Language fluency is not usually seen as a privilege. As native English speakers, we go about our daily lives in a world that innately “makes sense” – in reading, writing and speaking. The reality (and beauty!) of a diverse society is that many people aren’t presented with their native language as they experience information daily: from simple text to crucial traffic signs. And as globalization skyrockets and our society continues to diversify, equal access to this information is more important than ever. 

Although some have argued the rise of AI and auto-translation will diminish human translation services, a recent study argues otherwise – as the industry is slated to value 45 billion by 2020. So why does the value of human translation prosper amidst the development of potentially job-replacing technology? 

At the end of the day, language is innately human. Developed by humans, spoken by humans, understood by humans – and varied globally depending on language, dialect, culture and context. Businesses that understand this will have a much easier time reaching their audience through providing human-centric, thoughtful and respectful communication – no matter the language. 

With this in mind, here are 4 factors to consider when providing translation for business: 

Go beyond word-by-word translation
The true value of human translation is the presence of a brain and heart behind the translated text. Don’t let this go to waste by forgetting to assess for untranslatable words, words that might mean something drastically different in the translated language or even terms or acronyms that don’t require translation (ORCA and SDOT, to name a couple). 

Another major advantage of human translation is the translator’s ability to capture meaning beyond the text. Think back to the last hilarious article you read in The New Yorker or the somber obituary you saw in the paper. Word-to-word translation is not able to convey the feeling of that communication, and this principle applies across all languages. 

Apply the critical eye of a marketer 

As communication professionals, our written work goes far beyond writing a grammatically correct sentence. We consider tone, audience, brevity and more. It’s important to apply the critical eye of a marketer to a translated text to assure the piece is respectful and true to the native language. 

For example, when written, Spanish is 25 percent longer than English. This affects the space it uses on a marketing piece and the time it takes to read – two very important components in assuring a communication is effective. Understanding this can be the difference between an effective translation and one that is totally lost on the audience. 

Consider the whole context of a project 

It’s also important to consider the entire scope of a project and the intended impact on the audience. Ask yourself – are there any differences in the way the text would be translated for casual vs. professional purpose? In Spanish, for example, entirely different tense is used for professional communications. Failure to translate this correctly is painfully obvious to native speakers. 

Secondly, consider the design and delivery of the translated information. Colors and symbols can mean very different things to different cultures and it’s important to be thoughtful of how these might translate. For example, Chinese culture sees red as a symbol of luck and prosperity. Therefore, it might be perceived as culturally insensitive to use red as a primary color for a project to communicate construction updates that the audience opposes. 

Think about all possible pathways to information 

Finally, the translation shouldn’t stop at the end of the paragraph. Consider all pathways from the translated communication such as calls-to-action to social media and websites or call numbers. These destinations should be available in the speaker’s native language as to provide a seamless experience for the audience. 

From beginning to end, put the native speaker first to assure they have full access to the intended information and no roadblocks to understanding your communication. 

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