When it comes to language, things are rarely “right” or “wrong”.
There are so many ways to express the same feeling or convey the same point, and everyone seems to have a preference.
In spontaneous conversation, this is rarely a problem. Differences in preference either go unnoticed, or are good for a laugh.
We’ve all poked fun at a friend from a different part of the country for a slightly different word choice or pronunciation, but even if you say “y’all” or “yous” instead of “you guys”, the meaning behind your statement is flawlessly conveyed.
These kinds of variances are fodder for laughter, rather than a real communication problem.
But when it comes to your translated content, deciding whose way of saying something is “right” can become much more serious.
Matching the Language to Your Brand Image
Your brand image is important to your business, and using “y’all” may not be in keeping with that image.
In fact, small linguistic choices like this may be damaging to your brand!
Maybe your clientele is high-end and requires a more formal tone. Or maybe the exact opposite is true, and you want to make your brand seem accessible and need a more relaxed attitude.
The tone you use to communicate with your customers is not the only important linguistic decision you make.
Using the correct vocabulary for your industry and for the context of the text is also important. No matter who your target audience is, the linguistic choices and the way you communicate with them is important – both in English, and in other languages.
You take great care in producing your content in English, and now you need to make sure your linguists pay the same attention when translating your content.
There are different tactics you can employ before, during, and after translation in order to ensure that you end up with the “right” translated content for your target audience.
Before Starting the Translation
Tactic 1 – Choose a professional, qualified linguist or language services company to assist you with your translation.
Tactic 2 – Work with a linguist or company that works with a Translation Memory (TM) program, so consistency can be maintained throughout current and future translation projects. And send any relevant existing TM files to the linguist/company so they can leverage the content you’ve previously created.
Tactic 3 – Inform the linguist/company what level of formality you need.
Tactic 4 – If you have terminology or abbreviations that are specific to your industry or to your current project, put together a glossary and provide it along with the content you’re having translated.
The glossary can either be a monolingual list providing definitions, or it can be a bilingual list indicating how you’d like specific words to be translated.
During the Translation
Tactic 5 – Make sure you are available to answer any questions that come up about your preferences. Professional translators will never guess about anything, and will always check with you if they are unsure of a definition, how to handle an abbreviation, or any other linguistic issue related to the project.
After the Translation
Tactic 6 – If you have the resources available, have a native speaker who works with you internally review the translation and make suggestions.
Tactic 7 – Don’t panic! Professional translators are used to receiving feedback, and they will be open-minded and review your suggestions fairly.
Tactic 8 – Be prepared for the linguist to disagree with some of the suggestions. If you have chosen a good translator/company, they will not be led astray from what they know to be correct.
But if you still prefer a different translation after they have voiced their opposition, continue the dialogue – even professional linguists are capable of misunderstanding the context and may need more clarification.
Translators and language service companies share your same goal – to successfully convey the meaning of the original source content in another language.
If all involved parties are open-minded and remember that there is always more than one way to say the same thing, an agreement on the “right” translation can always be reached.
Please feel free share your experiences with getting your ideal translation in the comments.
Photo Credit: Missy Martinez on Flickr