frustrated colleague

Why bilingual colleagues shouldn’t be responsible for translations

It’s an easy win: you have a sales email or some marketing collateral in your company’s local language, you want to deal with customers in other markets, and your colleague speaks the language. So, you ask them to do you a favour and translate your documents. Simple, no?

You may even be that bilingual colleague and are expected to translate all of your — and potentially, your teammates’ — work into another language as part of your role.

Although this is a great ‘scrappy’ (lightweight, low-budget) approach to breaking into new markets, it comes with its own set of drawbacks, which, as your project or company starts to scale, will start to hurt your team’s productivity and the quality of your output.

Translation should be prioritised

You are — or your bilingual colleague is — likely to be a Marketing Manager or Account Manager, for example, and were hired to do that job based on your qualifications and experience. Therefore, it makes sense for you to focus on what you are good at and enjoy.

Let’s face it, we all know the feeling of having an ever-growing to-do list. When you’re under pressure, what do you focus on? The answer: your core role. Those targets you haven’t yet met. That director who asked you for a report a week ago. Your priorities are always going to be based on your own agenda and job role, so naturally that translation task falls to the bottom of the list.

By outsourcing your translation work, on the other hand, you are ensuring that it doesn’t become a bottleneck for your team. A professional freelancer will always work with you to agree on a realistic timeline and keep to deadlines, so that you can depend on the work being ready when you need it.

Being bilingual does not make you a good translator (sorry)

With all due respect, just because you are — or your colleague is — bilingual, doesn’t mean you are good at translating, particularly if you are translating into a language that is not your mother tongue. (You probably know this already!) Translating written text requires superior writing skills. It requires talent, discipline and patience to capture the original meaning of a text and convey it faithfully and accurately in another language, in a way that makes it sound as if it was originally written in that language.

If you need to translate a piece of work, or a colleague asks you to translate theirs as a favour, you are more likely to rush the job due to having so much on your plate, which can lead to mistakes. A poor quality translation is then hard to rectify, particularly if the text is already in the public domain. A bad impression has already been created and there is the risk of mistakes being carried through to future versions.

Professional translators are native speakers of their target language, qualified to Masters Degree level and have spent years honing their skills. They are therefore much better placed to produce a quality piece of writing that will create that all-important impression to your customers (and make you look good, too!).

Outsourcing translation can help your business to scale up

Engaging a freelance translator can bring you the skills and expertise you need to impress your — potential new — customers, with the flexibility that is crucial when scaling up. When things scale up or down, a freelancer has the ability to respond to demand, meaning that you can tap into their resources as and when you need it, without having to worry whether they will get around to it in time.

Translators also use specialist software that allows them to manage terminology on a per-customer or assignment basis and ensure consistency in terminology and tone of voice throughout your various documents and materials.

In conclusion, outsourcing translation assignments can help your team to keep on track with the company’s ambitions when it comes to international expansion. Let bilingual colleagues focus on their core role, and, rather than pile extra tasks on to their to-do lists, enlist the support of a specialist translator who can partner with you and your team to produce top-notch, localised promotional materials and documentation.

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