The Limits of my language are the limits of my world.

This quote from philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is poignant and bears relevance in many ways when it comes to considering the impact of translations in business.

The quote beautifully illustrates the concept that in this technology-driven, globalised business era. If you are not speaking to your customers in multiple languages, you are quite simply limiting your opportunities and will be left behind.

The true essence of this quote goes much deeper. Successful businesses recognise the importance of investing in translations. When they are done right, they maximise growth opportunities because you are constantly attracting new customers in different markets. However, taking the plunge into the world of translations can feel incredibly risky to them. Translations can go anywhere from poor to ridiculous to good to excellent, and clients often wonder how they will know either way.

Furthermore, how do they navigate the minefield of cultural nuances and sensitivities? There are often phrases, allusions and moods that cannot be understood without knowing the culture and that can get lost in translation. Ask somebody in a non-western country to translate “It’s raining cats and dogs,” and you will see what I mean! A more labyrinth-like question would be to ask my husband to translate what I mean when I say “it’s fine; I’ll do it.” I don’t really think anybody wants to explore that rabbit hole too far.

Wittgenstein has grasped the concept that a language contains walls and can create barriers. Each language has evolved to express the reality of a specific land or country. As a crude example, Nordic European languages have an exhaustive list of words to describe snow, whereas countries surrounded by a desert have slim pickings. This is where limitations in translations can begin.

The first thing my clients want to know is how can they trust their translation provider? How do they know that what they are translating is not going to be damaging to their brand and business? We have all seen and cackled ourselves senseless over translation blunders that we see across social media however the reality is, for businesses, the impact is anything but funny.

Ford wasn’t laughing once they realised their promise to their customers that “every car has a high-quality body” had been translated and published in Belgium as “every car has a high-quality corpse”. I also think that sales of “Coors Light” beer didn’t exactly go through the roof when their tagline “Turn It Loose” was translated as “Suffer from Diarrhoea” in Spanish.

Enter Straker Translations. With our advanced technology platform, we have developed some extremely time and cost-effective ways of managing these quality assurance concerns for our clients. Before we undertake your project, we spend time getting a thorough understanding of your business and products. We utilise translators that specialise in a specific sector of translations who will have industry knowledge of the content that they are translating. And where it’s possible, we will always assign native translators that are based in the country that the target audience will be consuming the content.

If possible, we’ll also request internal glossaries for any technical or industry specific terms and will work out how these need to be translated, and establish which trademark names or terms that are not to be translated at all. At this stage, any additional resources required for context together with style guides, will be provided to the translator to come up with their plan about how to approach the project.

We recognise that nobody knows your business better than you and your people, so at this early point in the relationship, there is a lot of collaboration between our clients and us. We want to ensure that our translators are armed with all of the necessary knowledge to deliver an outstanding polished product. All of this solid groundwork at the start of our business partnership is essential.

Now reverting back to how clients “test” for the accuracy of translations. This is generally more worrying for clients that do not have in-market resources to review the translations provided. An antiquated and inefficient method sometimes adopted by clients is “back translations” as a way of checking for accuracy and validity. This is a waste of valuable time and resources at best.

Let’s take an English to Dutch translation as an example.

You might think that if the original English to Dutch translation was ‘accurate’, then the two versions of the English document you now have would be identical – it seems logical, but unfortunately, that is an unsafe assumption for the following reasons: Language translation is an art, not a science. Which means that individual translators will use slightly different words to try to best capture the essence and nuance of the meaning the author is trying to convey. In technical terms, we say that the mapping between source and target languages is not symmetric.

Even if the original translation from English to Dutch is 100% accurate and the second translation from Dutch back to English is not so accurate, then the resulting English document could be very different from the original. To check the accuracy of the Dutch to English translation, you’d need to back translate that as well. As you can see, this very quickly degenerates into an infinite regression which gets you no nearer your goal.

A more effective method for ensuring a superior quality translation is a premium Translation Plus Edit service, which includes a full review by a second translator, which highly recommends for published content or client-facing materials. This second review is NOT a proofread (all translators proofread their work). It is a more thorough review that involves the linguist reviewing the translated content against the source text. This will ensure its accuracy and reads as if it were created in the target language and is appropriate for the target audience.

Often our clients are fortunate enough to have their own internal resources or in-market distributors for validating translations, and this is the ideal situation. The only challenge with this, however, is that the process of sending edits and comments backwards and forwards can become painfully laborious. More often than not, things get missed-or lost in translation!

Straker has developed a sophisticated real-time Client Validation Platform to streamline the process. Allowing our clients to leave notes or comments for the translators. This is a much more efficient way of tracking changes rather than marking up pdfs or hard files and then going backwards and forwards. It is incredibly easy to use, there is no cost to utilise this, and our clients LOVE it!

Once the hard yards have been done with creating glossaries and managing validations, everything gets stored in Translation Memory and will be used again and again for future translations, ensuring consistency and accuracy across collateral.

Every time we complete a new translation project, your unique Translation Memory engine will access the previous translations for future use. When we get a new job come through, any phrases or terms that have been translated before will automatically be translated using the previous memory. As new content is translated, the snowball effect begins and your translation memory continues to “collect” translated content. Not only does this ensure a “one voice” message across your brand and messaging, but it also saves you money as we do not charge for content previously translated. Win Win!

So rest assured, translations can be a tricky business but trust us. Straker Translations care as much about your business as you do. Because effectively the minute you engage us to help grow your business, it becomes our business too.

We have the core values, skill, knowledge and technology to deliver your message authentically and proudly. Just don’t ask us to translate what “She meant when she said” or vice versa. I’m not sure the Mars vs Venus language barrier will ever be truly cracked!