What does your Chinese translation say about your company? You may be surprised…

“I hired a student from a local university to do my translation…and it ended up hurting my reputation.”

This was the story I heard from a business contact I met with a couple of weeks ago. He works for a large chemical manufacturer with a presence in China, and they needed their website translated into Chinese. His choice was to hire a local student from China for the job. Once he presented the translation to his Chinese business partners, they weren’t impressed — the errors actually made him and his company look less professional in their eyes.

My point here isn’t to criticize Chinese students. There are no doubt Chinese students studying here in the US who can produce fine translations. But without knowing their abilities, you’re always taking a chance and, ultimately, putting your company’s reputation on the line. Keep in mind also that, since they are students and usually new to US business culture, they will miss the nuances or terms that are so second nature to us we don’t even realize they’re idiomatic or culture-specific.

I always remind people that, between me (US native fluent in Mandarin Chinese) and my husband (Chinese national fluent in English), we understand the business cultures of the US and China. We also cover the entire linguistic field and, when we collaborate on a translation, the result is the message you intended in the first place.

Seems simple enough — that translation was meant to translate exactly what you wrote in the beginning. But sometimes your intention isn’t enough to get it right.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.