Translate, review, and then review again

For the very best translations, a good professional that has perfect command of both languages isn’t quite enough. Finding the right translator is also kind of like match-making. You’ve got the find the translator that’s best suited to the subject matter. You’re looking for the text’s perfect partner.

Technical, legal or medical documents. Texts related to marketing, mechanics, business, the world of food, finance, travel, photography, sport, tourism, etc… There’s no limit to the number of subjects that texts that need translating to another language can deal with. That’s why it’s important to be able to rely on professionals specialised in a wide variety of fields that are also linguists and write in their mother tongue. That way you can be sure that they’ll understand the text well and, then, ‘transform’ the text into their native language, the end result being true to the original.

In the past, we’ve written about the importance of selling in your client’s language. A linguistic error on a website, for example, can make a bad impression on clients and even lead to the loss of credibility and sales.

Clients in certain countries, like Japan, tend to read the instructions in manuals that they receive from cover to cover. If they find a translation error, they tend to be more critical than clients in other countries would be, meaning that the introduction of the product might be delayed until all the texts in the manuals are entirely accurate.

In any case, in such a globalised world, it’s absolutely vital to take great care over everything that clients will see. Any complaint made anywhere in the world could reach the opposite corner of the map in a matter of hours. If you want to see some examples of epic mistranslations, you’ll find them here.

The reviewer

Even if you work with competent professionals that translate and proofread, it’s vital that a second person is part of the equation: a reviewer or editor.  The reviewer also has to be an expert in the subject matter that the text deals with, as well as being a good linguist. They have to check that the translated text is faithful to the original and flows in the target language. It should sound natural.

Review is also vital in cases in which the final format of the translation isn’t what the public will see, as a graphic designer or web designer will work their magic on it first. In these cases, it’s important to make sure that no word is cut off, no accents are missing and, if there are accents, that they’re in the correct format and facing the right way, etc. These are small details that can make a bad impression on the people that see them.

Both jobs, translation and revision, have to be done with the utmost care and in good time. That’s why it’s so important to work as a team. We all know that four eyes are better than two.

95% of our purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind

How to connect with your ideal client through words

According to Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman, “95% of our purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind”. Emotions are what really drive purchasing behaviour, and decision making in general.

According to Douglas Van Praet, author of the book “Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing”, “We don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Our emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundations on which they’re made!”.

But, how can we connect with our reader’s emotions? To make someone truly feel something, you’ve got to be speaking their mother tongue. The language of their family. Their friends. Their childhood. That’s the language that has the power to touch their heart, and the language they connect with. For example:

1- What language would you speak to a new-born baby in? Anyone who’s a father or mother knows that when you sing lullabies or whisper loving words, you do it in your mother tongue.
2- What do you say when you get angry? When you get worked up and can’t contain your emotions you probably let out a swear word or two, and they’re sure to be in your native language.
3- If you’ve travelled the world, you’ll know that when you meet someone who speaks your language you quickly form a bond with them even though you don’t know them from Adam, just because they speak your language.

In an article by the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, of the University of Boston, Dr Catherine L. Caldwell-Harris confirms the discovery of the emotional differences between a native language and a foreign one. For example, she says that “bilinguals state that if they swear, pray, lie or say I love you in their mother tongue, it makes them feel different emotions”. She also says that in a European study in which various linguistic combinations were analysed, advertising was considered more emotional when it was written in the recipient’s native language.
It’s clear, then, that emotions govern our decision making, and for words to really touch our hearts they need to be said in our mother tongue.


Do you remember when you got your last smartphone? Or your last PC?

After unpacking/unwrapping it, you probably started to configure it, and as part of this process you maybe changed its language.

Worldwide, we are used to electronic appliances that speak our own language: Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Italian, Czech — you can change it as easily as pressing a button.

But how are these translations done?

Translating the user interfaces of electronic appliances is not an easy task if you want to get it right. It’s not just a matter of translating, but of taking into account the available space in case you need to abbreviate or look for shorter synonyms, the context (in which menu will this string appear?), and the real meaning of the string. Developers tend to use a rather particular language when defining the messages for your phone or printer, for example, which are always easy to understand when they appear in a simple text file.

When you take all this into account and come up with a translation that makes sense, that’s localization.

Localization is translation-plus: it takes into account various different variables (context, length, culture) to find the right words.

All these parameters have to be borne in mind when translating user interface menus; however, they are also important when translating web pages, newsletters, emails for customers — the more context and information the translator gets from the client, the better will the localization reflect the real aim of the original message.

Machine Translation

Once upon a time we all thought it would be impossible for humans to fly, or to talk with someone miles away, or to travel to the moon. All this has changed thanks to technology.

We also thought machines wouldn’t be able to translate text usefully, and it’s now long ago that we used to see those funny examples of literal translation, such as “Made in Turkey” translated as “Hecho en Pavo”.

Nowadays, there are still plenty of funny examples; however, most of the automatic translation engines have evolved, and the results have improved a lot.

In cases such as documentation, with short sentences consisting of unambiguous instructions, automatic translation can be useful, as long as the translation is edited afterwards. It can certainly help to save time and money.

However, there are cases in which automatic translation doesn’t yet make sense. Marketing texts with double meanings, texts that show some kind of feelings or sarcasm, where it is difficult to grasp the real intention of the writer, are still a challenge for automatic translation. In these cases, the editor would probably have to spend too much time trying to figure out the meaning of the translation, going back to the original text and changing the final result.

Technology should keep on helping us to get coherent and good translations; however, to make sure the final result is correct, a final check from a human translator will always be needed.

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