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Internationalization of Your Company

The internationalization and localization of your company certainly seems like a challenge, but the internationalization of your website is usually a good place to start. So your website is up and running and business is doing just fine. Your thoughts are now focusing upon if your website should be translated and if so, into what languages? Then the question arises, do I need to translate my invoices as well? What about my contracts? Do I need to hire foreign-language personnel? The list is endless but so is the opportunity since each language you translate into the larger your market becomes.

In these days of globalization and the internationalization of companies and supply chains, you have means at your disposal to expand your business across the globe. Imagine if you acquired one customer in Japan for example that might end up being that one special customer responsible for 80 % of your revenue.  Just because of that one customer, it might have been worth having your entire website translated into Japanese.

Despite wishful thinking however, there are a lot of companies out there that blatantly translate their website into 10 different languages just to “look” international, but this is a long way from true internationalization. Having a translation of your website in Polish and Chinese does look pretty international, but when you get right down to business, is it beneficial to your business? It might just be, benefit is not only judged in monetary terms, but benefit as a key performance indicator (KPI) ends up being measured in financial terms in one way or another.

Although, before just going and translating wildly, it might be wise to determine exactly what languages you require and why you need them. This will end up saving you money in the end. Do you just want to “look” international or do you actually want to acquire customers abroad? What might be the advantages and challenges of having clients from that particular country?

Here, there will certainly be a lot of questions that are beyond that of a language service provider and may very well require the expertise of a professional consultant. In this article, I will therefore try to focus more on the linguistic aspects regarding the internationalization of your company, but in addition, there will be a lot of questions to answer with respect to the respective country’s legislation, average income, shipping costs, etc. with respect to your own. In turn, it is necessary to gather as much information as possible to accurately define a return on investment (ROI). Here is an example: It would be silly to target a group of people that may not be able to afford your product or services or target a group of people where your product may not even be legal in the case of alcohol in the Middle East.

After you have made the decision on what languages, start a project with just one and learn from it beforehand before translating into several languages at once. It will save you a lot of time and rework in the end. It is advisable to start with a language that you or your staff is most familiar with first rather than start with a language like Chinese for instance, where not even the alphabet is familiar.

Furthermore, make sure to do the following to save a lot of hassle:

  • Make a list of everything you need to have translated ( e.g. contracts, invoice templates, website).  In this list, analyze how often and how much has will have to be updated as time goes by. Keep in mind that, as business changes, updates will have to be made to the translations and that can be costly if not planned well. Please also see my blog entry on configuration management with regard to languages as it can help avoid unnecessary confusion.
  • Plan how updates will be made. A website may have to be updated much more often than an invoice for example. Although, if you know that certain website pages will remain static, you can categorize and separate these for efficient translation.
  • If you have a business partner in the country of the target language, have him/her look at the documents with you and see if anything needs changing with regard to format or content before translation. If you have a website in French but no French speaking personnel, you may want to mention on the website that all correspondence is in English but content on the website is being provided in French for instance. Your language service provider can also help in this matter. Provided you need a translation of legal contracts, it is always wise to consult someone with knowledge of the legislation in the target country with respect to your own. Remember, an LSP is not a legal expert.
  • After everything is ready, send in the documentation for a translation quotation. If you are unfamiliar with how to do this, please see the video in this posting for more info.
  • If possible, try to develop a terminology list of special niche terms in the industry in the source and target languages side-by-side in an excel file. This will save you not only time but also costs when doing future translations in addition to assuring quality and consistency across all of your content. Your LSP can also help you with this process.
  • After all the translation process has been completed, go live with an individual language and keep a list of issues. You will find that if you do this before translation into additional languages, you will be able to prevent issues from happening again in the case of other languages.

When doing projects in general, and a language projects are no exception, it is advisable to develop SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure the performance of the project and the benefit that it brings in order to avoid unnecessary costs.

Although this article is brief in nature and comprises issues that can be tailored to all forms of business, there will certainly be factors that only pertain to your business alone and how to face the challenges of internationalization. Therefore, I would suggest starting on a small scale with a single language and only your website at first. Using the lessons learned from this, proceed with the other languages. This will certainly save you time, effort and money in the end.

For more detailed information on website translation, please see my article on SEO and website translation. And please remember, if any questions might arise, consult a good language service provider as they are confronted with these types of topics and more on a daily basis and are capable of providing you with the information you require.

Should you require more information on this, please feel free to contact Ferris Translations.



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