Your organization is expanding internationally. You’re responsible for making sure that the translation of your carefully crafted English content doesn’t end up reading like those laughably bad assembly instructions that we have all tried to decipher.

The inclination of many is to have their overseas colleagues translate and localize the content. Decades of experience have taught us that this endeavor will quickly exceed what your colleagues can do in their “free time.” So how should you approach these projects and how do you know which is the right way?

It should never be apparent to the end users that the content they are reading or the product they are holding has been translated into their language from another. A properly localized product should have the look and feel of having been created specifically for the target market.

In most cases, using machine translations or non-professional resources such as bilingual family members, acquaintances, or co-workers (even those overseas) will not produce the translation quality you desire.

What are Translation and Localization?

Before we go further, let’s define these two terms.

Translation is the communication of meaning from one language to another. “Translation” and “interpretation” are often used interchangeably, but they are different. This is very important: translation refers to written content, whereas interpretation refers to spoken content.

Localization is the process of adapting a product, website, or piece of content for multiple cultures or localities so that it seems natural to a particular region. This typically involves translating written content as well as modifying images, symbols, and other culturally specific elements.

It may also involve going beyond word-for-word translation and revising some messages or sayings so they convey the intended meaning, rather than the literal one. For instance, business cliches like “break down silos” or “capture the low-hanging fruit” are easily understood in English, but likely won’t make sense when translated into another language. Likewise, a website that shows stock images of a bustling Times Square make it obvious that the site was originally intended for users in the United States.

Why Your Overseas Office Shouldn't Manage Your Translation Projects

You might be tempted to use your overseas office to localize your product. They speak the language after all, so it should be easy, right? The temptation is even greater if you have an in-country subsidiary or distributor offering to do the translation for you. While it is true that these options may be the best solution in some cases, it can also lead to other problems:

  • Less control from headquarters

  • Difficulty in project coordination and communication

  • Unauthorized changes to the content

  • Risks to schedule

  • Incorrect translations (they are likely not professional translators)

If nothing else, the time zones will be an issue because you may wait an entire day to communicate about a single subject, which could delay project launches. Also, when you send your materials to an overseas office or distributor, you create an opportunity for them to modify both your content and message. The in-country team may have different priorities from your U.S.-based team, resulting in changes to branding, use of terminology, and perhaps features that have been disabled or removed from the U.S. version.

You might not become aware of these modifications until a problem arises or someone translates the in-country translations back to English. One client that took this route was alarmed to discover that their foreign office had deleted all contact information for in-country technical support and instead substituted a comment instructing the consumer to contact the re-seller with any problems.

Only a highly-skilled translator can provide quality translation and localization projects that are consistently accurate and stylistically natural.

LanguageLine® Can Help

LanguageLine Translation Services® imagines a world without language or cultural barriers. LanguageLine created the language access industry in 1982. Our expert linguists handle 64+ million interactions annually in more than 240 languages. We are authorities on eLearning and the translation and localization of remote training content. Our content quality is 100 percent assured. We are most proud of the fact that our client-satisfaction rate is a standard-setting 98.5 percent.

It all starts with a conversation. Please contact us via our website, by calling 800-878-8523, or by emailing translation@languageline.com. We would like to learn more about the language or cultural challenge you may be facing.

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