5 Difficulties Faced When Translating Business Documents

by Matt Murray

Today, companies trade all over the world and not in localized areas as they used to. Advances in technology mean that you can do business with someone halfway around the world with ease. The only challenge you might encounter is a language barrier.

Nelson Mandela once said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." Businesspeople around the world should heed these wise words.

The simplest approach to dealing with international companies is translating your documents. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it sounds. Here are some pitfalls you might encounter.

Lost in translation

The worst thing you can do is rely on a computer to do your translation for you as artificial intelligence has not yet reached the stage of understanding the nuances of languages. A lot of colloquial speech can be lost in translation because it simply doesn't have a translation into that language.

This is particularly true of idiomatic expressions that have meaning in one language, but that will lose that meaning when translated. Only a person familiar with the language can convert your expression into something that will make sense to the reader.

Direct translation

Sitting with a document and your bilingual dictionary is not going to get you an accurate translation. A lot of people assume that if they go through the document word for word, translating each one, the work is done. This couldn't be further from the truth.

The fruits of this translation attempt will be a string of words that doesn't make any sense. That's because languages have different sentence structures and conventions that you need to adhere to. Words have different meanings in different contexts, so your dictionary will offer you all of them. How do you choose the right one?

Different alphabets

Translation becomes an even more complex task when you're using a different alphabet. For Chinese, Hindi, Russian, and Arabic translation, you'll need someone who is an expert in using both alphabets, as well as translating from one language to the other.

Some alphabets are highly complex, and leaving a dot or stroke out of a letter can change the entire meaning of the word. A slip like this could frustrate or offend the reader, so you'll want to avoid it at all costs.

It's not what you say; it's how you say it

Many languages have formal conventions that relate to how pronouns are used and how to address people. Without this knowledge, it will be all too easy to make a mistake and cause the reader to refuse to do business with you.

A person who has only studied the language won't know as much about its conventions as someone who has had a lot of experience in the language and its culture. A translator should be able to transcribe your words into fluent sentences that the reader will appreciate.

It's not just about the content

There are legalities in your documents that vary from one country to another. Find out about how the law in the other country and area differs from where you are located. It's best if you make the necessary changes to reflect the correct regulations before you get someone to translate it.

Once a document has been translated, it should be edited as well, just to make sure that there aren't any mistakes. This is a vital step that allows you to ensure that what you're saying won't breach any laws. It's worth the effort to prevent a business from becoming embroiled in unnecessary lawsuits.


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