The phrase “lost in translation” exists for a reason. Document translations aren’t as simple as a word-for-word rendering. Language creates meaning through nuance, context, and presentation – which exists beyond the literal level. When translating essential business documents, it’s incredibly important to ensure accuracy in both the literal and implied meanings.
Many businesses mistakenly choose to use a bilingual employee or online translation application to translate documents into other languages. In doing so, they’re often failing to recognize the potential risks – such as misunderstandings from employees and inadvertent legal liability. Working with a professional translator ensures accuracy and readability while also addressing a multitude of other challenges.
1. Translate Meaning – Not Just Words
An individual who hasn’t been trained in proper translation techniques will often simply translate each word in the sentence with its literal meaning in the target language. In doing so, the “big picture” meaning of the sentence, paragraph, or document often gets lost. Whether it’s a human resource department translating the company handbook or the marketing department working on a cross-cultural campaign, professional translators ensure your messages are effectively and accurately communicated.
2. Maintain a Professional Voice
We’ve all read documents that were written by someone who had a poor grasp of grammar, spelling, and style. Every one of your business documents should maintain a professional voice in order to properly reflect your company, regardless of the language in which it’s being presented. Professional translators are experts at creating translated content with pristine grammar and syntax, so it doesn’t read like a translation.
3. Avoid the Common Pitfalls
From pragmatic issues to cultural ones, inexperienced translators often fall victim to common pitfalls, which require true expertise to navigate. For example, different languages have varying standards for the formal versus the informal “you” – leaving your message inappropriately polite or casual if translated poorly. Idioms and metaphors shouldn’t be translated verbatim but should (when possible) be replaced with corresponding phrasing in the target language. Using a professional for your document translations ensures the right questions get asked, assumptions are never made, and your final document is expertly written.
4. Proper & Consistent Use of Terminology
Industry-specific terminology poses a unique challenge for document translations. Professional translators are more likely to know the proper industry-specific terms, and more importantly, they know when further research is necessary. Despite their expertise, every translator has the potential to use slightly different wording for their translations. So, at Continental Interpreting Services, we maintain a database of your terminology to ensure consistent translations, even if a new team member is working on your project.
5. Overcoming Layout & Design Issues
Many documents are already formatted to reflect the company’s branding, but consider these design-related challenges for translated documents:
- A document in English can increase by up to 30% in its length when translated.
- Different languages are read differently – right to left, left to right, etc.
- Expectations about colors, fonts, and graphics vary greatly across cultures.
Translated documents often require experts in cross-cultural desktop publishing, so they accurately reflect the goals of the original document.
Experience Expert Document Translations with Continental Interpreting Services
For more than 20 years, Continental Interpreting Services has provided language solutions that bridge communication gaps and transcend cultural barriers. With a worldwide network of certified and qualified interpreters and translators, CIS brings you the highest quality interpreting and translation services—quickly, efficiently and cost effectively.
Call us at (800) 201-7121 or click here to request a quote.