How to make sure your business doesn’t get lost in translation with Helen Provart | Peak Translations #15
Those of us born in English speaking countries have that great advantage that we can make ourselves understood just about anywhere. The problem is that it also makes us lazy about learning other languages.
In business, we can’t just rely on English. Obviously legal documents have to be in the language of the country we’re working in. So do all our operational materials and of course marketing and sales. We’ve all seen “howler” translations – most obviously on menus in restaurants. At least then all we do is laugh or wonder. Like a lot of business people, the menu writers have probably relied on online translation software – that’s getting better all the time, but it’s a long way from perfect.
Just imagine how one’s business can be damaged by bad translations. And even in conversation, it’s easy to assume that someone with great English understands everything we’re saying – yet most of us have suddenly found that we’ve been misunderstood, or, worse still, unintentionally said something we shouldn’t.
So there’s a very important role for professional translators. In this podcast, Oliver Dowson talks to Helen Provart, the Managing Director of Peak Translations, about the need for getting it right.
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OLIVER: I’m with Helen Provart, the Managing Director of Peak Translations. Helen, welcome to the ‘Growing through International Expansion’ podcast.
HELEN: Thank you very much.
OLIVER: And I’m guessing that Peak Translations is a professional translation service geared towards international business?
HELEN: Absolutely yes, we help our clients to communicate more effectively in their overseas market so that they can expand their businesses globally, supporting them with all of their export requirements.
OLIVER: Is this written translation, oral translation, both?
HELEN: We do both. We do the written translation, we work in five key sectors. We do technical translation of user manuals, safety data sheets, any kind of technical documentation for engineering, manufacturing, aviation, automotive kind of industries. We do medical translations, legal translation. We do business translation and also marketing style translations, so that might be websites, PR, brochures, that kind of thing, to market companies overseas. But we also do interpreting, so the spoken word. That might be to help people with negotiations that they’re getting involved in or business meetings. We can do it over the phone, through video conferencing but also face to face in whichever particular market it needs to be.
OLIVER: It sounds like a very comprehensive service. Do you cover every language or how many languages do you cover?
HELEN: We do cover every language, yes.
OLIVER: Presumably not some of the Amazon Indian ones!
HELEN: Well we’ve had some quite unusual requests in the past actually. So we’ve done things like Aruba, Tigrinyan, so some unusual requests, but we do the mainstream predominantly. But yes, we can cover all sorts of languages. The business model that we work to is that we can do the project management in-house and we contract in the linguists as and when they are required for a particular project. We make sure that our skill lies in identifying the right people to do the job so that they can make sure that the message is getting across in the best way possible. Our linguists need first of all to be qualified translators or interpreters. They also need to be working in the native language, but they also need to have that sector specialism. So what we look for in our linguist is to make sure that they have maybe an engineering background if they’re working on an engineering project or they have a legal background if they’re working in the legal industry, so that they can make sure they are using the right terminology, that they understand the concept of what they’re talking about or what they’re writing about, so that that message can really get across in the most accurate and succinct way. It needs to, for that particular market.
OLIVER: That’s really critical. I keep meeting people – and you must meet far more – who say I don’t need translators, I’ve got Google Translate now.
HELEN: Absolutely. Yes, we have met quite a few of those! I say to people that Google Translate has got its place, you know if you’re abroad and you need some quick turnaround. Even in a business context sometimes it’s got its place, for example if you just need to understand the gist of an e-mail that’s come in or something like that. But absolutely, if you’re trying to sell your product into another market, you need to make sure the reputation of the company, the image of the company is not being damaged by the bad translation you could potentially get using a machine translation.
OLIVER: The other thing I also find, certainly with our clients when we do need things professionally translated, is that they tend to only realise at the absolute 59th minute of the 11th hour.
HELEN: Oh yes.
OLIVER: So it becomes super urgent, so I guess you specialise in express translations as well?
HELEN: We can turn it around quite quickly if we need to. Yes, we obviously always recommend that you have some time to allow for that translation process. People do think it just happens instantly, and it can be turned around really quickly, but unfortunately that’s not the case. So we do recommend that people make sure that they have allowed some time so that the translation process can be done, but we have had instances whereby it’s been urgent, it’s been “I need it yesterday”, and we can turn it around quickly if we need to. We can put multiple linguists on one project, so they can turn it around quicker. There are certain pitfalls that we have to watch out for doing that, consistency of terminology and that kind of thing, but it is possible to turn it around quicker if necessary.
OLIVER: It’s obviously a very necessary service. I can attest to that.
OLIVER: Helen, thank you so much for talking to me today and thank you for participating in the ‘Growing through Global Expansion’ podcast.
HELEN: No problem, thank you for inviting me.
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