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Speaking a foreign language is beneficial not only from a personal perspective, but also—and especially—for businesses. Why? Because knowing at least a second language facilitates communication between businesses, between a company and its overseas clients and suppliers, and helps in the process of internationalization.
According to a study conducted by the British Council in 2013, three-quarters of British adults can’t speak a foreign language properly, and this causes a big problem for the British economy—as parliamentarian Baroness Coussins has stated in an interview to The Guardian, “The UK economy is already losing around £50bn a year in lost contracts because of lack of language skills in the workforce.”
On the contrary, in 2010, Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Japanese e-commerce society Rakuten, chose English as the new lingua franca to be spoken within the company, and all the meetings and conversations are now held in English. All employees studied the language for two years and scored over 800 (Working Proficiency Plus level) on the TOEIC, or Test of English for International Communication. In less than ten years, this “Englishization” process has sped up the conversations in the office, replacing the four linguistic registers of the Japanese language, and has attracted many specialists from abroad. What is more, Rakuten definitely has expanded its business in such a way that it was able to acquire stocks on other international e-commerce platforms and social networks like Pinterest and became the main sponsor of the Barcelona Football Club, replacing Qatar Airways.
This actually proves that the power of foreign languages goes far beyond the simple personal culture of individuals or the desire to satisfy one’s literary aspirations of reading and writing in a second language. But, one common mistake that small businesses often make is that they don’t fully consider the importance of translations. Instead of looking for professional translators specialized in their business field with many years of experience, they put an employee with rough language knowledge in charge of translations without visualizing the economic damage that could come with an inappropriate translation.
A second mistake lies in the lack of effort to promote the knowledge of foreign languages among the company’s employees by providing them with language courses. In fact, there are many language schools and translation agencies that also provide language courses for businesses that can help in the internationalization process.
But, among the myriad services and agencies, how can you recognize the right translation agency?
Here are some factors you should take into consideration when you need translation services.
Expertise in your field
First of all, there is not a single right translation agency—there is the right translation agency for you. So, before contacting any agency, have a look at their website and find out about their specializations. Some agencies might have an international net of collaborators and can assist you if you need a translation about such complex topics as latest astronomical discoveries, while other agencies, for instance, might be specialized in marketing translations and, if they are professional, they will tell you as soon as you make your request. That is to say, analyze your needs first, then contact the agency.
Translators are human, and as such, they can make mistakes. When you commission a job, make sure the agency has a good quality control department: editors and proofreaders can find subtle typos or inconsistencies between the source text and the translation and save you a lot of time once you review the final result yourself. Besides that, if you have a glossary, you should send it to the agency to be sure they use the terms you want and have linguistic coherence throughout all your documents. Moreover, some agencies undergo a yearly quality control check that allows them to have a quality certification like ISO 9000. This certifies that they meet the standard requirements related to their service as well as the needs of customers and other stakeholders.
Creativity, layout, and DTP
Whether you need to translate a marketing brochure or a user manual, you may also need a certain layout. To satisfy this need, many translation agencies feature a graphic design department where a senior DTP specialist provides you with the layout you need for the text and corresponding images. In fact, some languages need certain fonts or more space than other languages; for instance, Italian needs 30% more space than English, and you must know this when you decide to translate the text.
Legal translations: yes or no?
Some documents, like birth or marriage certificates, require a certified translation. The translator or a person from the translation agency goes to the court stating that the translation is a true and faithful rendering of the original text. But not all translators can do this kind of job, and the service usually costs an extra fee because of the bureaucracy. Make sure that the agency you are contacting actually provides this service.
It is important that a translation agency has a project manager who follows all the steps of the translation process whom you can contact easily whenever you need to. Having a contact person usually makes customers feel at ease, as he/she perfectly knows their request and understands what to do in case of problems. Facilitating communication with customers is a big indicator of the degree of customer care of an agency and also shows its professionalism.
A professional translation doesn’t usually require a long time unless it is a huge manual or brochure. In fact, the translation field has welcomed the frenetic rhythm of today’s economy, but be aware that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so it is quite impossible to deliver a good translation in just one day! However, the use of so-called cat tools has played an important role in speeding up the whole process, as the translator can count on a pool of previously translated words and sentences. This also reduces the cost, which is always a good thing for customers.
Thanks to our net of international collaborators, at Athena Parthenos, we are able to provide a series of translation services from and into 130 languages in eleven fields of expertise. Click here for further details on our services.
Written by Marcella Sartore, Marketing & Communicating Assistant @ Athena Parthenos
Photo credits: header: © Marco Togni www.marcotogni.it