Graphics Plus Looks at Translation Options, Trust and the 5 Steps to Creating a Language Strategy
When auto manufacturer Ford launched an ad campaign in Belgium, they touted the slogan “Every car has a high-quality body.” To their horror, they later learned the translation amounted to “Every car has a high-quality corpse.” Translation is a bigger issue than most manufacturers care to admit. It cuts into margins and eats up time. Dialects within a country make it even more complex. And, let’s face it, it’s easy to ask the question: what’s the cheapest way to do this?
The risks for bad translations, though, are many. Bad translations turn opportunities into threats and cause major headaches for C-suite executives—from the owner to the Chief Marketing Officer: potential lawsuits, unsafe use of equipment that lead to accidents, offensive or confusing language, barriers to ordering, negative branding, weakening, and increased costs for telephone support.
Let’s look at four specific translation options followed by an example.
Online translation software is free and readily available. The literal interpretation, however, doesn’t always match meaning. Online translations pose a huge risk of offending international audiences or, at best, embarrassing a manufacturer. The next translation option comes from a native language speaker, a Spanish-speaking person in your facility, perhaps. The challenge here: one person cannot know every dialect or specific industry terms.Translation firms are the next logical choice, but not all are on equal footing. Watch out for translation “farms” staffed by inexperienced translators. The most reliable translations come from certified technical translators with industry experience. These professionals understand terms like slitter knife, screw flight and welding cell rather than relying on their literal interpretations. A translation firm of this caliber reduces risk and increases a manufacturer’s confidence.
Here’s an example based on an instruction manual we produced at Graphics Plus. The section reads:
SKIN INJECTION HAZARD
High-pressure fluid from spray gun, hose leaks, or ruptured components will pierce skin. This may look like just a cut, but is a serious injury that can cause amputation. Seek immediate surgical treatment. Inform the physician as to what type of material was injected.
We used both Google Translate and a native language speaker to translate and put those interpretations in front of a professional translator with manufacturing experience. The upshot: the Google translation handled the nuance of seeking "immediate" surgical treatment better than a human, largely because the words were ambiguous. The ending, however, translated by Google Translate was grammatically incorrect.
While a reader may "get the gist" of what's being conveyed, the question remains: is "close enough" ever a prudent communicating strategy when risk, liability, safety and brand integrity are involved?
As a full-service marketing support organization, we focus on the production and distribution of collateral. Graphics Plus manages large-scale publishing projects, including database development, printing and digital formatting of catalogs and manuals for online and e-commerce. Projects range in size from a few pages up to 1200 pages. Translation is an important step we oversee through carefully selected translation experts. One of our favorites is Claudia Freed.
Claudia is founder and Director of Technelion, a translation and multi-cultural marketing company. She emphasizes that translations help create trusted relationships with global customers and suggests having a Language Strategy, a purpose-driven document akin to marketing or business plans.
Here are 5 steps to creating a Language Strategy:
1 - Look at your audience’s regions. For example, Spanish is spoken in 19 countries and Puerto Rico. Each may have a different regional variety. The 16th edition of Ethnologue lists 291 living languages spoken just in Mexico. For smaller budgets, use neutral or standard Spanish.
2 - Provide final copy to a translation service to keep costs down.
3 - Consider graphics, diagrams and visual aids with non-English subtitles as a way to communicate messages visually.
4 - Be aware of cultural sensitivity. Literal interpretations are often overshadowed by nuances and subtle inferences (think about the corpse in the backseat of a Ford).
5 - Be tech savvy. Use responsive design to adapt digital publications to different sized mobile devices. Use QR codes for a hybrid digital-print approach.
Call Graphics Plus to learn more about the most innovative trends in manufacturing marketing as well as digital and print publications.