AMA Webinar Q&A – Getting Translation Right

Last week, we presented a webinar in conjunction with the American Marketing Association (AMA) entitled, Getting Translation Right: 10 Ways to Make Your Translation Projects More Efficient. You asked so many great questions after the presentation, we didn’t have time to get to them all! In this blog, you’ll find my response to the questions that we couldn’t fit in the hour.

Translating an Events Page

Q: Hi there, I’m in the process of having my website translated into four different languages, but the primary language is English. One tab on our website houses events. Even though all the events are in English and take place in the United States, do we still need to translate the events tab?

A: Translating information about events will depend on the audience. Are you inviting people from outside your home country? Where are your attendees coming from? If you only expect attendees from one locale, then you may not want to translate the info. If it’s open to attendees from around the world, translation will attract more attendees. What is the first language of each of your presenters? If you have any presenters who are not fluent in the language of the country in which the event is being held, consider providing them with interpreters so that they can present fluently and answer questions easily – and also understand other presentations.

In-Country Reviews

Q: Is in-country review a common practice in the marketing industry?

A: Yes, it is, and it’s usually a painful process that often leads to a bottleneck. Learn more by reading my blog post on in-country review.

Whether to Discontinue a Language

Q: If you offer a language and decide to no longer translate in that language based on usage, how do you all of a sudden not offer it?

A: That is a really tricky situation. By offering a language, you have created an expectation for the language to be provided going forwards. If you have been translating a lot of content, perhaps reduce the amount, and measure any change in customer satisfaction before removing it completely. It’s also worth looking at all the content and making sure that the customer has a single-language experience: rather than mixing in a little local language with a lot of untranslated English, consider just providing the local language content. Then it doesn’t look like you are only translating part of what other customers are given.

Translating on a Small (Non-profit) Budget

Q: What are your suggestions on services for a small non-profit (where funding is an issue) that is producing marketing materials for non-English speakers in the U.S.?

A: Do you have a community of volunteers who might help with translations? This could be a situation where your own bilingual volunteers might be a good resource, if they are volunteers and if translation quality is not the prime objective. But bear in mind that quality will not be perfect, and you cannot guarantee deadlines when working with volunteers.

Multilingual Customer Service

Q: We’re testing our niche publishing product in the Spanish-speaking market in the U.S. At this point we don’t have any Spanish-speaking customer service reps. How do you achieve a good balance of presenting the product (maybe titles and descriptions) while not being able to actually speak Spanish? Is a “Spanglish”-type web presence acceptable? We don’t want to mislead customers that they can call in and speak Spanish? Obviously obtaining a bilingual customer service rep would be a solution, but at this point it’s not an option.

A: If the challenge is in staffing and not with budget, an option is to outsource the Spanish-speaking customer service to a language service provider. Or, do a pilot to test the customer response (with some calls going to the language service provider, and some to the regular English-speaking reps). In any situation where there is a mix of language, or when the customer is about to “step out” of one language, it’s best to warn them that the next stream of information they see will be in English (or whatever language it is). Sometimes a mix of language is worse than not providing the language at all – and your internal review teams may very well tell you that a mix is horrible and a bad impression of the brand – but always remember that it’s the customer/client who is the best judge of what is, and is not, useful to them. They’re also the most important to please. One bad review can do a lot of damage!

Testing Your Language Service Provider (LSP)

Q: Is it common to give a translation company a test document before you give them an entire job?

A: Yes, it’s quite a common practice, but a small sample won’t always give you a good picture of the service. Better to ask for existing customers who would be willing to talk to you. Also, talk with the project manager who will be assigned to your company. Remember that there is always a learning curve: translators will need to learn your brand, voice, style and preferences, and there is a time investment on both sides to reach the optimum level of quality (and that’s why a small “test” project might not deliver the results you’re looking for).