Words from the Wardrobe
Translation and international trade

Translation and International Trade (I)

Useful for your clients and for you too


Nowadays, anyone can set up a business and start selling anywhere in the world.

Although it seems that doing business abroad is all the rage, it’s not something you can achieve overnight. It’s a long process with many hurdles that not all companies manage to clear.

As well as financial, bureaucratic and legal hurdles, there’s the linguistic and cultural ones that can get in the way of our expansion plans. The problem is that we don’t often think about them until we’ve put our foot in it.

Thanks to the Circulo de comercio internacional, a Spanish association of international trade professionals, I recently had the opportunity to give a talk at the ESESA business school in Málaga, Spain, about translation and international trade. This talk has inspired me to write a series of blogposts about translation for companies interested in importing, exporting or trading with other countries.

In this first blogpost, I am going to tell you why translation is useful for your brand’s image.

When we talk about translation and brand image, the first thing that comes to mind are the cases of well-known car brands, food products or slogans whose translations were the butt of many jokes in other countries.

Besides your product’s name and the colours and symbols you use in your logo, translation also influences how potential clients perceive you.

translation and international trade

My talk in ESESA was titled “Para ser global, piensa en local” (To go global, think local).

Don’t close any doors before you open them

The way we approach new markets says a lot about us.

Nelson Mandela quote about languages

Putting the romanticisms to one side, Nelson Mandela’s quote is nothing more than common sense. No matter how well we speak another language, we will always understand the information better in our mother tongue.

By translating your content, you’re also showing that you respect your potential clients, which can make you stand out from your competitors, as it is something that many companies simply ignore. At the ESESA event, Francisco Hernández, an expert in internationalisation and international trade, told us about how a Catalan company went to a trade fair in Latin America with their catalogue in Catalan and how it affected the outcome of their commercial mission.

As well as a question of respect, translation can help you in other ways:

  • In the food sector, providing product information in the target language helps prevent health problems, such as allergies and intolerances. For products like cheese, oil and wine, it can also help give consumers background information about the products’ history, and the region’s culture and traditions, something that can help promote tourism. As you can see, we all win with translation!
  • In the technical sector, translating instruction manuals will help reduce the number of customer service-related calls, as the user is more likely to look at the manual first.
  • If you have an e-commerce site, a multi-lingual website can improve your search engine positioning, as translations are not penalised for being duplicate content. Automatic translations can impact rankings, however, as they are considered as being automatically generated content.
translation helps in international trade

Translation is an investment that can help you increase your sales.

Analyse your market and break into it gradually

When translation is viewed as an expense and not as an investment, companies try to take shortcuts, which can hinder international expansion instead of helping it.

As I always explain to my clients, the first thing they should do is define their target markets well and introduce translation gradually. If they sell products that cannot be sent to certain countries for logistics and preservation reasons, it doesn’t make much sense if you translate them into all languages.

The same applies if you are a service company; it may be more beneficial for you to promote one service more than another. Why confuse your client with information they don’t need?

I’m a translator, I don’t conduct market studies but I know and work with companies that really understand some countries and they can help you out with this first stage. Tell me what countries you’re interested in and I will try to put you in contact with a consultant that is suited to your needs. Then, when you have a better idea of the documents you want to translate and the languages you want to translate them into, I will be more than happy to give you advice.

In the next blogpost, I will discuss the type of documents that are translated for international trade.

See you for the next post!

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