Translation Mistakes to Avoid When Marketing in a Foreign Language


If you are interested in reaching new target markets abroad, or those right here in the U.S. who primarily speak a language other than English, you’ve likely considered translating some of your marketing content. If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry! Here are four translation mistakes to avoid when marketing to a foreign language consumer group.

1. Using free translation tools
In a world where everyone is used to receiving things within an instant, it’s easy to assume translations should be immediately accessible, too; we get it! While free automated translation tools can be okay to use when it comes to some phrases, and can be handy when trying to get the gist of a statement or paragraph, they are not meant for professional translation work.

Your marketing materials likely contain idioms, colloquial language, or phrases with words that could have more than one potential meaning. Machines simply do not have the capabilities to translate 100% accurately or to understand the nuances of language. When approaching a new target demographic, your materials will likely be their first impression of your company, so making it a positive and professional one is key.

2. Not finalizing your source text before sending it off for translation
Having your materials translated is an investment (and one that is certainly worthwhile if you’re reaching out to a new target demographic!). However, there’s no reason it needs to cost more than it has to! Making multiple changes can be costly. You won’t always be able to avoid making changes mid-process but when possible, try to have everything finalized in your source text before you send it off for translation so as to avoid extra costs for updates.

3. Translating names and terms that should be left in the source language
Never translate the name of your business, your trademarked products or proper names that pertain to your business and/or industry. Many times these terms are not commonly known in other languages and may just confuse your customers more. Keep a list of trademarked names and terms that you wish to keep in English so that your translation vendor does not mistakenly attempt to translate these terms.

4. Not localizing your materials
The localization process is a great way to take your translations a step further. Localization ensures that the language, images, layout and more, related to your brand and message, are engaging for your target markets and not offensive or inappropriate in any way. The images and design of your materials are just as important as the text you get translated.

Have you witnessed the consequences of one of these four translation mistakes? Do you have other tips on good practices for translation and localization of marketing materials? Let us know!

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