A study for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills showed poor language skills currently cost the UK economy £48 billion a year (3.5 per cent of GDP) in lost export sales, says Lynn Everson, Managing Director, Lifeline Language Services.
With Brexit already likely to impact the UK’s export markets, our businesses cannot afford further sales wastage from poor translation. But buying translation services can be daunting. So with over 25 years’ translation experience, my top tips would be:
It can be tempting to cut corners if you’re lucky enough to have bilingual staff. It’s unwise though, especially for customer-facing material. Just because someone can speak a language doesn’t mean he or she can proficiently write marketing brochures or translate technical content. After all, would you trust a random selection from your English employees to your marketing copywriting in English, just because they are English? Remember too, style matters – technical instructions are very different to marketing. Bad marketing copy may damage the business, it’s true. But bad technical copy can be a genuine risk to health and safety. For these reasons - and more, such as localisation advice – it’s far safer to use a professional. Start by checking that the language service you’re considering is an ATC member (the UK Association of Translation Companies). Ask detailed questions about their past experience in your sector. Check they hold appropriate professional indemnity insurance too.
Beware the machine
Machine translation has developed hugely and is now used in a variety of scenarios and applications. However, the results can often still range from amusing to downright dangerous. Machine translation in some languages for example regularly omits the word “not”. “Not” good. It’s true that professional translation companies increasingly use machine translation as a starting point for high-volume repetitive text. But I’d emphasise “starting point” – in good companies these translations are always, ALWAYS reviewed (and often extensively corrected) by living, breathing human translators. As an aside, beware of translation providers that offer too fast a turnaround for high volumes – just how do they achieve it?
Choose a partner, not a supplier
You’ll always get the best results from a long-term relationship with your translation partner. The longer you work together and the better they understand your business and product, the better, faster and more cost-effective their translation will be. Once you’ve found a good company you trust, hang onto it – because working closely with a trusted translation company pays real dividends in the long term.