The texts your business produces are not all the same in content. Some may be meant for ads, while others are more technical for manuals or internal documents. Your industry may have very specific register, or terminology that is used only within your industry’s setting. The common person may not have any idea what a “sidewall retainer bolt” is, much less know how to translate it into another language. The same can be true for terminology regarding advertising, human resource materials, website text, etc.
Just as businesses specialize and operate in niche areas, so do translators. Therefore, it’s important to consider working with specialized translators for your documents and web materials in order to obtain the most accurate translations possible.
Consider a scenario in which your company’s legal department requires a service provider agreement to be translated into Spanish. You may have a trusted translator who handles your brochures and marketing materials throughout the year. However, the translator may not have the same level of expertise or linguistic knowledge in the target language when it comes to legal texts. In this case, it’s best to seek another translator with such expertise or hire an agency with the ability to place a professional legal translator on your project.
When receiving a resume from a potential translator that has areas of specialization in just about every field imaginable, we become very skeptical. Even in one’s own native language, it can be difficult to carry on a conversation with someone in a field with we don’t deal with daily. Even if a client requests a translation and adds, “It’s really not technical at all,” or “It’s pretty straightforward content,” we make sure to place it with the linguists who we know are specialized in the content area(s). One can never be too sure when it comes to accurate translations for their business. It could mean the difference between winning a contract with a potential client or never hearing from them again.
In the United States, the majority of students who learn a second language do not begin learning this language until the age of 14, or when they enter high school. However, studies have shown that there are several benefits to learning a foreign language earlier in life, and many elementary schools are offering foreign language courses, as well. Spanish is the foreign language most commonly taught at the elementary school level, followed by French, Latin and Chinese.
In a market in which the demand for bilingual individuals is growing rapidly, the earlier the student can begin his or her language learning the better. Not only do students who begin learning a second language in elementary school often show improved test scores and cognitive function over those who do not, but these students are also 70% more likely to reach an intermediate level of communication than those who begin in high school. This means that the early language learner has a much higher chance of effectively using these skills in the marketplace as an adult. As more and more companies expand and do business overseas, the ability to be able to speak and interact with those who speak another language will be more important than ever.
Those who are able to master a second language from an early age are also more likely to continue to develop their language skills throughout life. One way that they are able to do so is by developing skills needed for translation and interpretation, industries that continue to grow year after year. While simply being bilingual isn’t enough for most translation and interpretation projects, those individuals who have the strong grasp of a second language from an early age are better equipped to master the art of translation or interpretation as an adult. A person who did not learn the language until later in life has to focus on both learning the language and the skills needed for translation and interpretation within a shorter time period.
In Europe, 80% of students speak a second language, but only 14% of students in the US consider themselves bilingual. When you couple results like higher test scores and cognitive function with a higher propensity for specialized language application later on, introducing a foreign language program into an elementary school level curriculum seems to make a good deal of sense, as it would allow the US to better position skilled bilingual workers in an ever-expanding global market.
Have you ever seen a short piece of text in another language and wondered what it meant, or wanted to send a brief, basic message to someone in a language you don’t speak fluently? While they won’t capture the meaning of complex text, cultural nuances, or maintain 100% grammatical accuracy, translation apps can be perfect for things like understanding the basic idea of a conversation or text, or for short and casual conversations with people who don’t understand each other’s native language. The tricky part is figuring out when translation apps will work for you, and when you’re better off ditching them.
What are some of your options?
There are an ever-growing number of translation apps available. These are two of the most popular options available.
- Google Translate
Available for both Android and iOS app markets, Google Translate is one of the more comprehensive free translation apps available. You can type in text for it to translate, use the voice-to-text option to both enter the original text and hear the translated result, write text with a stylus, or even upload a photo with text you’d like translated. Google Translate will then attempt to decipher the text and provide the output in around 70 different languages.
iTranslate is also available for both the Android and iOS markets. Similar to Google Translate, iTranslate offers the options of text-to-speech, and normal input translation, but it also offers Romanization. This feature actually converts unfamiliar characters for easier understanding. iTranslate will also work in around 70 different languages and is one of the most popular translation apps to date.
When are they beneficial?
- Short, basic translations. If you see a short piece of text and want to get a general idea of what the meaning is, translation apps are pretty handy. That’s not to say they’ll be without error, but for texts that don’t include a lot of complexity, you should be able to at least understand the gist of what is being communicated.
- If you are traveling and want to ask where the nearest bathroom or airport is, translation apps are typically equipped to handle these basic questions. In fact, most will even communicate the question out loud for you in the target language so that the person you’re asking will understand what you want to say. If you’ve got a willing conversation partner, he or she may even enter the response in the app to have the answer read back aloud to you in your native tongue.
Google Translate (English > Spanish)
iTranslate (English > Spanish)
When should you ditch them?
- Translation apps should never take the place of actual translators when you need something translated accurately and/or professionally. A quick Internet search for “funny translation errors” should let you know there are plenty of examples when hiring a professional translation company would have saved that business a lot of headache (and money!). If you want something translated well, don’t settle for a translation app. Remember, most of the time, you’re just getting the gist of that meaning, and not the most correct translation!
- The longer the translation, the more numerous the errors. If you’re trying to use a translation app to read a novel (or translate your own), for example, you’re going to miss out on a lot more than you end up understanding. Most translation software won’t understand cultural nuances, idiomatic expressions, or even be grammatically correct all of the time. This can cause a lot of problems with longer texts.
Have you used a translation app to translate a quick phrase or to understand the gist of a short text? Which one do you prefer, and why?
Social media has quickly become one of the top ways that businesses market their products and services. Many are also seeing the benefit of marketing to their customers in Spanish. Now, companies are combining the two: social media in Spanish. Why? Check out these numbers…
According to a recent Nielsen report, Hispanic buying power is estimated to grow by 50% between 2012 and 2015. Currently, this population’s buying power is $1 trillion. Prefer a visual? This infographic from Nielsen further shows the current usage trends of social media by Latinos.
So, what can your business do to make strides in marketing to Latinos? The answer depends on what social media networks you utilize to reach your customers. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs are outstanding resources for Latinos looking for information on products and services. Many will want to have more information before making an informed decision about a purchase. Therefore, the first step is to know where your target customers hang out.
Second, once you have an idea of the platforms you’ll utilize to reach this population, consider the ways in which you’ll market your business to Latinos or other ethnic populations. Trivia, giveaways, reviews by bloggers and consistent outreach via social media platforms will allow you to begin to form a strong relationship between you and your customers. Language is the first step, and it’s vital to get it right. Proper translation of your materials is critical to making sure your message is received in a positive way. Along with translation or transcreation of your materials, knowledge of trends and culture will take you even further.
Finally, a key for future growth is tracking the return on investment (ROI). Are you noticing a positive response on your Spanish–language Facebook page or Twitter feed? Do you have more followers on Instagram due to publishing images that capture the attention of a Latino audience? Once you evaluate what works for your business, keep doing it! Consistency and relationship building is key in reaching consumers in their own native language.
Still need more information? Check out our 4 Translation Mistakes to Avoid in Marketing in a Foreign Language or listen to our Interview with an Expert with Natasha Pongonis of Nativa (formerly Social Media Spanish and DK Web Consulting). Natasha mentions the types of social media marketing campaigns most requested by clients, as well as 3 tips for companies to reach Latino consumers.
Have you ever come across a translation done so poorly that you wonder who could have possibly approved the text and sent it for publication? Don’t worry – you’re not alone! If you’re anything like we are, you’ve probably kept an eye out (either intentionally or not!) for poorly translated text.
There are pages and pages of search results displaying websites dedicated to such translations. We wanted to add one of our own examples to the mix.
We took this photo near a chairlift in a mountainous region of Brazil.
As you can imagine, safety is of pretty high importance when riding a chairlift in the mountains. But here, we’re reminded to “have fun with safety” instead of being alerted that there’s an actual safety warning to follow, per the Portuguese text in bold. Obviously, the English reader will still get the idea of what’s being communicated, but we thought, since this is regarding mountain-height chairlift safety and all, the government probably could have taken the translation a bit more seriously and ensured the quality of the translation.
No matter how short the text may be, hiring a reputable translation company can save a lot of the headache (and potential monetary loss if the blunder is severe enough) that can come with having this type of mistake in your own material, as you can guarantee the quality of the translation without worry. Dependable translation companies work to ensure their translators are not only qualified to do the work, but will take additional steps to have this work proofread by other qualified linguists for the best possible results. Your peace of mind is definitely worth the investment.
So, what translation blunders have you encountered recently? Let us know in the comments below!