Translation and Globalization: More Languages, More Exposure, More Sales

The benefits of a global economy coupled with an ever-expanding number of translation language pairs have created exciting opportunities for those ready and able to take advantage of them. The caveat, in order to truly reap the rewards of an international business market, you must be able to speak your customer’s language and not just in the figurative sense. Your material actually needs to be written and presented in their local language.

Studies have consistently shown that information presented in a consumer’s native language yields greater sales. Further, more than half of global consumers would pay higher prices for information presented in the local language.

In 2014, CSA Research, an independent market research company specializing in “best practices for translation, localization, interpreting, globalization, and internationalization”, studied a group of 10 non-English speaking countries in Asia, South America, and Europe. They found that 75 percent of consumers “prefer to buy products in their native language”, 60 percent “rarely or never buy” when information is only in English, and 30 percent simply do not buy when English is the only language presented.

Even in Europe, where most citizens have at least a base-level exposure to English and many speak it as a second language, English is tolerated with tourists, but when it comes to business there is an expectation that information will be presented in the consumer’s own language. A survey by the Gallup agency showed that 42 percent of Europeans “said they never purchase products and services in other languages.”

The Localization of Your Message

Bringing your message to a global consumer group entails more than just translating text. Your message needs to be “localized”. Localization involves the translation of text, but it also includes the added elements of ensuring that the text is culturally relevant and addresses your customer’s customs and lifestyle.

CSA Research notes that, “Localization improves customer experience and increases engagement in the brand dialogue. It should be a rigorously planned and executed business strategy for any company looking to grow internationally.”

What this means in the world of translation is this:

  • Machine translation has expanded direct language pairs dramatically. You can now translate information into hundreds of different languages with the click of a button. This does not, however, mean your content has been localized.
  • Consumers that speak another language are not unintelligent, they simply speak another language. When you provide cheap, inaccurate translations that contain grammatical errors, erroneous information, and cultural faux pas, it not only makes your business look shoddy, but it is insulting to your audience.
  • Computer-assisted translation provides the benefits of machine translation with the added security of knowing that a human translator has looked over the text. Be aware, there are a number of different post-editing levels available and a light edit may not catch all of the cultural nuances or lexical discrepancies that a comprehensive native-level edit would. The trade-offs in time and money between the levels of service should be weighed against the importance of your content and the necessity for total and complete accuracy. While a children’s book may not suffer from an errant verb form, your business contracts might, as could an academic text or medical manual.

The global market is expanding. The Internet has made global commerce a way of life for many, and the exchanges between international academic institutions have made possible incredible strides in the world of education. The backbone to all of these prospects is information that is efficiently and accurately translated into the language of a target audience.

The temptation is to move too quickly and sacrifice quality for speed. Other times, in an effort to save money in the short term, sacrifices are made in the quality of translations or in full and complete localization efforts. When these temptations strike, remember the ill-fated lessons of those who have gone before you: Chevy Nova in Latin America, Coors Beer in Spain, and Pepsi in China, to name a few. After all, promising your soda will “Bring your ancestors back from the grave” is a sure way to tell anybody, “We didn’t care enough about you to proofread our translation and consider your culture”. How much more true in China where ancestors are honored and revered!

Share your thoughts