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Translating marketing collateral

For documentation which is aimed at capturing people’s attention and imagination, a slightly less literal approach to translation is often appropriate: the key purpose of the translation of marketing collateral, for instance, is to render the original in a register which is appropriate to the market to which it is destined. Remember, though, that if it took five people half a day to agree on the phrasing of one sentence in the original text, this effect is multiplied in the translation process. With this sort of project, there is always a payoff between accuracy and appropriate phrasing, and two translators will often give different (but equally good!) versions of the same collateral.

Whether a document is intended for internal or external use will have an impact on your translation needs.

Clearly, if a document is aimed at potential or existing customers, or any other external stakeholder in the company such as shareholders, it absolutely has to be perfect. There is now no doubt that if company literature of any kind is not written in the language of the target market, that company will lose business. Even a more or less passable, internet-translated version of the target market’s language will not be enough.

If, on the other hand, the only people who will see the document are inside the company, and that document does not need to be totally precise, people sometimes decide that quality of translation is not a priority (relative to price and speed, that is).

In this case, a customer may decide to optimise the ‘speed’ and ‘cost’ corners of the impossible triangle, and forego the quality checking stage of the translation process. This inevitably means that some mistakes slip through the net, and the phrasing will occasionally be clumsy or remote from the original, but it will nonetheless be a basically readable and comprehensible text.

That said, there is an argument that a company should respect its employees as much as its customers, and if a multi-national uses a less high quality of translation for internal communication, this may ultimately impact on productivity. But now we are straying into management strategy!

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