. In August 2016, for example, electric vehicle and energy storage company Tesla made a swift translation change to the information provided on its Chinese website. Following the first Tesla accident in Beijing, the company replaced the word “自动驾驶,” which means both autopilot and self-driving, with “自动辅助驾驶,” which means automatic driver assistance.
The change helped to clarify the difference between self-driving and driver-assisted cars for Chinese buyers of Tesla’s vehicles. The original translation left far more room for misinterpretation, with the driver of the vehicle that crashed reporting that his understanding had been that the car’s ability to drive itself meant that he could take his hands off the wheel and his attention off the road.
The less-than-accurate original translation certainly caused Tesla some reputational damage, with the incident widely reported in China, the US and elsewhere. It highlighted the need for companies to ensure that their translations are word perfect, particularly when it comes to outward facing documents such as websites, brochures and other marketing materials.
Translating business emails
But it is not just documents intended for a large audience that require careful translation. Anyone engaging in negotiations with a potential new partner, supplier or buyer overseas should also give consideration to the value of accurate translation. Emails and letters that contain room for doubt or misinterpretation during business negotiations are far from ideal and can do damage to carefully nurtured professional relationships while things that have been misconstrued are ironed out. A small amount of time and money spent on professional translation can make a big difference!
The relevance of localization
Localization is also important when it comes to business communications. Using a translator who is native to the country that you wish to communicate with can be invaluable.
Coors beer found this out when they launched a new campaign in Spanish. The company’s ‘Turn it loose’ slogan was mistranslated into Spanish as ‘Suffer from diarrhoea.’ Hardly the image they were looking to use to promote their product! Consulting a local speaker would have done wonders to improve their marketing active. The same can be said of Schweppes, whose tonic water marketing drive in Italy was rather dented by its translation to ‘toilet water’ in Italian.
Everyday business translation
While such incidents are amusing (at least to those of us who don’t work for the Coors and Schweppes PR teams), they serve as a valuable reminder of the importance of everyday business translation in reaching out appropriately to customers and business contacts in other countries.
Translation plays an important role in opening up new markets and creating new business opportunities. To put hard work into opening up new ventures and markets overseas and then use a translation company that doesn’t have a reputation for accuracy seems highly counterintuitive, particularly when one considers the examples above.
Finding a decent business translation service is simple. Just remember to avoid machine translation at all costs, look for a company that offers a guarantee and don’t be afraid to grill them for their credentials. After all, it’s your company’s reputation that is on the line!
How has translation helped your business to grow and in which other ways could it be used to aid the company’s development?