Today’s world is a connected world. Modern businesses are more likely than ever before to do business internationally.
Even small and medium businesses source their stock, materials or components overseas. Many others maximise their profits by selling their goods and services to clients around the world.
But for every business that succeeds by doing business internationally, many others fail. The reason?
Poor communications. The biggest and most obvious examples of this are when big corporations try to make a splash entry into a foreign market with a badly translated advertising campaigns.
The results are costly. Both in terms of poor return on investment – and of damage to a brand’s reputation. Damage that might take decades to repair.
Yet it is the smaller-scale, more everyday international communication issues that cause companies more problems than anything else:
Vague translations of the day-to-day documents that are necessary for so many standard business processes. Misleading or legally-imprecise translations of legal and financial documentation.
Here we’ll take a look at how to get the best results with all of your business document translation.
The types of documents companies translate the most
There are some types of document that need accurate translation more than any other. These tend to include:
Contracts usually contain very specific terms and phrases. Ensuring that contract information is translated in a way that conveys matching details to a native reader and is adapted for different legal jurisdictions and meanings is something that can only be done through professional translation.
Poorly translated contracts are often the subject of serious legal disputes, lost time, wasted resources and broken business relationships.
2) Technical and instruction manuals
Instructions and technical manuals for a vast array of products, services and processes form one of the staples of the document translation industry.
Inaccuracy in instruction manual translation can, on the lighter end of the spectrum, result in confused or amused consumers. At the heavier end, faulty technical manuals ending up in law suits and personal injury is far from unheard of, depending on product type.
Translating this content is most time and cost-effective if the original is written in clear, simple language. Using a translator who understand any technical terminology used is vital if your want your technical manual to be translated successfully.
3) Proposals and bids
Commercial proposals and project bids are some of the most important documents many businesses create. Mistranslation here can often result in accidental over or under-bids as project scope and promised actions are misrepresented or imprecise.
Again, a specialist human translator with relevant experience in your target region is the only type of linguist you should consider using to translate this kind of document.
4) Legal documentation
More than almost any other type of translation target, legal documents such as petitions, finance agreements and powers-of-attorney have the most scope for problematic outcomes if translated versions are imprecise or use incorrect language.
Only a legal specialist who is also a native speaker of your target language should be used for documents such as this. It is the only way to ensure that your translated legal documentation both makes sense to a native reader and meets local jurisdictional expectations and practices.
How to get the best results from your document translation
1) Use a professional translation agency
Translating one document accurately can be a challenge. Accurately translating a hundred or a thousand is another level of difficulty entirely.
Only a professional Language Service Provider (LSP) has the capacity, technology, refined workflows, and technical expertise to translate large quantities of documents on a regular basis.
For smaller companies – and those venturing into the international sphere for the first time – it can be tempting to try and avoid added translation costs. After all, tools like Google Translate already exist – and they’re free.
But Google Translate and other automatic translation tools are wholly unsuitable for anything other than the most casual purposes. Getting a rough read of a sentence a friend has sent to you in another language is one thing. Precise translation of mission-critical documents is quite another.
Only a specialist human translator, backed by a human editor and proofreader and other Quality Assurance processes, can really achieve the quality you need for most important documents. Translation agencies like Asian Absolute also prioritise using translators with industry expertise, ensuring that things like precise legal definitions and terminology are used correctly.
2) Don’t use online translation tools (if you value your privacy)
Concerns of accuracy aside, it’s important to be aware that when you use tools like Google Translate you are usually automatically giving Google – or whoever operates the service – the right to read and store the words of the documents you enter.
You only need to search online for the Translate.com scandal back in 2017 to see the moment when the Norwegian Statoil company found its private contracts, termination letters, performance reports and more could be found online with a quick Google search. Simply because they’d used Translate.com to automatically translate them.
Translate.com wasn’t hiding this. Nor does Google Translate. But it’s not something that most businesses are happy to risk.
3) Do your research
Which market, language, or culture are you translating your documents for?
Careful selection of target languages is absolutely vital if you want your final results to be successful. This often means extensive market research, working with a well-informed local partner such as your Language Service Provider, or both.
Even some limited research looking into the local activities of your competitors and details of local culture and language are better than nothing.
But, as with most things, the more information and research you have access to, the better results you are likely to get from your document translation.
4) Write clearly, with an eye to translation
Knowing that you intend to translate your document later should have an influence on the way you write it.
Projects involving marketing, branding, or anything else that relies on creative use of language need to be carefully adapted to local cultural and linguistic differences. For these kinds of projects, a localisation or transcreation approach might be better. Here, you focus on writing your document for your domestic target audience and rely on your translation team to adapt everything to your new audience.
However, for many documents, it makes sense to write your originals with an eye on the fact they will later be translated. This means doing things like:
- Writing in a clear, simple fashion
- Avoiding uses of humour
- Not using idioms and other colloquial expressions
- Trying not to use metaphors or synonyms
- Not relying on local cultural reference points or touchstones
5) Make sure your translation agency uses the right professionals
Not all Language Service Providers will source the translators they use in exactly the same way. Before you choose the right translation company for you, it is worth checking on several key factors. For instance, does your chosen LSP use:
- Native language linguists – it is important that your translator is translating into their native language. We’ve all seen the kind of poor quality, pseudo-English produced by non-native writers and translators. If you want to ensure your company’s translated materials don’t look like this in another language, always ensure your translation agency uses native linguists.
- Speakers of the right dialect – even two very similar dialects such as American English and British English contain many dialect words and other differences that will make readers instantly aware they are reading content not designed for them. Always make sure your LSP uses native speakers of the correct dialect. Of the Spanish spoken in Argentina rather than in Spain for a document translated for an Argentinian audience, for example.
- Subject matter specialists – Asian Absolute and other reliable LSPs always use linguists who have qualifications or experience in the field of the content they are translating. For us, this might mean finding a translator who is also a practising or former healthcare professional to translate medical documents. Or an expert in the law who is also a linguist to translate legal documents. Without this kind of expertise, you risk costly or even dangerous mistranslations of industry-specific terminology.
6) Save money by using the right technology
Most document translation projects involve dozens if not hundreds of documents. This means that efficiency and cost-effectiveness are often major driving concerns when setting up your translation service.
One of the best cost-saving measures to look out for is an LSP that uses Translation Memory (TM) technology. This can be thought of as a database of already-translated words and phrases. To picture how it works, imagine that your documents feature a particular necessary identical legal phrase in multiple places. A translator using TM technology would be prompted by the translation software they use to simply approve the already-agreed translation whenever it appeared.
Because this reduces the time and work required to translate a document, most LSPs that use Translation Memories offer cost savings to their clients. An added bonus is that your documents will be all the more cohesive because of it.
Taking your first steps into the field of document translation
Your best first step when entering the world of important document translation is to find a professional translation agency you can trust to give you honest advice and recommendations about how to proceed.
In particular, having a local partner and access to translators who are not only experts in your specific industry and type of project but also natives of the region in question is the way to guarantee you get the best results no matter what kind of document you have awaiting translation.
Wouldn’t it be so much easier to simply chat with a professional?
Asian Absolute helps companies in every industry translate millions of words of text every year.
Let’s talk. About the documents you need to translate. Your target audience. And the best way to get you precisely what you need.