The Complete Guide on How to Translate Business Documents

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If you’ve been keeping an eye on global markets, you know there are plenty of opportunities to expand. Growing markets in Asia, South America, and elsewhere may make it seem like a good idea to find clients there.

One of the problems with this strategy can be translating your business documents. Whether you’re opening up a new branch or trying to sell a tech product, you need to have excellent translations.

How can you go about getting your documents into all the different languages you need without breaking the bank? This guide will help you discover the best way forward for translating business documents successfully.


Why You Need to Translate Business Documents

In today’s global economy, you may find you need to translate your business documents. An American business, for example, might do business with a supplier in Mexico and a client in Quebec. You’ll need documents in French and Spanish, and you haven’t even left North America yet.

There are a variety of business documents you might need to translate. If you’re signing a contract with a company in another country, they may want the document delivered in their native language. If you’re setting up a new branch office, you may need to translate your HR documents so employees know policies.

Translation is particularly important if you’re bringing new products to the market. An example might be an app or a new device. Your customers need to know how to use it, but your developers and designers also need translated documents.

The key, of course, is making sure the translation is quality. A poorly translated contract could upend a potential deal.


Three Options for Translating Business Documents

There are a few different methods you can use to translate your business documents. They are:


  • In-house translation services
  • Machine translations
  • Translation agencies

Each business document translation method has its merits, as well as its drawbacks.


In-House Translation

If you speak the language you want to translate to, you may be able to translate them yourself. You may also have someone on staff who is fluent in the target language.

This kind of do-it-yourself approach isn’t always a good idea. You may not have the technical training or expertise in a certain subject. Legal documents, for example, are often tricky to translate because of the language they use.

Even if you or your staff members are fluent, you may not be versed in “legalese.” You might translate the document in a way that gets at its literal meaning, but not its intended meaning.

You can also hire experts to act as an in-house translation team for you. This may be a good idea if you know you’re going to be translating a lot of documents over a long period.

An in-house team can also give you more control over how the translation is completed.

Having an in-house team can also be expensive, though, so it may not be an option for a small business or a startup.


Machine Translation

Today, you can also select from a range of machine translation services. These services are often fast, and they’re usually affordable as well. Some services may even be free.

Machine translation is an automated process, which is why it’s so fast. It also doesn’t involve a human team, which is why it’s more affordable.

Some of the more expensive services will have more quality control.

Unfortunately, machine translation tends to focus on “transliteration.” That means the machine will focus on dictionary definitions, not context or connotation.

This can result in a less reliable translation for your document. Poor translation can cause confusion, and mistakes can be embarrassing for businesses. They could even land you in legal trouble.

If the document you’re trying to translate is simple and you only have a few, then machine translation might be a good option.


Agency Translation

The third option you have is to team up with translation agencies. These agencies give you access to teams of expert translators. Their translators have the expertise for legal documents, HR policies, or technology.

Since the agency works with human translators, translation quality is usually top-notch. Unlike machine translators, human translators can check for context. They understand the connotations certain words may have.

In short, you’ll get a better translation. If your in-house team isn’t made up of professional translators, the quality from an agency may be even better than if you did it yourself.

You can think of agency translation as a sort of happy medium between machines and an in-house team. Since the agency uses a team of translators, they can work faster than you or a single staff member.

They’re also more affordable than hiring a professional translator on as part of your team. You’ll get quality translation at an affordable price point. You won’t have the overhead of paying a salary or benefits.


Tips for Translating Business Documents

Even if you hire a professional in-house or work with a translation agency, it’s a good idea to have some translation know-how. If you’re not doing the translation yourself, you can still provide help.

Have someone fluent in the language read over the translated document. They can help you spot any errors, as well as potential discrepancies between your meaning and the translation.

You may also want to provide the translators with background information on your company and the document. What is the document’s purpose? The translation process for a customer-facing document may be different from a legal contract.

Always be sure to work with people who have expertise in the type of translation you need. Someone who translates software manuals may still struggle with translating a legal document.


Going Global the Right Way

Now you know how to translate business documents without breaking the bank. With your newly translated business documents in hand, you’ll be ready to sign that contract or close that deal in your new market.

Looking for more great advice on how to expand your business on a budget around the world? Check out the archives for all the latest advice on business documents, international business, global expansion, document translation, and much more.

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