Lack of translation causes outrage?

When asked “why translate?”, the standard answers include

  1. to provide better customer service, because
  2. people prefer to read information in their own language, and
  3. people’s native language is best suited to bring important information across.

Now, point (b) (“people prefer to read information in their own language“) is really a nice way of saying “(most/many/some?) people really do not like reading anything in a different language.”

Tweeting in the “wrong language”

Recently (Nov 2018), a well-known German company put out a harmless tweet promoting one of their products. A German company tweeting in German to drive traffic to their German-language blog post.

German tweet in English channel

German tweet in English channel

However, this company also happens to be a major international player. And the ad “leaked” into their international channel. Guess what happened next?

Right. People got offended. Just because of the language of the tweet. Some people really do not like to see anything but their own language, namely English in this case. Even a non-English ad wrinkles their feathers and they do not hesitate to voice their outrage:

Users demand translation

Users demand translation

Since this is a major international corporation, the blog post is available in multiple languages. Of course. And the Twitter channel of the company contains almost exclusively English-language content. As you would expect.

Avoid linguistic outrage

Granted, the linguistic “outrage” is likely just a means to other political ends. The two-month lag between the initial tweet and the outrage would seem to be a prime indicator. However, people apparently think that pointing out such a linguistic flub (if that is what it is) can stain the company’s image. And that alone makes this significant.

So, companies venturing into foreign markets ideally need to:

  1. translate their material
  2. make sure that the translated material is front and center for their foreign customers

We can help with the first step and translate your material.

You may also like:

Doesn’t everybody speak English?

Linguistic diversity in the U.S.

— Philipp Strazny

Request a quote!