We’ve all seen some awful translations in our life. While most of us have seen things translated to English from another language, have you ever wondered when the reverse is done? I’ve seen enough Japanese people laugh at the names of Japanese restaurants abroad, and certain Chinese characters selected as tattoos.
The truth is not all translators are made equal. There is an element of creativity involved when translating to another language that you just don’t get from a literal translation. It needs to sound natural and with an understanding of your target audience.
Your target market abroad will get turned off the same way we do when we see grammatically incorrect content. It honestly goes both ways no matter where we are in the world, and not only particular with anyone from an English-speaking country.
Having someone literally just translate something is almost a waste of money and time. Local audiences can tell that the content clearly isn’t directed towards them, and can see not a lot of effort has been applied to it.
A poor translation can:
- Create misunderstandings
- Lose revenue
- And potentially cause injuries (poorly translated instruction manuals can do that)
For instance, there are some natural English expressions that will not translate directly into Japanese unless there is a full understanding of the context. And a bilingual reader can understand when content is being translated from a source language.
To save yourself from going through a trial by fire type of experience, I have four simple tips to help you on your search:
1.) Your translator has to be a bilingual native speaker.
You would want your translator to actually be from that country and lived there long enough to understand the cultural nuances involved when creating content in another language. Try to get your translation company to either provide you samples of translations or have them do a small translation you’ve created to test their credibility.
2.) Make sure your translators have industry experience.
There are a lot of industry jargon that is used in Japanese for instance. Let’s say you’re writing a copy for fashionably-conscious shoppers. Would it make sense to have a translator with no experience or interest in fashion to translate your words into Japanese?
No, right? Really make sure you know what you’re getting. Getting a second opinion is important whether you’re asking for a friend, another translation company, or even strangers on the internet to review it. Get it checked.
3.) Look around and do your research.
There are a variety of translation companies that specialize in particular industries, and not all of them can do it all. You will have to check carefully what you’re looking for and assess for yourself if this company can actually live up to your expectations.
Also, make them provide you a reference to some previous customers if you don’t see any on their site. A lot of companies based in Japan do not provide references on their homepage but are more than willing to show you if you ask them.
4.) Do they even know what they are talking about?
Are they asking you the right questions about your project? Like what you are looking for? Do they seem familiar with your industry/topic when talking to you? Just telling you they can do it isn’t enough.
A good translation company needs to confidently know how to tackle each project. Because it doesn’t leave anyone a whole lot of confidence if they are just bumbling their way through the consultation.
Overall, I cannot emphasize enough on second opinions, but with enough back and forth communication between you and the staff of those companies, you can get a good idea what works best for you.