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  • Victoria Palunite

Why your bilingual employees are not the best pick for translation work in your company?

For some companies it might seem only natural to delegate the translation work for advertising, contracts, website, apps, etc. to their employees, who speak foreign languages. It seems to make sense, as these employees are familiar with the products, the corporate culture, and language. However, this is the only advantage. And there are many things a company should consider before asking their employees to do some translation work.

First of all, the employees already have their primary role: Be it accounting, design, marketing, sales, etc. That means that they cannot primarily focus on the translation and localisation task. Even if it is only “couple of lines” or “a column in an excel-sheets” for your app, and you think it will only take 20 minutes to make, it will probably take way longer than expected. Translation is something that requires high concentration as well, so doing it „on a side“ or „during the lunch break“ will bring rather mediocre results.

Second, an excellent translation requires more work and broader skills than it seems. As simple as it sounds, translation is not about words in another language, it is about the meaning. And the meaning depends on the context in a broad sense. Let us take legal translation. As soon as you deal with two different languages, you - almost certainly - deal with two different legal systems, where there is no one ideal solution. For example, a certain legal term in Russian can be translated in two different ways into German, depending on the meaning. This is where the context plays a crucial role. Please consider, that a good translator would ask about your product, the purpose of the translation, as well as many technical questions. Only then a language expert will comprehend your message and be able to convey it.

Another critical aspect is the language command of the employee. Even if his or her role is multilingual, one should keep in mind that, what might be a good enough French for the customer support, might turn out as very poor French when it comes to translation of contracts, apps or websites. Ideally, the translator should have lived in the country of his or her foreign languages, be familiar with the culture and traditions, and have a good feel for the nuances of language.

How translation done by experts can save you money?

I have seen it too many times that companies, for convenience and cost reasons, aks their multilingual employees to translate something. Like one of my clients, who turned to me after having had a bad experience with an app translation done by his (non-translator) employee.

What happened was, that this company asked one of the finance department employees to translate their app into German, then they even asked another employee, who took German classes at high school, to look through it, and then, assuming, that it is now good enough, the developers released the German app. Only after getting some negative customers’ reviews, they found out, that the German language version is poor and not user-friendly. This is where the company decided to turn to a renowned translation agency or a freelance translator to control the damage and finally I came into the picture.

For company, that means, than instead of working on new projects, the work on that particular app will have to start over again. Which will require more time, money, resources, and efforts from other team members (app developers, designers, etc.).

Another quite frequent “solution” many companies find, is to hire a comparatively cheap translation agency. However, a “low-cost” translation only means that the agency makes it with Google Translate. Most likely, the company will have to overhaul it with the help of serious and professional translators. Just be aware of that risk so you can avoid unnecessary costs.

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