Frequently asked questions

1.  Should I have a multilingual website?

In today’s online world, every self-respecting company has a website, regardless of the size of the company. Most people know that a website is the face of their company on the Internet and that it often determines a potential client's impression of the company. 

When looking for information, for example about a product or a company, you start searching online before making personal contact as a matter of course. People often do a search in their native language and their first visit to a website will often last for just a few seconds. This means that the immediate impression and the languages available can be quite crucial.

If the website is available in languages that the visitors can understand, they might stay on longer and return to the website at a later date. On the contrary, if the visitors can’t understand the content on the site, they will most probably leave the site and never return. Therefore, by communicating in the appropriate native languages, a company shows their visitors that they are interested in doing business with them.

In general, people prefer to read and receive communication in their native language, even if they understand other languages. Therefore, having a website translated by professional translators into several languages can be a wise decision. In this way, a company can switch from being a local concern to being global one.

If you want your business to attract customers on a global basis, you need to speak their language!

2.  Why do we need translations when “everyone” speaks English?

We live in a global  environment where many people speak English as a second language. So why is it still necessary for us to translate your texts into other languages?

Well, even in countries where most people have some knowledge of English, the level of proficiency is not always that high.  Even for people whose level of English is good, reading a text in a foreign language will always require more effort than reading a text in their native language. Chances are that parts of the text will be misunderstood and this is a common cause for misinterpretations, especially for those with a low level of proficiency. Moreover, people are likely to stop reading altogether when it gets too difficult. When you need to give people instructions (such as in a user manual) or if you want to sell something (on your website for example) this is certainly not what you wil be aiming for.

Several studies have indicated that the probability of an internet user buying something on a website is four times greater when the person can read the text in their own language. All the more reason to invest in a good translation!

All in all, the reason for having your texts translated comes down to reaching out and showing your customer respect. It is the customer who has the ‘power’ and you have to make things as easy as possible for them. Your customers should not have to make an effort to be able to understand your message; it is your responsibility to get your message across  in a clear and concise way. Therefore, our advice is to get close to your public and invest in  translations of the highest quality!

 

3.  Why is machine translation not sufficient compared to human translation

Our language is a wonderful and mysterious phenomenon. It is what separates us humans from all other species. Yet no one can answer the question of how we acquire language. Taking this into consideration, the idea that machines could replace human translators seems pretty farfetched; if we don’t know how we acquire language ourselves, then how can we teach a computer to learn a language? The following points highlight 5 crucial problems regarding the use of machine translation.

1. Understanding context

One of the biggest flaws with most online machine translation services is that they are unable to deal with context. Even though machine translation is getting better and better, solving ambiguity (caused for example by homonyms) is still a big obstacle. One word will need one translation in one context and a totally different one when used in another context. Google Translate has tried to solve these contextual issues of finding rules within a language by looking for language patterns found in the huge amount of translated text available online . This can help to solve some of the problems but this method relies on the quality of the translation being heavily dependent on the amount of available texts.

2. Fluency

A crucial part of the art of translation is to make sure a text flows well. A good translation is one that doesn’t appear to have been translated Naturally, grammar, spelling and style should be flawless but it doesn’t end there. When writing a text from scratch, you will often review it, change the order of words, use synonyms for certain words and even change the order of the sentences. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the draft contained mistakes  but is done purely to make the text more fluent. This accentuates the fact that language is full of subtleties and that writing and translating a text require   a certain ‘feeling’ to be present within the text. This is something that a machine simply cannot deliver.

3. Stylistic issues and untranslatability

Every language has its own particularities. This means that not everything from one language can be translated directly into another. Expressions are an obvious example of this ‘problem’; many expressions cannot be translated literally or perhaps do not even have an equivalent in the target language. The same applies for stylistic issues such as alliterations or jokes; in order to achieve the intended effect in the target language, you have to be creative when translating. A machine cannot take these subtle aspects into account. Therefore, to obtain a good translation you will need the creative powers of a good translator.

4. Language changes over time

If you open a book written in the Middle Ages in your native language, you will probably have a hard time understanding it. You  don’t have to go that far back in time to notice that language changes; your grandparents, no doubt, speak in a very different way than you do. This means that language is not a static phenomenon. On the contrary, it is very dynamic and often changes with varying fashions and trends. The use of words, terminology, grammatical rules, etc. change all the time and a machine translation service will never be able to keep track of these changes to the full.

5. Cultural differences

Even similar languages can show subtle differences that will need the attention of a native speaker in order for them be translated properly. A good example is the indication of politeness. In English for example,the word ‘please’ is used a lot while in other languages ‘please’ might not be necessary and could well be omitted to make the translation sound more natural. Another example could be ‘looking forward to’, which is often used a in countries such as Denmark and Norway but not really in a country like Spain where people are more impulsive and live for the moment.

Even though machine translations can be very helpful for an instant, general understanding of a text, translation remains a profession that needs language experts with a passion for language and thorough knowledge of specific languages.

 

4.  What is localisation?  

In cross-cultural communication, a literal translation of the source text will not always bring the right message across. If you want to reach your foreign clients, a translation has to be adapted to the culture, norms and customs of the target language; a text has to be localised. A text that has been localised correctly will look as though it has been developed locally and will be easy for the client to read. This means that currencies, metrics, date notation and the like must be adapted using local standards. The tone of voice and other cultural sensitivities must also be taken into account.

Localisation is the key to improving communication with international target groups. It provides your client with a user friendly product and therefore, improves sales. Here at COMUNICA, we only work with native translators, which means that localising your text is something we do naturally.

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