Translation Fails – Once Bitten Twice Shy

The Role that Process, People and Technology Play

Once bitten, twice shyWe just received the following email form an executive of a software company perfectly illustrating the importance of avoiding translation fails:

“In truth we have tried an outside translation service and we found that the service did not adequately (or even slightly) understand our industry. The technical and industry terms where translated literally and did not reflect the usages and nomenclature in the target language / industry.

On the last attempt to use an outside translator, we lost both the cost of the translation and a significant amount of customer credibility, the translation was discarded and English remains the better solution for that country unless a suitable technical translation can be found.

I would be interested in your approach and how guarantees would operate in our specific case. I guess you can truly say ‘once bitten, twice shy’!”

We often hear from executives bit by the translation myths. It is unfortunate that in this new millennium and global age, as an industry, we have failed in setting proper expectations. So here is another attempt.

There are three remedies to apply in the above scenario to avoid translation failures:
1. Use the right process,
2. Use the right technology, and
3. Use the right people!


The process has to include feedback from in-country product experts. Opting out of the in-country proof cycle may save you time and money, but risk your quality and credibility down the road. See:
Quality translation dictates a collaborative effort
Product localization processes


The correct technology can tremendously facilitate the process. Complex localization projects are best handled within translation management systems that promote collaboration, consistency, accuracy and efficiency. gvAccess, gvTerm and gvCollab-like tools are a must have to ensure accurate translations. See:
Translation Management System
Don’t be stingy with your glossaries


Hiring the correct company and people to do the work will make all the difference. There is no substitute for a first-class team:
Selecting in-country reviewers
Selecting a team
The deceit of the translation sample

If you want to read the above and more in a complete guide, go to Enabling Globalization. For under $10, you can avoid the painful and expensive bite and overcome all shyness!