Category Archives: Uncategorized

Translation and Localization for your business: Building trust among consumers

Last week we shared our first piece of a new series on our blog entitled Interview with an Expert, with Natasha Pongonis of Spanish Social Media. This week we want to expand on some of the key points from the interview and point out ways companies can build trust among multilingual consumer bases via translation and localization.

A strong theme throughout our interview with Natasha, and one that comes up often when talking about the best way to reach multilingual consumers, is trust. Building trust is not only important with an English-speaking client base, but it can make or break a business’ success with a client base whose first language is one other than English. For practical purposes, we’ll mention Spanish speakers as the consumer group in our commentary.

Trust comes in many forms, but trust among consumers is vital to a company’s performance in the long term. So, what does trust look like when dealing with multilingual clients? In a recent New York Times article, Marketing Tips for Reaching Hispanic Americans, Kelly McDonald, President of McDonald Marketing, mentioned that call times for Latino callers were longer than those of non-Latinos. She adds, “Hispanics are more relationship-oriented and less transactional. They want to feel comfortable with the sales or customer-service person and feel like they got the time they needed to gather information and get all their questions answered. Their customs and norm is you should be polite and that means spending more time with a customer.” McDonald touches on a very key aspect of dealing with Latino consumers. She understands the time it takes to build a relationship with this group and deliver quality service, which builds trust.

So, how can translation and localization also build this trust for your company? It’s not enough to gather multicultural sales data and analyze where your largest group of Latino consumers live and shop. This information won’t do much for your business unless you can execute a strategy to really reach the group and build a relationship based on trust. Translation of website material, marketing materials, etc. will only take a company so far. The content to be translated must also be localized for this group. In translating text that has not been localized, a company takes a risk by assuming that its audience will understand and connect with the concepts portrayed in the translation. However, some concepts and ideas may not resonate with a native Spanish speaker, as they do with native English speakers. One can’t rely on the same marketing strategies for both linguistic and cultural markets. By localizing content, you take the time to adapt it for a specific market. Such content must be tangible to the consumer and relevant to one’s lifestyle.

An example of this is General Mills and the Que Rica Vida campaign. By launching a quarterly magazine and a website aimed at Latina moms, General Mills built trust by dishing out advice on education, health, holidays and family, four key points that are important to mothers and Latina consumers. In 2008 General Mills partnered with Univision to reach the market on television by launching a series of ads that mixed traditional content with popular culture. Instead of utilizing current ads and marketing materials used with native English-speaking consumers, General Mills sought ways to build trust and a following among Latino consumers via translation and localization of content.

You might say that General Mills has a larger budget and more resources than many companies who wish to reach this market, but translation and content localization don’t have to break the bank. By investing in marketing to a multilingual, multicultural group, your company makes an investment, which will see returns if executed properly. As Natasha mentioned in our interview, companies should be sure to allocate the same amount of budget for a multilingual marketing campaign as they do for their usual English-language marketing campaigns, especially as Latino buying power booms in the U.S. This means taking the time to understand the target consumer group and fully reaching out to it by employing meaningful and informative content. Employ a team of internal and external experts in order to come up with a marketing strategy for your next multicultural marketing campaign.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Customer Service, Thoughts on Translation, Uncategorized

Conveying a passion: Translating sports in Brazil (an excerpt)

This week I thought I would share a bit of my latest article that came out in this month’s Multilingual Magazine. Soccer has been a long-time passion for my family, and as I work in the T&I industry, language is obviously another. So, why not tie in the sport to the work going on for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil? Here’s an excerpt from my article “Conveying a passion: Translating sports in Brazil”.

Sports are a favorite pastime for many Brazilians, as well as for many people of various countries in the world, of course, and soccer is often the international sport of choice. Soccer fans are gearing up for the upcoming Copa do Mundo to be held in Brazil, as it was named host country for the 2014 World Cup by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) president Joseph S. Blatter in October 2007 from its headquarters in Zurich, and aficionados worldwide will be ready to show off their own national team colors.

Twelve cities are set to host the games, including Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Cuiabá, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Salvador, São Paulo, Recife, and of course, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s most famous city. The first match will take place in São Paulo on June 12, 2014. For now, some soccer stadiums are undergoing renovations, while others are being rebuilt or new ones constructed. According to FIFA, there are approximately 23,306 workers assisting in the construction, however, as of late, many criticize the FIFA officials due to the slow progress of construction and transportation infrastructures. In fact, as recently as March of this year, Jérôme Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general, formally apologized to Brazil’s sports minister, Aldo Rebelo. The apology came after a statement he made was translated incorrectly, according to Valcke. He said, “In French, ‘se donner uncoup de pied aux fesses’ means only ‘to speed up the pace’ and unfortunately this expression was translated into Portuguese using much stronger words.” However, as the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo mentions, this phrase literally means “give a kick in the butt.” Many Brazilians are unhappy with what the secretary general called a “misinterpretation in the translation.”

Gaffes in translation and interpretation are not unheard of in the World Cup. In fact, globalization Group, Inc., published its top World Cup Translation Bloopers on its blog, and two of the most grievous mistakes occurred in the 2010 Cup in South Africa. Often these types of bloopers refer to a certain phrase or word that was mistranslated, but at a press conference for the Slovenian team, FIFA erroneously provided a Slovak interpreter. The mistake was quickly resolved, but the Slovenian team did not find the error humorous. Later on, a Slovene player’s words
were misinterpreted when midfielder Andrej Komac said “we play to win.” The interpreter at the press conference stated “we are going to win,” which brought forth a response from the US goalkeeper, Tim Howard, who retorted, “Talk is cheap.” This obviously misconstrued statement from the Slovene player demonstrates the indirect power translators and interpreters have in large scale events like these, and walking the fine line of neutrality can be difficult with so much pressure involved.


Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism estimates that two million jobs will be created by the soccer championship’s events in 2014. Several translation agencies such as CMG Translations are requesting résumés for English, French, Mandarin and Spanish to Portuguese translators, as they hope to handle some of the translation work that will result from the World Cup, and later, for the Olympics. Another company already working with Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism is Education First. However, the company is focusing less on translation, and more on teaching hospitality and tourism professionals to speak English and Spanish through a partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Fundação Roberto Marinho called Olá Turista. Via its online English school, Englishtown, the company claims to be preparing 80,000 Brazilians per year, including restaurateurs, tour guides and taxi drivers. The company will also provide language instruction for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games to be held in Sochi, Russia. Many other companies are approaching the Minsitry of Tourism due to its posted summary of professional opportunities related to translation.

As Brazil continues to prepare for the World Cup, and later the Olympics in 2016, professional translators and interpreters will be curious to see the marketing materials, press conferences and more translated and interpreted for sports fans worldwide. It seems that many who perhaps do not even live in Brazil will have the opportunity to take part in rendering messages of the much anticipated tournaments for members of their own linguistic communities. These translations will not only reveal a country’s love for soccer, but also unite the world around a single passion. Although the Cup is only two years from now, there still appears to be plenty of work to go around.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Marketing your website to a global community: Transcreating your brand

You may have heard me talk about “transcreation” before. It’s a term that I adopted from a colleague and friend, Joe Kutchera, author of Latino Link: Building Brands Online with Hispanic Communities and Content. I reviewed Joe’s book in Multilingual Magazine last year and one of the chapters that intrigued me most was Chapter 8: “Localizing your website for Latinos”. Ok, I admit that I was intrigued by every chapter, but this one really stood out to me.

Many of my clients request translation and localization of their print materials, but they don’t always take into account that the way most of their clients find them is via the internet. Yet, a lot still have not translated the text on their site, nor localized the images and language used to fit their multilingual and multicultural target markets. I like to tell my clients that we want to “transcreate” their sites and materials, not just translate and localize them. Yes, both of these are part of the transcreation process, but it’s important that companies like mine offer their services in a way that allows our clients’ marketing materials to stand out and maintain the heart and message of the brand itself. This means that not only are we translating the text and making sure that images, colors and other visual aspects are appropriate for the target market audience, but we also take it a step further and have our in-country reviewers (i.e. reviewers that look for certain elements in the produced material that will ensure that the brand’s message carries over not only to those who speak the foreign language on U.S. soil, but also in the country or countries where the language is spoken).

A basic example of this is the too-often seen image of a man sleeping by a cactus on anything that has to do with Mexico. Many times in the U.S. we see this image on Mexican restaurant signage. However, for most Mexican nationals, this image is offensive, as it promotes a sense of laziness in the culture that could not be further from the truth. In-country reviewers would never allow such an image to appear on marketing materials for a company who wants to do business in Mexico or in the U.S. with the Latino market.

Another element is the language used. Sadly, many people are too quick to integrate a plug-in on their site that allows visitors to click on their language and suddenly the page is translated into what claims to be another language. However, many of these plug-ins are simply electronic translations that are pulling information from all over the web to match up words and produce a text within seconds that is mostly incomprehensible. This type of plug-in shows multilingual visitors that the company does not care enough about its site and marketing to take the time to reach them properly. They will know that the information was not written for them, and most will not bother to try to decipher the jumble that remains once they click. Think about this carefully….yes, it’s free and quick, but would you feel that a company cared about you as a customer if you could not even read their site coherently? I would not, and most people I know would not.

Take the time to get a quote from a professional language service and see what you can do to reach out to a global community. You’d be surprised how much more traffic will be driven to your site, and the market you will attract just by reaching out and transcreating your brand.

I’ll leave you with something tweeted by a skilled translator recently…oh, the irony.

“So sad to have to translate stuff like this […] ‘To help you navigate our website, please use Google translate, a third-party service that provides automated computer translations'”.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Google Translate: When to Use It and When to Hire Professionals

It would be remiss to say that Google is not one of the handiest tools out there. In fact, how many of us don’t use “Googling” as a verb these days. However, just because the search engine is phenomenal, this doesn’t mean that Google is infallible or that it can do anything you wish it to do. This includes translation.

First, I’ll explain a bit about how Google works to translate phrases that people input and how it turns the “translations” around so quickly. Remember, Google is the most widely used search engine worldwide. Therefore, it has an infinite number of resources available instantly and can pull from all of them in a matter of seconds. So, when one goes to Google Translate to see what a phrase, paragraph, website or document means in another language, inputs the text and hits the “Translate” button, the internet-based tool pulls information from sources all over the world wide web to populate terms into a somewhat coherent (but many times not) “translation”. I use the term translation in quotations, because these are not true translations to the effect that those of us in the industry appreciate the term.

Yes, when you want to get the quick gist of a text or phrase, Google Translate might be the simplest and quickest route, but when you really need an accurate and trusted translation, Google is more a foe than your friend. So, beware—what is free is not always best. You get what you pay for (or in this case, don’t pay for).

Here are some instances in which you could use Google Translate and times when it’s best left up to the professionals.

Simple messages (think text messages or informal emails)

Yes, you could go to a translation vendor for these, but if you just want an idea of what the message entails, then you could use the free service from Google. However, if the email is more important to you (either for business or a message that is important for any other reason), it might be in your best interest to contact a professional service.

Ok, I admit it. That’s about the extent that I would suggest using Google Translate, or any other free “translation” tool online. Technology is a wonderful thing, but anyone who uses technology on a day-to-day basis knows that it can be our biggest enemy at times. This often makes me think of the hilarious text messages that are produced from the auto-correct features on smart phones. So, just as there are times that an electronic translator might be a good tool, it is simply that. A tool. It cannot possibly perform all the work that a human brain can.

Adam Wooten of Deseret News writes, “Google Translate and other free online translation tools can be great for instant, informal translation. When expectations are properly set, particularly for low-value text, unedited machine translation can be quite useful. However, when a user overestimates machine translation capabilities, the results can be confusing at best.”

Marketing and informational texts are better left to professionals

Think about the type of phrases we use in marketing materials or that you read daily that include catchy phrases, idioms and colloquialisms. Machines are not apt to pick these up very well. However, the audience who reads the text will know right away if there are errors in your documents or materials within seconds. We often tell our clients that a translation should read just as if it were originally written in the target language. This way, the reader feels like it was written for him or her.

Take the example that Wooten gives in his article “Google Translate has great uses, disastrous misuses”. He tells about a Moscow-based company that paid big bucks for the translation of web pages that were really just a rough machine translation. He adds, “If this marketing company and its clients had expected machine translation, the news would have been acceptable. Unfortunately, the firm and its customers were expecting high-quality translations that captured the nuances of the original marketing text. The need to pay for a complete retranslation by professional human translators was a bitter pill to swallow.”

This happens more than one might think. For every one phrase that a machine can output correctly, there are probably three that have errors. When in doubt, call a professional.

Technical texts should always be translated professionally

My company often gets calls from clients who wish to have technical manuals or medical documents translated. I cringe to think that someone might go to a free tool online to translate something so important, but I know that it happens. Either way, I thank our clients for choosing us because I know that they care enough about the text and what they do to use a true service that handles projects with a quality assurance process (with translators, proofreaders and project managers).

If you work for a company that uses technical manuals in a factory, for example, you would not want to be unsure of the translation of your manuals in the event that an employee loses a finger because s/he performed the job as set out in the “translated” manual. If you are a physician and you give your patient instructions on how to take his/her medication, you would never forgive yourself if your patient mistakenly took 11 times a day instead of once a day (“once” in Spanish is “eleven”, however “once” would not translate to “eleven” from English to Spanish). Mistakes like these can lead to life-threatening mistakes. And yes, this does happen.

Luckily, there are many who recognize the need for human translation in technical and professional settings. In 2009, Mayor Bloomberg of New York City mandated that pharmacy chains offer translated prescription labels to the top foreign languages found in NYC. However, after a survey by Julia Tse at Sharif and Dartmouth College, many of the pharmacies were found to be using machine translations to get by. Anne Harding of Reuters wrote about Tse’s survey, “Tse looked at 286 pharmacies in the Bronx and found that 75 percent provided labels translated into Spanish. Of those pharmacies providing translations, 86 percent used a computer program to translate the labels, while 11 percent used staff members and three percent employed professional translators. A 50-percent error rate was documented in 76 of the computer-generated labels, including 32 incomplete translations and six major spelling or grammatical mistakes.” What we don’t know is how many of these errors caused problems (or worse) for the patients. When it comes to health care, as well as other industries, translation that is professionally performed can mean long-term monetary savings for all. Having prescription labels and other texts translated professionally the first time is a preventive action for future mishaps.

Do you have an example of a poor machine translation? One that caused problems for clients or patients?

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“Obamacare” and LEPs: How does the law upheld by the Supreme Court affect the translation/interpretation industry?

What a week it’s been in politics! Now that the Health Care Law has finally gone before the Supreme Court, which upheld it on a 5 to 4 vote, those of us who work in medical translation and interpretation on a daily basis want to know: What does this mean for us?!

For most Americans, the Health Care Law has been confusing from the start. However, imagine how confusing it could be for those millions of Americans who have limited English proficiency (LEP). This can be even more confusing for them. What are their rights? First, we have to look at what the rights have been so far for these individuals when it comes to language access in health care.

Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Executive Order 13166, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” (42 U.S.C. Section 2000d). In short, any organization, whether a clinic, hospital or other health care facility that receives federal funding must comply with this executive order by providing language access (free of charge) to LEP individuals. This is also true in areas of law and other fields, but for the sake of this post, we’ll stick to the health care issue at hand.

Unfortunately, many health care facilities will try to get around this law by asking patients to bring a friend or family member who is bilingual, or many times, they’ll have someone on staff come in to “interpret” for LEP patients. For those who work as interpreters and language agency owners or project managers, we know that this is a bigger problem, as those individuals are usually not trained in the medical terminology needed to carry out the appointment, nor are they trained in the fine skill of interpretation. Much of these attempts to weasel one’s way out of providing professional, quality service stems from the fact that these facilities have to foot the bill. Louis F. Provenzano, Jr., CEO of Language Line Services wrote in a 2009 blog post, “Because Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers have not provided reimbursement for language services, the services themselves have suffered, along with the patients who need them,” in his blog post in October 2009.

Don’t get me wrong. Many, many hospitals and doctors offices DO comply with Title VI;, however, many, many more do not. According to the National Center on Immigration Policy, LEP individuals accounted for 25.2 million (9%) of the population in 2010, although large concentrations of these demographics were attributed to states like California, Texas, New York, Florida, Hawaii, New Mexico and Massachusetts, among others. More and more states are seeing a rising number in minority populations whose first language is not English. In fact, although the Latino population has had steady growth in the past ten years, just recently, Asian Americans became the fastest-growing minority in the U.S.

So, what does all this have to do with language access in the health care debate?

One of the biggest issues in the political discussion on health care has been cutting costs and allowing all to receive health care and be insured. Although we may not see health care insurance covering the cost of language access for LEP patients anytime soon, we should see money saved by both insurance companies and health care facilities that provide professional language services to patients, as many more individuals will be able to go to the doctor and receive the care they need. Those who do not provide these services, but rather, rely on untrained individuals or (even more sadly) no one at all, will see their costs go up and possibly skyrocket, because miscommunications often lead to more doctor’s visits and adverse events that could have otherwise been avoided by providing proper language access to their LEP patients.

One section of the law discusses the implementation of effective approaches and specifically identifies “the ongoing, accurate, and timely collection and evaluation of data on health care disparities on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status.” This data will be invaluable to many of us and it will be interesting to see if the information on patients’ primary languages affects the way that health care providers are reimbursed for offering professional language access services to patients.

Although up until now health care providers have not reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid, we may see this change as a result of the passing of the Health Care Law. Provenzano argues, “Ultimately, one of the best arguments for Medicare reimbursement for language services is that the services themselves represent the linguistic equivalent of preventive care. By spending modestly up front to communicate effectively with LEP patients, Medicare—as well as Medicaid and private insurers—can save significantly through the prevention of costly errors.”

For those of us in the interpretation and translation industry, we will see a larger need from our clients who require on-site and telephonic oral interpretation, as well as the translation of vaccination records, consent forms, insurance policies, prescriptions, medical charts, etc. We’ll be on the edge of our seats to see what the next several years hold in store for all of us as Americans, especially LEP patients and we who provide professional language access to them every day.

For more information on LEP rights, please visit

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized