When trading internationally, translation is an essential tool. Materials translated accurately by humans have the potential to greatly improve conversions when compared to computer-generated translations. There are numerous factors that underpin high-quality translation, so here is our advice if your business needs translation services…
Mother-tongue translators offer skill and knowledge that can’t be matched. They have an unrivalled familiarity with their own language, and can pick up on nuances that someone who’s only been speaking the language for a few years might miss. Mother-tongue translators can ensure proper localisation. Countries that use the same language still have localised differences, of course. Mother-tongue translators will also be more culturally aware and able to spot whether words or phrasing will offend. They will also have a better knowledge of structure, because some dialects use shorter sentences, while the opposite is true for others.
Although using proofreaders has become less common as a result of the ‘digital revolution’, they’re essential when translating important business materials. One mistake in a technical document, for example, could have disastrous consequences. Professional proofreaders ensure that the translation is accurate and of the highest quality. They should prevent unprofessional-looking spelling mistakes from creeping in, while awkward phrasing or poorly written sentences can be misleading.
Your translators should have a relevant qualification or specialist certification. If someone’s made the effort to obtain a post-graduate diploma or a degree in a foreign language, they’re obviously committed to their craft and are likely to have a professional attitude to their work. Where possible, ensure that they belong to a recognised translation body (eg The Institute of Translation & Interpreting).
Work only with translators with at least five years’ experience, which is normally enough time for them to develop their skills (though more experience is better). Try to ensure that the translator has in-depth experience of translating for your sector. If they don’t, they’ll struggle with technical terms and industry-specific references.
Translation is essentially a simple process, however, it can very quickly become complicated if too many people get involved. For each piece of work, have a project manager tasked with ensuring that everything is completed on time. Also, use one experienced proofreader and give them the maximum amount of time to complete each piece of work.
Corrections are often stylistic and therefore subjective, so it’s important to ensure that there is a specified style guide for your translation work. Your editorial style preferences should be clearly explained in advance so there can be no dispute later on. These can range from whether bullet points should use complete sentences and job titles capitalised) to font use. Even basic documents require style guidance, so confirm your preferences in advance if you want to avoid wasting time, effort and money.
Copyright © 2014 The Language Factory, which specialises in translating materials across a range of industries.
Sacré bleu. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages has asked all political parties to include a new “framework for national recovery in language learning” in their 2015 general election manifestos.
That framework should include pledges to “transform the reputation of UK citizens as poor linguists, reluctant to value languages other than English” and “actively encourage business and employers to get involved in tackling the crisis”. The good news for businesses is the group also suggested that employers might be offered tax incentives to “recruit or train homegrown linguists”.
Our less than impressive reputation for linguistic prowess is well earned it seems, with the UK lagging way behind other EU countries when it comes to speaking foreign languages. According to European Commission (EC) research, only 39% of UK adults can hold a conversation in a foreign language, compared to the EU average of 54%.
“So what?” you might say, after all, “English is the international language of business”, n’est pas? Well, to an extent, oui, I mean, yes, but English isn’t always widely spoken in many markets and lack of foreign language skills is holding back many UK businesses – and that could include yours.
UK employers frequently bemoan the shortage of foreign language-speaking British workers. A UK Commission for Employment and Skills survey in 2013 found that where vacancies were not filled because of a lack of skills, in almost a fifth of cases that meant lack of foreign language skills. According to the CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2014, 65% of firms require foreign language skills.
Au contraire, you counter, as you sit there all smug, armed with your conversational French, Spanish or Italian. Yet many Brits who can speak a foreign language don’t put that key skill to good commercial use, and perhaps too many of us are guilty of not looking beyond our own shores as much as we should. According to the CBI, only a fifth of UK SMEs export, despite businesses being 11% more likely to survive if they do.
Readers of a Euro-sceptic disposition might want to look away now, but UK exports to EU countries alone support 4.2m UK jobs and are worth £211bn to the national economy (source: FT.com), while total UK exports to non-EU countries are worth almost £150bn a year (source: Gov.uk). The US remains the most important single market to the UK economy, accounting for £41bn or 13.4% of all exports (source: Santander UK).
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) recently published its International Trade Survey for Q1 2014 and it found that while 90% of UK firms have ambitions to grow domestically, only 43% are looking beyond the UK for sales, despite 55% of current exporters reporting a positive impact on their bottom line within just 12 months of expanding into new markets abroad.
John Longworth, BCC director general, says: “We need to do more as a nation to take the fear out of exporting. I speak to businesses that have full order books here in the UK and don't see why they would need to take their goods and services overseas. To transform businesses’ mindset, we need to create an environment that makes it worthwhile for them to export.
“We must invest even more in supporting and promoting international trade. The UK should be matching the resourcing dedicated to export support provided by our major international competitors. And government intervention must be more focused in areas that can really make a difference, such as providing greater access to finance to growing firms – particularly when a quarter of non-exporters say that increased funding would encourage them to export. Only a concerted national campaign and sustained investment will get more UK firms to look beyond our shores for growth opportunities.”
Even simple steps, such as creating pages in select foreign languages could attract many more overseas visitors to your website and give your sales a serious boost. More of us finally committing to learning to speak a foreign language well would also greatly help, of course.
• Visit the BCC Export Britain website for more information about how to start selling to customers overseas.
Blog written by Mark Williams, freelance content writer and editor of Start Up Donut.
Ten years ago it was all about importing from China, but today businesses talk about China's market potential. However, few exporting start-ups know anything about how to get started, the various potential pitfalls or how to pitch a product for the demanding Chinese market.
You can forget about this even if you manufacture your products in China. Lower taxes, lower rent and Chinese businesses’ ability to “game the system” makes price competition a no-go for exporters. The good news is that Chinese consumers are ready to pay for quality – foreign quality in particular. Made in the UK is a quality mark and something that local suppliers cannot replicate. The only thing that really makes sense for exporting start-ups is to compete on quality instead of low prices.
You don’t need to set up a business in China to reach its market. Exporting directly from the UK is good enough for most start-ups. However, to get market exposure you will benefit greatly from having a local partner with an established logistics network and relationships with purchasing managers in the country. Relationships matter in China, they are generally considered to be more important than the product itself.
Chinese distributors can be found online or by visiting one of the various trade shows in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. When you have found a suitable distributor, it’s critical to sign a distribution agreement. Getting paid is not as simple as it might sound. There are commission-based distribution agreements, where the exporter gets paid based on monthly or quarterly sales. However, sales volumes are hard to verify and taking your distributor to a Chinese court is often too expensive and time-consuming for a start-up. The best option is simply to get paid upfront by the distributor and not settle for any complex commission-based agreement.
A local office and manufacturing in China, for China, makes sense when you’ve reached a high export volume. However, many exporters assume that the Chinese government requires foreign businesses to team up with a local partner to gain market access. This was true in the past, but many things have happened since then. Since 2004, foreigners can operate in China as Wholly Foreign Invested Enterprises (WFOE). Apart from a few industries, the market is free for all and no local partner is required.
Filing your trademark in China makes sense more than anywhere else in the world. It’s not uncommon that third parties file trademarks to block foreign companies from entering the market and then offering to “sell it back” for a hefty price. Your product should also have a Chinese name, thus a Chinese name trademark is also necessary.
Fredrik Groenkvist is founder of Chinaimportal, a membership service for start-ups and small businesses sourcing products in Asia.