In today’s globalized world, the demand for accurate, localized foreign language content is growing. For proof, just look at the numbers: According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, the translation industry is expected to grow by 42 percent between 2010 and 2020. Meanwhile, the language services industry generated a whopping $40 billion in revenue in 2016 — a figure that’s projected to go even higher this year.
If you’re working for a business with international customers, and you aren’t already producing global content, maybe it’s time to start rethinking your position. To understand why, let’s take a closer look at translation.
The benefits of reaching people in their native tongue
It’s no secret that people prefer to communicate in their native language. And while there are more than 7,000 languages spoken throughout the world today, over half of the world’s population speaks just 23 of them. Not only that, approximately 90 percent of online spending is accounted for by people who speak just 13 languages (you can see which ones here).
There are serious benefits to translating your company’s content into any language, especially one of those 13. The biggest benefit, of course, is that it opens you up to a much broader range of potential customers. Research by the Common Sense Advisory found “a full 63 percent of global brands recently reached more customers by increasing the number of languages on their websites.”
While there’s no doubt that English is the lingua franca (53.6 percent of web content is in English), imagine the size of the non-English market you may be overlooking. Good, accurate foreign language content shows that your organization cares about non-English speaking customers, and that you’re trustworthy, professional, and local.
Having said all of that, it’s important to remember that bad translations can have disastrous consequences. They can lead to embarrassing PR blunders (as in these examples), or have more devastating results on your business. It’s important to be smart about how you approach translation.
The rise of translation technology
While free translation apps may be good enough for ordering dinner in Italy, or finding a doctor in Uruguay, they’re not the answer for translating your business content.
Fortunately, there are other solutions. With machine translation, for example, computers learn from huge databases of already-translated text using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deep learning. As a result, they become better over time at making decisions about how to translate content from one language to another. There’s no doubt that machine translation has a part to play in creating efficiencies, but it currently lacks the logic and reasoning skills of human translators.
Why humans still matter
Languages are in a constant state of flux — adding and dropping words and phrases all the time. And a region’s lexicon may also differ vastly from its neighbor’s. Practically speaking, this means that you simply can’t find a substitute for humans when it comes to performing high-quality translations.
Professional human translators are able to understand the meaning beyond the words, and can craft translations that reflect the true intent of the source content. In business, literal translations produced by a machine don’t always cut it. This is especially important when you’re thinking about brand voice and messaging. It’s important therefore to invest in high-quality translation services to produce the best results. While those services increasingly rely on machines to assist with translation, they add a layer of human review to ensure quality.
Remember, too, that the quality of any translation is highly dependent on the quality of source content. Something that’s poorly written (full of mistakes, or vague and unclear) is going to result in a bad translation, no matter how skilled the translator. Using content optimization technology to improve the source content before it’s translated is a great way to ensure quality results.
Speaking your language
The future really is global, and great multilingual content presents huge business opportunities. Fortunately, translating your content isn’t as complicated as you might think. What’s important is that you reach new customers with content they understand, in a way that accurately reflects your organization. That’s a goal that makes sense in any language.