Manifesto for Translation: A Major Tool for Global E-Commerce

When we think of translators, most people think of people who translate books or interpreters who work at the UN. But translators do not work only on books or on Heads of States speeches. There are as many translation fields as they are professional fields. But I’m not here to list each and every potential field translators might be hiding behind. There is a field directly benefiting and growing thanks to the work of freelance translators everywhere around the world. And that field is eCommerce.

True, I’m preaching for my choir here as I’ve been working as an English to French translator specialized in marketing for a few years. But let’s not forget about that: translators are behind every big brand out there which enters and conquers a new foreign territory. So what? Well, my point is that translators are the voices through which every single brand out there is first going to appear to foreign customers. Before exporting its products through a distributor in a foreign country, before opening a flagship store in Paris, before opening its own European office with multilingual staff, before all that, a brand will have to hire the services of a translation agency, who will, in turn, hire the services of freelance translators all over the world. This is how it gets done.

Think of every big brand you know that wasn’t born in your country, chances are somewhere in the world, many translators translated its famous slogan, its TV commercials or its product catalogues before the in-house employees of the brand did it in their own language. If I’m insisting on that, it’s because I feel like a lot of companies do not realize the importance translation will play in their expansion and consulting firms on international expansion usually highlight all kinds of problems like legal issues, currency issues etc., everything but language issues. I’ve actually seen it: during an International Business Tradeshow, there is going to be a panel discussion for each and every “risk” a company can face when going abroad. How come there never (or rarely) is a translation agency part of the panel, or better yet, a whole panel dedicated to language issues?

If we continue to see funny translations appearing in product packaging, restaurant menus or slogans, it is truly because there is a problem when it comes to tackling the translation issue. Companies will pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for marketing and advertising agencies to work on their communication and establish their reputation on- and offline. But when it comes to their communication in a language they don’t read, they will feel confident doing it themselves or using crowdsourced translation websites, that literally anyone bilingual can sign up on, regardless of his or her skills. So of course, I am going to be an advocate of professional translation, done by people who have made it their profession, who are passionate with what they do and who actually care about the image of your company. But we are all rooting for that as translators.

What I would love to see in a sector as important as e-commerce globally is more caring on the subject of language issues, and not only at Translation and Localization conferences.


Photo Credit: Pixabay and ArtsyBee


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