Imagine that you are going to a restaurant that serves crab. You open the menu excitedly only to discover that the restaurant, instead of putting crabmeat on the menu, is offering "steamed red crap with ginger." Of course, you know what the restaurant owners meant to communicate, and you probably will pass the menu around the table so that you and your party can have a good laugh. However, for businesses of all sizes, understanding the nuances of localization and translation can make the difference between prospering and languishing in a global marketplace.
According to a survey recently made, about 80 percent of companies have lost revenue due to issues with localization and translation. Many companies have to delay product launches, and some companies are even fined by local governments for non-compliance associated with translation errors. Half of firms, according to the survey, have at least 10 different departments that are involved in the localization of company information for the marketplace. However, only 37 percent of those companies surveyed plan to develop a strategy to combat translation issues within the next year.
Certain translation conundrums are just nuisances. For example, a navigation button in English allowing viewers to "skip" an advertisement has to be recreated when the website is translated into German. This happens because the German word for "skip" contains 16 characters instead of four. While rewriting a few lines of code would easily fix the problem, a business could suffer a major loss of revenue if a substantial number of frustrated customers clicked away from the website.
Other translation errors cause more serious concerns. Mead Johnson Nutritionals, for instance, had to recall a number of baby food products because the labels had been translated incorrectly from English to Spanish. If the baby food products had been prepared according to the mistranslated directions, then the products could have caused renal failure, seizures, irregular heartbeat or even death. In addition to the impact to customers, Mead Johnson would have faced major financial consequences in the form of government fines and litigation expenses.
If companies want to compete in today's global marketplace, then they have to consider the importance of accurate localization and translation of language. When Coca-Cola expanded into the Chinese market, for instance, the name of the product was first translated "kekoukela." Depending on the Chinese dialect, the phrase translated as either "bite the wax tadpole" or "a female horse stuffed with wax." To combat the unappetizing translation, Coca-Cola searched until it found a character that translated "kokoukole," meaning "happiness in the mouth."
Of course, Coca-Cola had the resources to recover from its blunder. Unfortunately, when small and medium-sized businesses do not have the cash to fund such a recovery, the costs associated with poor translation could mean the end of a promising business venture. For this reason, companies should consider outsourcing the work to a firm that has expertise in the localization of business advertising and logistics.