Translation and language are poised to become the international marketing issues of the next decade. Studies show that US companies may be lagging in global performance because of a failure to translate material correctly and efficiently for worldwide markets. That’s why this month’s Language Lines will deal with the most important element of any successful global communication strategy: translation.
Our feature section covers how to save time and money by translating accurately, explains the crucial importance of multi-lingual website content, and presents the pitfalls of machine translation.
In our “Language Links” section, we give a quick overview of important news of interest to international businesses, such as changes in website ranking criteria, and how new technology is changing the way we learn foreign languages.
Indeed, in the US, we often hear that European businesspeople are fluent in several languages. Is this really true? Find out in next month’s issue of Language Lines, where we’ll take a look at language and business in Europe.
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II. This Month's Feature: Translation and Corporate Communication
Imagine you needed new written material, in English, for your company website, or for your next advertising campaign. Given the choice between clear, crisp and convincing copy or a hopeless muddle of grammatically incorrect nonsense, wouldn’t you choose the former – even at a higher budgetary cost?
Of course you would. Yet it is surprising how many firms settle for incoherent copy when buying translations. Poor-quality writing in any language can bring about a multitude of problems in the business world, from projecting a bad image to facing lawsuits. And the cost of “picking up the pieces” after a botched translation job can be much higher than doing it right the first time.
In fact, a recent survey carried out by Global Information Management provider SDL demonstrated that four out of five international businesses suffer because of errors in document and website translation.
To help your company reduce the stress of choosing a qualified language services provider, Language Translation Inc. is pleased to offer a free 28-page brochure which answers all the right questions about translation. The document covers key concepts such as thinking internationally, reducing translation cost without sacrificing quality, and the importance of using translation professionals who understand your company’s field of activity.
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While it is difficult to estimate how much money is spent on translation services in the USA, one thing is certain: language services are increasingly necessary to compete in the global marketplace.
”Although English is the language of business, consumers in other countries have come to expect that brochures, Web sites and other forms of communication will be delivered in their own languages,” explained Ben Martin, former vice-president of global content for Denver software firm J.D. Edwards, at the “Translation Summit” held at Brigham Young University on March 12th, 2007.
For example, with the arrival of broadband services, China will soon represent the world’s largest group of Internet users. But to reach Chinese consumers through the Web, it is necessary to provide information in the country’s native languages.
This principle should, of course, be applied to all international markets. In fact, in its major report “Can't Read, Won't Buy”, the globalization research firm Common Sense Advisory demonstratesthat most buyers prefer to purchase online in their own language -- and in some countries the majority of consumers will even pay more for a product presented with information in their own language.
Automated machine translators are widely available, and many companies are tempted to use them. After all, they are simple – and free. And some businesspeople may think that their 75%-85% accuracy rate doesn’t sound that bad.
Think again. A 75%-85% accuracy rate may be a “passing grade,” but if the 15%-25% of words that are poorly translated represent gibberish or say the opposite of what you want to say, we can safely say the translation will fail to communicate your message whatsoever.
Lately companies and organizations have started to publish press releases touting new, translated versions of their websites. At close examination, though, these web pages often provide no more than a link to a machine translation service.
For example, the state of Maine recently announced a new portal which includes French and Spanish translation. Before the site displays translations, however, a vaguely comprehensible disclaimer pops up to inform the reader that the translated content is in no way legally binding, nor even totally reliable.
That’s a good thing for the state of Maine. Because if it were, a person could move to Maine tomorrow and demand information about “making deals” and “renting employees,” since the French translation clearly says this is possible, provided one just fill out the correct…”shapes.”
As you can see, machine translation still has a ways to go. Technology helps today’s translators work faster and better, but human knowledge is still needed to provide 100% accuracy.
III. Language Links - Around the Web:
This new section will give you quick links to some of the most pertinent articles on the Web in the fields of language and international business. At work or over the weekend, stay informed on these essential topics with “Language Links.”
Less than twenty-five percent of American companies provide a consistent online customer approach in multiple languages, according to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Global Information Management specialists SDL.
“Compared to European marketers, half as many American marketers say that their brand values are well represented in all of their supported languages,”” reports SDL in a recent press release.
Language use, translation issues and cultural differences are cited as the main barriers to successful global brand management. The study concludes that companies must improve localization processes, technology platforms, and communication with local offices in order to be more competitive overseas.
What are your ideas on this question? We’d love to hear from you at email@example.com.
In the past, finding a qualified teacher was a barrier to learning certain foreign tongues. Now Internet technology is transforming the way people study languages, and opening up the possibility of learning any language anywhere.
Increasingly, learners are turning to podcasts and online discussions to master Mandarin or to study Spanish. Companies are sprouting up to offer premium language learning services, and often provide free language learning aids to help get started.
Although these new possibilities are convenient and motivating, do not forget that learning to speak any language fluently is a time-consuming process which can take up to ten years – whatever method you use.
Will Google dominate the international search engine market…forever? Not if France and Germany have anything to say about it. Both countries are working on new search engines.
The European Union just authorized the German government to subsidize the Theseus research project in hopes of someday competing against the American search engine giant.
Meanwhile, the French Quaero search engine project is still very much in the works.
German and French researchers were originally working together on Quaero, but split up over different approaches to the venture.
Internet media specialist NetRatings has announced it will no longer publish rankings based on the “page view” parameter. The company explained that new measurements, such as total time spent on sites per month, give a more accurate view of Internet use.
“The move drew a mixed response from online advertising experts,” reports Louis Hau in a Forbes.com article entitled Is The Page View Dead? Some feel it is too soon to bury the page view, arguing that new measurements run on new technology that is not yet used by most websites.