This article was originally published on our Blog, here, earlier this year.
… a lot of companies just make it seem that way. Invited to our Chamber of Commerce‘s export workshop this morning to offer some export tips from the language side on translation of marketing, websites, product documentation and stuff. Great discussion – UKTI were there along with various business guys. If you’re looking to export you obviously need a good translation service (hi!) but there’s much more to it than that.
Here’s just a few key points we made from a language perspective for exporters – you may find them useful if you’re looking to export yourself.
- Consider the culture, not just as it is but as it could soon be. Increasingly clients are finding for example that the export packaging they had before is now inadequate – as just one example, tighter religious agendas in some Arab Spring cultures are demanding more detail on food packaging - and one client is having to spend a lot on having new packs designed and translated.
- Think end-to-end. In our (22 years) experience, there’s really two kinds of exporters – those who understand the question (usually the successful ones) and those who don’t. Exporting is a big process and needs joined-up thinking and action – get it right and it all works, get it wrong and you’ll be into years of mediocre performance and low returns.
The WRONG way is to get export translation done piecemeal – a bit by this agency, a bit by that one, some by the brochure designers, some by your in-country distributor, and a bit by the French work experience girl. It’s a really bad idea because you’ll have huge inconsistencies in style and terminology, and probably errors too – few English people write good English, so why expect your distributor or work experience girl to write good French? There’s a reason your marketing guys use pro copywriters.
The RIGHT way is to find a good translation partner and stick with them. In our experience it’s best to handle this yourself – if you delegate to your designer or publisher you run the risk they’ll opt for the cheapest provider, or a friend of a friend, neither of which will work well for you… If you choose and stick with the right translation provider for your export work, they’ll become familiar with your product, brand, style and preferences and ensure translators are briefed accordingly. They’ll help you localize and create and maintain a glossary and stylesheet of your terminology and key phrases (and their translations) and will probably use CAT tools to save you money by leveraging past work. Most importantly, you’ll get ongoing joined-up translation that works well for your product in that market, written by professional linguists (so the language will be accurate and well-crafted) and reviewed by their own review team (we have 7 in-house, covering French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese). Updates and amendments will be easy and cheap, and dovetail seamlessly into what went before. And because the same expertise will be in play for your brochures, packaging, manuals, documentation, advertising and more, your product range will be perceived in-country as joined-up and high-quality, and export will simply work.
Really capable providers will also be able to provide in-country interpreting support (briefed to the same high standard) and end-to-end multimedia localisation via voiceover or subtitling – we do both.
- Get the English right first! Translation’s expensive, but a fraction of the cost of a full export campaign. Pivotal to success is the quality of your source English material – is it smart, crisp, unambiguous and easy to read? Because if it isn’t, it will probably read much worse once translated – and fuzzy, bloated, verbose literature’s a real turn-off that WILL damage your export success. It’s really, really worth taking the time to ensure the English you’re going to get translated is spot-on if the translation is to yield the export benefit you want, so we’d always recommend this as a first step. And if we don’t feel the English is good enough to work, we’ll say so – we can re-write for you, recommend a copywriter, or advise you on what improvement is needed. We do this because we want you to succeed – we’re looking for long-term partnership, not just to translate whatever you give us to make money short-term. There’s also a downloadable guide to getting better translation on our Translation page which has some pointers on what you can do yourself to ensure a better translation result.
Hope you found this useful – it’s really just scratching the surface of how and why translation matters in exporting, but at the end of the day it’s just common sense – unfortunately as a wise man once remarked, “common sense – isn’t”. One reason why so many exporters achieve so much less than they had hoped. But does it work? Well, Bunzl seem to think so: “… how delighted we have been with the speed and efficiency of the service… From a daunting brief of product consolidation, rationalisation and launch in five languages… a difficult task became straightforward… Product launch will commence in six weeks.” I guess that’s a “Yes“…