Going Global? What Your Business Should Ask Of A Translation Company

By Ian A. Henderson and Françoise Henderson

Tourists who travel beyond the borders of their own country know at some point they may need a translator, whether that’s an official tour guide or just a friendly fellow passenger on a train.

The same need applies when businesses expand their operations globally, but unlike tourists, businesses can’t afford to count on the linguistic large-heartedness of strangers.

And yet, many businesses with global ambitions treat translation as an afterthought, says Ian A. Henderson, author of Global Content Quest: In Search of Better Translations and co-founder with his wife, Françoise, of Rubric (www.rubric.com), a global language-service provider.

“Translation is most effective when it is taken into consideration as part of the big picture, and you secure the services of a translation company early on in your planning,” Henderson says.

Part of the translator’s job is anticipating complex questions that are sure to arise. The sooner a business involves them in the conversation, Françoise Henderson says, the sooner they can help uncover those hidden complexities, so the business can make informed decisions.

“Someone could just translate the words and send them back to you,” she says, “but that wouldn’t be doing you a service.”

So, how can businesses ready to go global find the right translators to help them with their message? The Hendersons offer these tips:

  • Make sure your translator understands more than just language. Approaching translation as merely a linguistic endeavor will lead to failure, Ian Henderson says. “Translation is much more than translating words from one language to another.” he says. “It is the act of communicating between cultures and continents. What’s acceptable in one country might be unacceptable in another. You want to find a translator who understands local customs, legal requirements and other issues.”
  • Look for a translator who will push back. A good translator will let you know if your plans don’t fit the reality, or if you are about to make a costly misstep, Françoise Henderson says. “You want someone who will take the time to understand your business,” she says. The Hendersons once worked with a U.S. company that made bourbon. The company wanted to expand into a number of countries, but hadn’t considered the wide range of laws surrounding alcohol and the drinking age in those countries. The Hendersons pointed out that, to be effective, written materials would need to cater to each country in a different manner. 
  • Expect to pay for quality. “Translation is not cheap,” Ian Henderson says. “The more markets you want to conquer, the more languages you have to speak. It may seem daunting to add another $10,000 or $20,000 to the budget. However, once you begin to consider translation as an essential cost of doing business, not only will the investment seem minimal, but the whole endeavor will actually become less expensive. The earlier in the process you begin to account for multiple translations, the simpler, more effective, and less expensive the process becomes.” 

“A good translation team will maximize what assets you already have, ask you the right questions, and approach the project with thoroughness and passion,” Françoise Henderson says. “A good team will always be building knowledge for next time as well.”

About Ian A. Henderson

Ian A. Henderson (www.rubric.com), author of Global Content Quest: In Search of Better Translations, is chief technology officer and co-founder of Rubric, a global language service provider. During the last 25 years, Henderson has partnered with Rubric customers to deliver relevant global content to their end users, enabling them to reap the rewards of globalization, benefit from agile workflows, and guarantee the integrity of their content. Prior to founding Rubric, Henderson worked as a software engineer for Siemens in Germany.

About Françoise Henderson

Françoise Henderson is chief executive officer and co-founder of Rubric, overseeing worldwide operations and Global Content strategy. Under her guidance, Rubric has generated agile KPI-driven globalization workflows for its clients, reducing time to market across multiple groups and increasing quality and ROI. Françoise has over 25 years’ experience in corporate management and translation.

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