International Communications Group Inc
A Translation Service Company

Why budget for professionals?

We just heard a couple of scary translation tales from two new clients of ours, who gave us permission to share them with the rest of our clients and friends.

The first one comes from a hospital, which had an outside so-called professional bilingual person translate their Maternity Tea flyer.   The English copy read:  “Come and join us for a discussion about your plans for delivery”.  This professional  translated the word discussion as “discusión” which, in Spanish, means “argument”.  Basically, the hospital’s message in Spanish read :  “If you come to our Maternity Tea, we’ll have an argument about your plans for delivery”.   My client’s well-meaning, welcoming message had become an insulting one in the community and only a few Latinos attended the session!

Another new client of ours is an advertising firm who recently lost one of its main clients,  a major automobile manufacturer, due to the inappropriate Spanish copy that his firm produced for them.   Relying on a bilingual staff member  who claimed to be fully qualified to do translations, he had proudly announced that his firm could help organizations reach the Hispanic community.   I was shown some of the Spanish flyers that his firm produced for this automobile client and...  no wonder they were fired!   In one of them,  they were enthusiastically advertising “cheap” brake fluid (as opposed to “inexpensive”) and special deals for “the senile” (as opposed to “senior citizens”!!!!).   

The  best piece of advice I can give is:  Budget for professional translation services for any document that needs to be communicated to a non-English speaking audience, and avoid COSTLY mistakes!    Verify the translator’s skill by checking references and having a native speaker read a sample.

The most common pitfalls in translation that I see are: 

  • Poorly written translations due to incorrect grammar and misspelling, which insult the readers.
  • Inaccurate or inappropriate translations due to lack of vocabulary and understanding on the part of the translator, or his/her inability to write to the readers’ level.
  • Translations done by individuals who are not native speakers of the language they are writing, and may not have the most complete grasp of the language and its nuances.   This is especially CRITICAL  in the Spanish-speaking world, where regional and national differences in vocabulary and idiomatic expressions can cause confusion and create trouble.