International companies have worked hard to get to the foreign markets. They’ve studied, planned, tried and created a place in the markets. The language question comes up usually as a result of this hard work. It’s like the last piece of the puzzle. Rarely decision makers think language strategy as a way to develop their business. They should.
The effect of well-performed localization is huge. Language can be a valuable differentiator. A brand speaking customers’ language feels authentic and reliable. A recent study shows that even 42 % of EU27 citizens never use other languages than their own when searching or buying products and services in the internet. Only very few companies can afford to ignore a group of this size.
Unfortunately, language and translation decisions are often made too late. Then there isn’t enough time or budget to the translation work anymore. Translation may feel like a pain in the ass when there are many other things to think about, and the failed schedules will put a pressure on the translation work that is allocated in the end of the project. Quality will suffer, and so will the audience and potential customers. Finally the company will feel the consequences in low sales.
The fact that translators are the last participants to get paid means that there will be less to be shared. This leads to the discussion of too high translation prices. There are always cheaper translation services available but lower price may require compromises on quality. However, when looking at the big picture, even the best translation is often the cheapest part of a successful globalization project. The key is to plan the translation work well and early enough.
When the cooperation with a language service provider starts in an early stage, there will be less unpleasant (and expensive) surprises. There are ways to make the translation work smoother. Good quality input enables good quality output. Dictionaries, style guides and translation instructions are examples of good practices that will make the translation part easier and faster.
Language strategy should be a part of the whole international business strategy right from the beginning. When translation is afterthought it won’t integrate perfectly with other parts of the project or brand. The lack of vision limits the full potential of language and translation.
We thank Tarja Salonen (KITES) and Anne-Marie Colliander-Lind (Inkrease) for their thought-provoking presentations about this topic in the KITES Symposium 2013 (#kites2013).
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