Did you know that only 28% of the entire European population can read English? This percentage is even lower in South America and Asia. Even the growing Hispanic community in the U.S. still prefers to read in Spanish for the most part. This means that if you want to sell your products and services to these markets, you will need to be able to communicate effectively in their languages.
Naturally, if you choose to expand into international markets, language will be only one of many challenges. You'll be busy with market research, finding distribution channels and dealing with legal and banking issues. Despite all these challenges, don't make translation an afterthought - the consequences could be disastrous.
The U. S. State Department says that U. S. companies stand to lose $50 billion in potential sales from poor translations. Companies get themselves into trouble with translations that are inaccurate or culturally inappropriate. Professional translations on the other hand will convey a high quality image of your products or services, leverage your marketing message and help you keep your company clear of legal difficulties.
How do you get good translations? First of all, computer-generated translations won't do. Don't take my word for it. Go online, look up a free translation website and then have a few sentences translated into a foreign language. Then, take the translation that was generated, and have it translated back into English with the free service. Read it, and you'll see why it's not a good idea to use computer-generated translations for your marketing messages. Your texts will look unprofessional and less than competent to native speakers.
So if a computer won't do the job, you'll need a person - but who can you trust? There are literally thousands of translation businesses out there, which vary greatly in size, price and professionalism. The translation industry is a highly unregulated market, and common quality standards are hard to find. What makes the problem worse is that, even after you receive a translation, you will probably not be able to judge its quality, unless of course you speak the language yourself.
So how can you find a trustworthy and reliable translation service? In the age of electronic communications, you need not limit yourself to a local search. Translations can be easily delivered by e-mail, and under most circumstances, you can discuss all project details over the phone. For legal reasons and also for ease of payment processing you might find it more convenient to work with a provider in your country. Most every translation company will provide you a free consultation and a free price proposal for your project. Besides the cost, here's a checklist of things to inquire about:
Once you have selected a translation provider make sure you work together with them closely in order to maximize the quality of your translations. One rule is to allow sufficient time. Rushing a job always risks compromising its quality. Also, make sure the source material is well written. You can never generate a great translation from a mediocre source text. Provide as much background material as possible to help the translators understand your product-specific context and learn your organization's jargon.
Finally, it's a good idea to remain available for questions and feedback during the translation project. Good translators are like good students - they will always ask you questions.