4 Translation Mistakes to Avoid in Marketing in a Foreign Language

Many of our clients use our services to reach out to their target markets in a foreign language and culture, and they are not just trying to reach those customers abroad. Several would like to work with immigrants in their own communities and country, but they aren't sure where to start. The most common way to begin is to get marketing materials translated, but if you've never worked with anything but English, you might have some questions about the process, or even some misconceptions. Here are 4 translation mistakes to avoid when marketing to a foreign language consumer group:

1) Keep in mind that automatic tools are not the way to go--cheap tools equal poor translations. So many people are quick to copy and paste text into automatic translation tools like Google Translate. Yes, Google can come close on some phrases, and it can be handy when trying to get the gist of a statement or paragraph, but it creates havoc for those who want their messages to remain accurate and appealing to clients. The reason for this is the use of idioms, colloquial language and the fact that machines simply do not have the capabilities to translate 100% accurately. If this isn't enough of a reason to avoid such tools in your business, perhaps you should reconsider approaching a client market in a foreign language altogether.

2) Be sure that all your text is ready for translation before you send it to your translation vendor. Making multiple changes can be costly, although sometimes necessary. So, if possible, try to avoid doing this. If you update your marketing materials often, as many businesses do online, talk with your vendor and let them know ahead of time that you'll be making edits. This way, your vendor will be ready to make updates and your project won't get put on the back burner behind another client's translation. Communicating these details will save you both time in the process.

3) Never translate the names of your business, your trademarked products or proper names that pertain to your business and/or industry. Many times these terms are not commonly known in other languages and may just confuse your customers more. Also, your clients will ask for these products and about your business by using the English term, even if the rest of your interactions with them take place in the target (in this case, the foreign) language. Be sure to request that your translation vendor keep these terms that are specific to your business in English.

4) Look into taking your marketing campaign one step further and localize your materials. Localization is a large part of what companies like ours do for our clients. We don't just translate the text for them (unless this is all they request). Rather, we localize their materials, as well, in order to ensure that the language, images and layout of their brand and message are engaging for their target markets and not offensive or inappropriate in any way. The images and design of your materials are just as important as the text you get translated, so consider localization to take your campaign to the next level.

Have you witnessed the consequences of one of these four translation mistakes? Do you have other tips on good practices for translation and localization of marketing materials?