Why Should I Translate?

If English is considered the ‘language of business’ around the globe, then why should I translate my documents?” This is a question that I have been asked frequently over the years. Here are a few answers and some questions to consider.

The Target Audience

I can speak about as much German as I remember from high school language class and I would be hard pressed to read it with more than a rudimentary understanding, if that. So even though English is the “language of business” your target audience may not comprehend or even read your materials.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can my distributors better arm themselves with knowledge of our products if the sales materials we provide are in their local language?
  • Do my employees fully understand our mission and business goals, or even their contracts and benefits packages, when they are written in English?
  • Will potential customers visit our website if it is not in their native tongue?

Regulations and Safety

Many countries require that documentation, whether it is a user manual or product label, be localized before entering the country. You invested a lot of time and resources in your product and in shipping it to the country in which it will be sold. Localizing your documentation will help your product avoid being held up in Customs and keep it compliant with local laws.

If you have gone through a risk assessment for your product and anticipated all of the ways a user could misuse it, then you might have mitigated at least some of those risks through your user documentation. That documentation is only beneficial in safeguarding against liability if the user can read and understand the information.

The Bottom Line

Translations will add to the cost of goods sold; a cost you might be tempted to avoid. Consider how the cost of translations compares to the potential cost of a lawsuit through dangerous misuse of the product. Finally, what is the cost to a company’s reputation if the English brand name or tagline means something embarrassing or offensive in another country, as exhibited in these examples from “20 Epic Fails in Global Branding” by Inc.

Written by Dawn Lawien

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