A tale of poor taste: Why professional language translation is critical to the success of your company

Frustrated-womanFlamenco music, raging bull fights, flawless beaches, elaborate castles, Gothic cathedrals and world-famous paella. It’s everything you’d expect in Spain. But what about “scum”-flavored gelato?

Let us explain. We recently heard about a tiny shop in Salamanca, Spain, nestled in a cozy spot off the beaten path—and it was advertising just that. Is this “scum” gelato a trendy new flavor not yet introduced in the United States? Probably not.

We know what happened. The “scum”-flavored gelato was a result of a translation gone wrong. Someone at the shop unknowingly selected the wrong English word to describe their tasty dessert.

While comical, this small-scale experience demonstrates the negative impact of insourcing language translation work.  To avoid this mistake, we want to help you understand why outsourcing your language translation projects to an experienced language service provider is critical to the success of your global business ventures.

Leaving a bad taste in customers’ mouths

To an extent, we can understand the impetus and justification for turning to in-house resources for language translation. To save money, some companies are relying on employees who lack sufficient training in linguistics, or they’re utilizing free online translation software that simply won’t cut it. The skills and knowledge necessary to accurately translate content can only be performed by a seasoned linguist who has a deep understanding of the culture and language of your target audience.

While it may seem like a sensible solution at the time, what these companies don’t realize is that insourcing can actually cost them even more in the long run. In-house resources generally have other duties outside of translations that consume most of their work week; therefore they may not have adequate time to research the latest trends in regards to the subject they are translating.  In other words, they may have a good amount of knowledge about their specific product, but have they spent adequate time researching how the competitor is reaching customers in that language?

By working with a professional language service provider, you can avoid tedious backtracking due to mistakes. As in the example of the little shop in Spain, it could cause foreign customers to turn away in disgust.

A perfect blend of good intentions—and bad blunders

Small gelato shops in Spain certainly aren’t the only well-meaning offenders. In 1972, American Motors attempted to market its car, the “Matador,” in Puerto Rico based on its image of strength and courage.  However, in Puerto Rico the word “matador” translates to “killer.” In a country with a high traffic fatality rate, it’s no surprise the launch of the car in Puerto Rico was an unsuccessful venture. Additionally, the translation error was an embarrassment for American Motors and left customers with a negative image of the brand.

More recently, the American brewer Coors created a campaign in Spain and lost a lot of fizz when their slogan “Turn it loose” translated incorrectly as “Suffer from diarrhea.” (Umm, I think I’ll just have an ice water, please.) The translation blunder made the front page of international newspapers and caused quite a headache for Coors Brewing Company. This could have been avoided by outsourcing to a language service provider that understands cultural expectations and consistent messaging in different languages.

The secret ingredient: Outsourced language translation

Whether you need to translate a document, develop localized product information or transcreate a compelling advertising campaign for another country, it is most effective to use a professional translation service that provides reliable and precise translations to position your company in the best light possible.

Professional translation services offer involvement at a local level from experienced linguists who truly understand the market nuances and language—because they are native to the target country.

Again returning to our example, imagine the positive effects of an in-country American native providing a translation for the gelato flavor instead. Surely it would have resonated with English-speaking customers. This small example is representative of a similar issue on a larger scale.

The growing need for language translation

The stakes are higher today than they ever have been thanks to social media. Word of mouth has truly become “world of mouth,” making it even more imperative that you understand your global customers before penetrating new markets. If you don’t, your well-intended but mistranslated message could go viral before you can say “two scoops.”

Professional language translation arms your company with the ability to market to potential clients in their native language and allow them to feel confident they have proper information and a good understanding of available products and services. You can rest assured that the translation quality is superior, and be spared the time and expense of possibly needing to rework your internal translation because it missed the mark.

The importance of professional language translation services will continue to grow annually as international business booms. To ensure messaging consistency and to protect your brand, you’ll want to choose wisely when it comes to language translation.

It’s time to break through the language barrier, improve your overall business and begin your journey on the road to global success. Let us know if we can help you take the first step in making that a reality!

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