by nancy nancy

Lost in translation – How bad translations can translate to bad business

If your customers don’t understand you, how do you expect them to trust you?

 

 

Translations are sacred’. If you’ve seen the Netflix hit movie Okja, you’d very familiar with that term. Translations can either make or break a business deal, your customer’s confidence, and even your corporate image, so even if you aren’t a cultist group rescuing a large bio-engineered mammal, it’s unwise to take it lightly.

The act of translation is not as simple as taking each word, and converting it to the word in the language that you want. I recall the many times I’ve laughed out loud when Google gives me a translation of an article that made absolutely no sense at all.

A good and successful translation is one where the translator understands the context of the message you are trying to get across, is well versed in the cultural nuances of both languages and is well exposed to the industry in which this message relates to. These must also go through stringent checks and well-documented processes so that nothing tarnishes the image your company has spent so much time and money developing.

 

So what can happen exactly when someone decides to skimp on good translation?

 

1.) Your customers can lose confidence in your product or service.

 

To the eyes of your customers, the quality of the message you deliver to them directly reflects how much you care about them or your offerings. If they spot an error in any of your messages, it tells them that you as a company are not as careful about the quality of your product or service. How would you feel about a particular company for example, if they had this message for their products?

 

2.) You get the wrong message across to your customers.

 

Marketing is all about getting the right message across to your customers. But what use would be spending so much time and money on getting across the right message be, if the translation of the message is wrong? Putting marketing aside, say, for example, you want to convey a proper description of your product or how to use a particular product, imagine the potential dangers of selling a product with incorrect translations associated with its description or how it’s used. This, of course, could make the company potentially vulnerable to lawsuits against them. This particular product comes to mind.

 

 

3) Your company brand and image can be forever tarnished.

 

Back in 2009, HSBC had to spend USD10 million in rebranding when their catchphrase “Assume nothing” was wrongly translated in some countries as “Do nothing”, leaving the company to be the butt end of many a joke. Not exactly the best words to associate your brand with, when you would want your company and your customers to do the direct opposite.

 

Simple mistranslations can have adverse effects to your branding, so when your brand image is at stake, it’s best to leave the translations to the experts.


Yamagata translates highly sensitive documents into over 40 different languages. With over 110 years of experience, we ensure that your customers understand you in a manner they deserve.