With English being one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, it can seem quite fortunate for us as English speakers when we want to venture into new countries; whether this be going on holiday to a new country, or looking at taking your business overseas.

Yet we shouldn’t make assumptions. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had difficulties abroad. I know I’ve found myself in a remote town or village where no-one speaks English and all of a sudden communicating becomes very difficult!

Maximise your trading potential

I’ve spoken to a number of businesses recently who are trading internationally and, quite justifiably, have said “Why should I translate my website? We’re making money and trading just fine with an English site”. Their point is valid; why fix something if it isn’t broken? The point I make to them, though, is that although you are trading successfully, you’re not trading to your maximum potential. By not reaching out to your audience in their native language, there’s a very high chance you will be isolating a good percentage of your target market.

You need to be approachable to your audience. They want someone familiar, that they know they can communicate well with. What better way of doing that than speaking to them in their own language! The businesses we help have seen such an impressive uplift in digital interaction since they’ve launched websites in the languages of their target markets.

This leads me on to another issue. Free automated or machine translation such as Google or Bing Translate can be great when you’re on holiday and want to ask where the bus stop is, or when you have an email come into your business inbox which is in a foreign language and you just need to understand the gist of what it says. However, in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed an increasing number of websites that are using these automated translation tools/plugins to translate their professional business websites.

This may seem like a quick and easy solution to making your website accessible to a large number of people in different countries. Unfortunately, due to the quality of the translations produced by these machines, chances are you’re doing more harm than good to the reputation of your business in other markets.

Putting machine translation to the test

I provided some Google website translations to our team of in-house translators, without telling them where they were from, and asked them to give me their honest feedback on the quality of the translations. They guessed pretty quickly that the translations weren’t provided by a professional translator and this is what they said:

“The grammar is really bad; German has a very complicated case and gender system and this translation fails to deal with this. The German translation here is unusable.”

“This is a jigsaw puzzle of translated words. Idiomatic phrases are translated word-for-word, making no sense. Adjectives are misplaced, based on English structure rather than French.”

“Figurative language has been translated into a phrase that makes no sense in Italian. This text needs to be rewritten entirely to be used for professional purposes and it actually made me laugh out loud!”

Unfortunately, there are businesses out there right now who are oblivious to the fact that their international websites may be receiving the same or similar responses from potential customers in overseas markets. My hope is that by hearing it from a native speaker’s perspective emphasises the importance of having your website professionally translated.

How can Language Services help you?

This is where we come in. Language Insight isn’t just here to provide translation services. We’re here to work with you, to establish an effective plan of action. We’re not going to tell you to translate your website into 30+ languages unless that’s really what your business needs. But even then, we’d never advise you to go ahead with all of them at once. We know that establishing a presence in a new market takes time and you’re not going to get instant results overnight and that’s why we’re here to support you every step of the way.

As a leading language services provider, Language Insight has experience working in many sectors, and our expertise in the Market Research industry means we can gain vital insight from your potential markets. From our findings, we will be able to position your products or services in front of the right people, in the right way. From preparing an initial strategy, planning the pages you want to translate, through to supporting your customer service teams with different language enquiries and managing your social media campaigns, we’ve got it covered.

It is also important to note that different markets respond differently; some markets may respond just as well to an English website as they would if it were in their native language while some markets may not be appropriate for your products and services, and therefore a translation would not be beneficial. We’re here to work with you, analyse your current audience, your potential markets and suggest the most effective way forward.

If you’d like to speak with one of our team about your business needs and how we can help you to effectively communicate with your audiences, please contact us. We’re looking forward to getting you and your business on the right path to global expansion!