A colleague sitting across you at the office sips languidly at her coffee while staring at her computer screen. You notice the white print glaring against the black background of her mug as she chugs away absently and giggle to yourself.

“I am silently judging your grammar”, it says.

You chuckle because you can relate. As a branding executive, you know that when it comes to reaching out to your audience, even the tiny details count. 

So, everything your team puts out in your marketing collaterals have to be spot on. Even something as basic and easily overlooked as grammar.

Because bad grammar can affect not just your brand’s voice but its overall image and reputation. The last thing you want is for user experience (UX) to be affected by stumbling blocks as basic as that.

So, you make sure you get everything proof-read before it goes out live, be it online or in printed media and even press releases. That is, if the content is in your native or working language.

But we all know that to reach out to customers across a diversity of countries over the far reaches of the world, you’re going to have to provide content in more than just one language.

Research shows that providing content in the customers’ own language makes it a lot likelier that they will buy from you as they do not have to do the additional work of using a generic translator provided by a search engine that is clumsy at best – and embarrassingly misleading at worst.

And it’s not enough to have content auto-translated from English to say, Chinese or Japanese, without engaging the proper translation expertise required because we all know how embarrassingly wrong that can go!

Bad translations are an entire world of memes in itself.

Mistranslation - Picture 1

Mistranslation - Picture 2
Punctuation saves lives

Poor grammar and bad translations, in any language, achieve only one thing – a negative impact, both for UX and on the brand’s credibility.

All the more if you are in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry, you need to look into transcreating content into the languages they speak for the ease of your guests, be it in the signs, paperwork, menus you use and definitely on your website.

If you still think that having badly translated content is better than not having content in another language at all, even despite the mistakes, poor grammar or even misalignment to the brand’s voice, think again.

It’s a misconception we hope to debunk by the end of this piece.

Here are 6 reasons why bad translation equals bad business:

  1. Poor Translations scream “I don’t give a da*n!”
    If your brand does not bother investing in good translations or local language content, it might look like you don’t care enough about the market. This can be perceived as outright disrespect most cultures, for example the Japanese, who take great pride in their national language. Today’s consumers are savvy and will catch on very quickly if an incoming brand is truly interested in investing in their market through content customisation and customer outreach - or merely out to make a quick buck.
  2. Customer confusion leads to dissatisfaction
    Customer satisfaction is your business’ top priority. When customers become confused, they go elsewhere. All the more so during travel where the stress of communicating in a language in which they may not be familiar in, hence being more prone to misinterpretation, may be higher. You most certainly do not want your business to add to that source of stress. Beat the competition instead and get your stuff transcreated.
  3. Loss of Potential Profit
    To transcreate means to secure profit. As simplistic as that may sound, transcreation isn’t just for the customer’s personal reassurance, it keeps them happy and most importantly, coming back. An upset or offended customer is most likely to leave and will never become repeat customers. Instead, they will take their business elsewhere while you lose money, a lose-lose situation.
  4. Loss of Reputation – Ouch!
    Bad customer experience lead to bad business reputation. This is especially so in the hospitality, tourism and travel industry as every incinerating Yelp! or TripAdvisor review due to a less-than-satisfactory stay at your business is going to hurt – your reputation and inevitably, your bottom-line, that is.
  5. Conflicts could arise
    Bad translation memes are funny; arguments, complaints and conflicts, not so. Which is very much what happens when translations go awry and communication between staff and customers suffer as a result. Your business does not want to be the cause of such unhappy events.
  6. Say hello to the Competition
    Simply put, poor translations help your competition. When customers flee your establishment in disgust due to any of the above, guess where they go? You don’t want to be sending customers away, right into the arms of your competitors, just because you wanted to save on hiring professional translation help.

Beyond the travel, tourism and hospitality industry, transcreation has its advantages as well if you’re from the lifestyle and retail sector.

Content and the Internet

Globalization of business markets has effected in the potential for businesses to reach new customers and clients across the globe.

Hence the shop window of the modern-day business is no longer the storefront or other brick-and-mortar sites where one hopes to sell one’s goods and services.

The website has added an additional dimension to sales for many years now, as a measure of better B2B/B2C outreach and countermeasure to increasing rent.

The website is where most customers have their very first experience with the brand, in all its glory. It is also the perfect opportunity to turn casually browsing visitors into loyal customers.

If the visitor is, at first glance, already stumbling through incorrect grammar and awkward translations, they would be easily put off and leave.

A wasted opportunity for customer engagement and a definite loss of potential revenue indeed. Not forgetting, the loss of trust for the brand and fundamentally, a negative impression of the brand is created.

The blight of poor translations

Most languages have words that have more than one meaning, which vary depending on context. If a translator isn’t particularly proficient in the language, they could end up butchering the meaning of the text to disastrous consequences. This is especially pertinent for character-based languages like Japanese, Korean and Chinese.

So, while mistranslations may be comical, as we have seen in the examples above, this loss of revenue, not forgetting the time that went into the translation project itself, could result in irreversible damage to your business that could last for many years.

Not just translation but Transcreation

A close translation is not enough.

Precision, supplemented by transcreation, is required. Transcreation gives your company the edge that puts you above the rest, or at least provides you with the means to communicate with the world.

Here are some points to consider:

  • Know what you want to translate, be it in website content, social media, forms, menus, etc.
  • Determine what global markets your company wants to penetrate the most and the language of choice of your customers for whom your content will be translated
  • Be prepared to put some of your marketing budget aside for not just translation but a good transcreation
  • Leave it to the professionals, as they have not only the knowledge of 2 languages but also figures of speech, slang, neologism and culture.

Stay smart, stay safe and stay away from bad translations.