photo by Jürgen FauthIn the global village of the 21st century, the value of quality business translation and localization is becoming more obvious every day. But the Internet isn’t just providing access to new customers and markets, but a wealth of new translation solutions: more and more sophisticated machine translation, cheapest-bidder platforms and even crowdsourced translations appear to be offering low-cost, high-speed alternative to the classic language solution provider–the skilled and experienced translator.

But as tempting and convenient cheapie translations may seem, there are dangers lurking among the too-good-to-be-true offers.

Localization/Translation Risk #1: Embarrassment

You — or your crowdsourced cut-rate translator — may think you’re somewhat fluent in the target language. Especially when it comes to English, everybody speaks a little, right? But just because you’ve taken a few classes or can follow a movie doesn’t mean that you can produce a successful translation. Misplaced confidence can lead to embarrassing mistakes, if not worse.

For example, Germans use words like Handy, Shitstorm, Shooting and Public Viewing — but their meaning and usage differs significantly from their English equivalents. And if you’re not very careful, you may end up having to apologize or pulling products from shelves — something that happened recently to Procter & Gamble, who had to issue a mea culpa for unintentionally including secret Neo-Nazi codes on its laundry detergent.

Localization/Translation Risk #2: Legal Troubles

Luckily for P&G, nobody sued about the Neo-Nazi codes, but poor translations can backfire in unforeseen ways. Not only web content, marketing materials, business plans, managerial documents, white papers, and contracts have to be carefully crafted in their target language — when it comes to legal matters, absolute accuracy and reliability are a must.

Take this article from the Copenhagen Post: court interpreters doing a shoddy job can result in wrongful convictions or outlandish sentences. Take the case of the drug smuggler whose 100 grams of amphetamines somehow become 100 kilos! You can imagine the severe consequences of such a mistake. Whether in a court of law or at the negotiation table, whether it comes to real estate matters, financial documents, or press releases — you want to make sure your company knows exactly what it’s saying. And the only way to ensure this and stop worrying is by hiring high-quality professional translators.

Localization/Translation Risk #3: Loss of Revenue

A little misunderstanding here, an alienated customer there, and soon, the savings from a shoddy translation/localization service provider add up to significant losses in revenue. Tourism-review.com reports that 65% of French travel web sites contain translation errors such as “our top stay” or “some useful informations” that result in over 120 million euros loss each year.

When you’re trying to reach an international audience, it is absolutely essential that you’re doing it with the right words. Savvy consumers will immediately spot problems in your messaging and lose trust that is going to be difficult to rebuild. Today’s business leaders demand excellence in all areas — so shouldn’t you think twice before entrusting the international face of your business to anyone but the most qualified translators?

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