How translation mistakes can negatively affect your business

Learn how translation inconsistencies – including minor ones – can threaten the authority and reliability of your company

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If you work for a company that offers products and services or that discloses contents to different countries, translation is part of your daily routine. Also, translation mistakes are much more relevant than you think.

They may go unnoticed during translation, but as soon as a potential customer realizes it, it can have a serious impact, tarnishing your company reputation in the market.

Learn how translation mistakes and flaws can affect the image and reliability of your business in the eyes of customers and the market.

How can translation mistakes negatively affect my business?

Basically, it’s about one thing: credibility. When a business has documents or contents inaccurately translated, people look at your business differently.

Translation mistakes may not have a significant impact in the country of origin, but considering the target audience of the translation, the impact can be huge.

Some translation mistakes are more common – that doesn’t mean they are acceptable, only that they occur more frequently.

Mistakes can include misspelling or semantic inconsistencies, maybe not affecting understanding. However, when a word or sentence is incorrectly translated changing the original meaning, consequences can be much more catastrophic.

Some of these mistakes can be explained. You should learn whether this happens in your business. If it does, you should act quickly to avoid more serious problems.

What makes your business translation inconsistent?

The following can be a source of serious or simple mistakes in text and document translations, product descriptions, services and other contents:

Machine translation

Technology offers us different tools to make our lives easier. One of them is machine translation, provided that it is used correctly.

For example, if you got a contract from a foreign customer but doesn’t speak his language, you hire the services of a professional translator. But when no translators are available, you can use Google Translator or other machine translation service.

Machine translation can help you understand what your customer is asking, but should never be used to translate contents that will be disclosed to other people, like texts, descriptions and documents.

Machine translation mistakes are much more frequent than those made by professional translators because machine translation uses algorithms that can fail. So, don’t trust machine translation websites and solutions for professional services.

Unexperienced translation agencies

Hiring a translation agency is highly recommended if you want a high-quality service. However, the agency selected should have proven quality. Otherwise, you may be forced to deal with the mistakes made by the translation agency.

Translation mistakes become common when the service is provided by unexperienced agencies that are not adequately qualified.

Therefore, be aware of that and always choose experienced agencies that provide superior-quality services.

Crowdsourcing translations

Crowdsourcing translations are translation services provided by a group of people, not by one translator only. This type of service is usually available on the internet for the translation of websites, reviews and comments. But this might not be the right choice for your business.

As it is a shared project, where each member involved is responsible for one part of the translation, it’s difficult to know who you should contact in case of any translation mistakes. This might be a problem if no one is willing to take responsibility for the mistake. Therefore, this can be the wrong option because it offers poor-quality services.

Real problems caused by translation mistakes

Translation mistakes are a reality around the world and some of them have led to disastrous consequences for businesses and institutions. Check them out:

The 71 million dollar word

In 1980, an 18-year old patient called Willie Ramirez was taken to a Florida hospital in coma. His friends and family tried to describe his condition, but they only spoke Spanish.

The hospital called one of its employees to help with the language. When he heard the boy had been “intoxicado”, he understood it as “intoxicated”, which means drug or alcohol abuse, instead of “poisoned”, that would be a more accurate translation in this case.

Ramirez’s family and friends believed he had food poisoning, but in fact he had a brain hemorrhage and was treated as if he had had a drug overdose, which could also cause the symptoms he was experiencing.

Because of delayed care, Ramirez became tetraplegic. The hospital gave him a USD 71 million compensation. This is one of the most severe and expensive translation mistakes in history.

Chocolate for Valentine’s Day

In the fifties, chocolate companies began to encourage Valentine’s Day celebration in Japan. However, a translation mistake led people to believe the usual practice was for women to give chocolate to men.

And they did exactly that: on February 14th, on Saint Valentine’s Day, women gave chocolate candies and chocolate boxes to their husbands, fiancés and valentines, the opposite of what was traditionally expected and of the original idea proposed.

Nevertheless, on March 14th, men returned the favor. This translation mistake must have been one of the most profitable mistakes ever, as it considerably increased chocolate sales in the country after that time.

Invest in quality translations

Now you believe translation mistakes can be much more serious than you had imagined. In addition to financial loses – including irreversible events to people – the image and credibility of your business can get compromised.

To avoid that, choose a reliable and renowned translation agency, be free from all kinds of translation mistakes and prevent negative impacts on your business.

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