The International Entrepreneur: Interview with Translation and Localization Expert – Eve Bodeux

Accurate translation and culturally localized content is critical to business credibility. Recently I interviewed Eve Bodeux (@ebodeux) for her professional insights:

 What do you see as the greatest difference between translation and localization?

Translation takes place on the written page and is the process of communicating the meaning of one language in another. Many types of translation exist including literary translation, commercial translation and technical translation to name a few.

Translation is a part of localization. Localization is the process of adapting a product for a specific region or country. In addition to translation, localization also takes into consideration cultural and technical aspects. The goal of localization is to fully adapt a product or text so that is accurately reflects linguistic, social, technical and cultural norms in the target markets. Examples of localization are changing measurements on food packaging to the metric system, using the correct date format in a software program, making sure that accent marks display correctly on a web page and updating customer service phone numbers for the new target markets involved.

What are the worst misconceptions that business people have when using a translator?

I find that the biggest misconception about translation is that people do not realize that is it is a complex and time-consuming task. Anyone in the translation industry can relate numerous stories about how they have been asked to produce large translations overnight. Depending on the content of the text involved, a translator will translate somewhere between 500 to 2,500 words per day. Therefore, it will take weeks if not months to transform a large corporate manual of 100,000 words into a polished translation suitable for business use. One way to estimate how long it will take to translate a specific work is to consider how long it took to create it in English. Three months to create a manual in English–including drafting, editing and proofreading—may take at least several weeks to translate.

Another misconception about translation is that anyone who is bilingual can do it. A bilingual individual in your office may be able to summarize the content of foreign-language document, but for public-facing documents (web pages, legal contracts, etc.) a professional translator provides more accurate and readable document. Professional translators can craft text so that it attracts the intended target audience while transferring ideas and concepts into culturally appropriate context, rather than a word-for-word rendition.

Can you give me an example of low-cost translation doing any real damage to a company’s brand?

One time, we were asked to take over the translation of a software product that had previously been translated by Spanish bilinguals within the company. Spanish is tricky because there are so many variations around the world. There is a standardized Spanish version used in software applications that is accepted by most Spanish users. Using standardized Spanish prevents clients from having to pay for 20 or more Spanish versions of their product.

In our client’s case, the company’s internal Spanish speakers had chosen a word for a common software term that had a strong sexual connotation in several Spanish countries (but, evidently, not theirs). This resulted in a serious issue where the client’s software contained offensive and outright shocking text in their flagship product. We updated the text so that later versions of the software contained the universally accepted (and non-offensive) phrase.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to companies thinking about translating or localizing their products?

Early assessment of your text or product for translation and localization is critical. As soon as you know that you’re going into international markets, you’ll want to find a specialist who can guide you and help you create a translation and localization strategy. This will give you a road map that saves you money downstream and also helps your globalization strategy grow with your company. Tweaking your content and workflow in relation to translation has the potential to significantly reduce overall translation costs.

Thank you, Eve, for sharing your insights!