Three Translation Mistakes that Could Cost You

If it’s not the dream of every business, it’s the hope of many: to have a truly global reach, particularly on the Web and in the Cloud. After all, who knows when someone halfway around the world might be looking for just what you offer?

Provided, of course, you speak their language.

That’s where translation programs and services can be a white knight…or not. It helps to know some of the most common translation mistakes to avoid.

Mistake #1: “We’ve Got Google Translate. We’re Good.”

Well, actually, you’re not. Free machine translation (MT) tools like Google Translate are a helpful resource, but they lag way behind in producing quality output. Instead, use translation software that provides translation memory. It builds on a database of prior translations, helping to provide consistency as well as saving time in repeatedly translating the same phrases from scratch.

Mistake #2: “Go Big or Go Home.”

The bigger the translation company, the better your needs will be served, right? Not necessarily. If you’re a mega-company spending mega-money on huge translation projects, a large agency that handles hundreds of languages is probably a good fit for you. But if your industry is highly specialized, or if your translation needs stop at one language, look into smaller translation services—including freelancers. Always consider the amount of support services you may require. For instance, if you don’t need 24/7 support, you can very well choose a smaller, boutique translation agency.

Next, check whether you’re contracting with very large entities in other aspects of your company like public relations. If not, there’s a reason why and you may similarly not need a big company to provide translation and localization services, either.

Mistake #3: “Stock the Pond with Lots of Fish.”

In other words, have a multitude of translators ready to dive into your project—this way, you’ll never be caught short. Among translation mistakes, this is an easy one to make, because who doesn’t want some depth of resource? Be mindful, though, of spreading your translation work too thin. Once you find a translator—or a small group of them—that you’re confident in, continue to use them, rather than trying to create an ever-larger pool of people. Why? Because they’ll become familiar with your content, the way you write, and the tone you want your messaging to take. In the long run, having such continuity will save you time and costs, and will deliver better results.

As the translator Clifford E. Landers notes: “Translation problems are not like math problems that have only one or at most a strictly limited number of right answers….translation is subjective in essence.” Avoiding translation mistakes like the three above can help assure that the essence of your message is correctly translated.