Whether you’re new to translating your marketing material or you’ve already started communicating your brand overseas, the below 7 mistakes are the most frequently made.
Over the last 10 years, we’ve found that the clients and marketing managers always check, and double check, these particular translation factors for overseas success. (Our translators check them too!)
The above misplaced apostrophe was deliberate by the way!
One proofreading tip is that when translating to English, many translators assume every plural needs an apostrophe and it’s an easy error to make if you’ve not changed the language in Word to the target.
These small, yet significant, errors can be made in any language so it’s always best to check by changing over your word processor language. There’s no shame in Googling the correct grammatical points either!
Word Order Matters…
This translation error is incredibly hard error to define, as it’s not necessarily an error! In many languages, the structure of the sentence is fundamentally different to English. Because of this structure, the flow of the text is affected by a straight translation rather than adapting the whole context of the sentence.
“It’s better to rearrange the sentence, in most cases” vs. “In most cases it’s better to rearrange the sentence.”
The above is the perfect example of this! Neither is right or specifically wrong but our seasoned translators would adapt the text to the latter to make it less distracting for the reader.
Every language has its quirks and nuances, so that as a marketing manager, it’s best to remain flexible and trust that translation services will protect your brand and ensure your tonal consistency.
This is where machine translation fails compared to professional translation agencies. Translators are trained to restructure whole passages to make their translations read fluently. They should never stick to the source text religiously. Also, the source text should never need to be edited to make the translation process easier.
We’ve translated many financial documents in the past and numbers are almost always wrongly overlooked in the translation word count and process! If your financial or other numerical reports (Google Analytics for example) are for international perusal then bear this in mind.
This goes beyond just the currency symbol placement. The inclusion of commas and decimals are the trickiest to localise, with each geography having preferences. (Just look at Excel’s accounting cell-formatting list for the huge range!)
The larger the number, the trickier the task. You could always resort to international standards and use spaces in between the 000’s, but we’ve found many clients have their own preferences on this front.
Choose a translation service that is used to dealing with such matters too. Our financial translators have learnt these intricacies and are supported by computer-aided translation tools that can recognise the source and target languages and modify your reports perfectly.
Not all abbreviations need to be translated but many do and the translation of abbreviations comes down to 2 factors: experience and research!
Knowing the target abbreviation can be achieved through experience and computer-aided-translation tools but research is also massively important and can often be overlooked by the lowest-priced translation services. If we’re ever in doubt our experienced translation managers will come back to you for clarification rather than delivering untranslated or mistranslated documents (unfortunately we’ve had to fix both for some new clients!)
In technical documents, there are other considerations such as acronyms that may also need to be translated and employing specialist technical translation services can help you achieve the right and most accurate results as the translator understands the context of the acronym.
This could be an article all on its own as there’s no end of hilarious faux pas when it comes to poorly adapted local sayings. Most translators can pick up on the obvious ones, but it’s important that your translation service can understand the context behind the idiom. The difficulty with idioms is that they’re not always directly translatable.
The French idiom “mi figue, mi raisin” (literally: “half fig, half grape”) refers to someone or something that is neither entirely good, nor entirely bad. A plain English translation could lose the colloquial nature of the saying. “Not entirely good or bad” is quite clunky and not tonally correct. Whereas using the English idiom of “mixed bag” could work much better in this scenario. As content marketing booms, this could be incredibly important in translating the tone of your blog.
Translations aren’t always finite and there’s often many ways to translate terms. We work with specialist translators who have proven themselves consistent not only throughout long documents but spanning over 10 years of translating for the same client. Again, translation software can help to a degree but it’s important we work with you to understand preferred translations and we sometimes have a list of words you’d rather we avoid in the translation too – often for technical clarity or brand consistency.
Firstly, we love our American cousins. Secondly, we’ll freely admit that not all of the British-English nuances make total sense! This is a writing style point rather than a cross-Atlantic alienation exercise!
HOWEVER, the sheer amount of media we consume has often led to Americanisms creeping into both source and translated materials worldwide.
The issues can include anything from spelling and hyphenation to grammatical differences. A tip to overcome this is to be consistent in the source language – which is easier said than done in many multinational organisations and larger brands. Try to avoid words that may alienate the audience via local nuances such as using –ise and not -ize in both British and European localisation.
Employing a professional translation agency with experience in the language, sector and actual translation task (website/brochure etc.) can help you overcome these issues. We can provide consistent and on-brand communications for your business to thrive overseas and would love to help you achieve global growth.