Caution to the wind

The other week, I threw caution to the wind a little and did something I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

I translated my own social media post into French and Spanish. It just felt appropriate, because I was asking a question about which languages my connections speak. I wasn’t 100% sure the translated versions were 100% grammatically correct, but I was sure the message would be conveyed accurately enough to get my point across.

Reaching out

Sure enough, yesterday I received a (very welcome and appreciated) message from another linguist, politely pointing out that the Spanish could be improved a little.

I could have been downhearted about this, beaten myself up about not practising what I preach in terms of publishing quality multilingual content. Indeed, there were a few seconds of regret and panic.

The thing is, it’s about knowing where we’re at, isn’t it? It certainly doesn’t feel right not to even try to reach out to my prospective clients in their own language. In the fast-paced world of social media, it is difficult for me to produce multilingual posts all the time, but I am making a concerted effort to do it as much as I can.

Different levels of communication

Yet I can’t afford to have every single post translated or even proofread, and for me the priority right now is staying consistent in connecting and building relationships with people, making sure my networks know how I help my clients.

I wouldn’t translate a UK client’s content into French and Spanish because I know my level is not perfect in those languages. It’s good enough to communicate a basic message, but not good enough to know with absolute certainty how the reader will receive those words – how they will feel and act as a result.

And that’s what I do when I translate into English – it’s about more than the meaning. It’s about the tone, the feeling, and the action my words inspire. That’s why I’ll be working with translators for my website, key blog posts and sales pages and documents as I grow my business, because I know those words will be in safe hands and my voice will be carried across into the translation.

The next right step

I know my clients face tough decisions about when and what to outsource. I know because I have to juggle priorities on a daily basis, too. I’ve learned that it’s about the next right step for you, and an important part of the way I work is to help my clients figure out what will have the biggest impact on their work at any given time.

Towards your goal

It might be that you needed an English version of their website up and running quickly in the past, so ran your original copy through an automated tool as the quickest, cheapest (indeed, free!) option. Now you’ve either realised yourself or have received feedback that the English is awkward-sounding, or even incorrect. It’s safe to say this is rarely the intention when clients make an effort to provide multilingual content, but the result can be at best confusing and at worst damaging to your reputation.

In this scenario, my job is to discuss with you what you need the translated copy on your website to do for you. Have you provided an additional language page simply to convey the key pieces of information and ensure people know how to take action? Or does that copy need to take your site visitor on the journey you planned for those who speak your language? Does it need to engage and inspire? Does it need to be optimised to drive traffic to your site?

Whatever it takes

It might be that I can help in the same way my colleague helped me, putting my editing skills to use by tweaking your copy and ensuring that your message is clear and impactful. Alternatively, I may need to advise starting from scratch and will deliver a translation that is not only flawless but speaks to your audience in your voice. The decision will be yours, but a good language services provider will guide you based on the point you are starting from and where you want to end up.