4 Reasons Your Bilingual Employee Is Not Your Translator

Language, like writing or mathematics, has some simple, fundamental rules that often give people a false impression that understanding the basics means you’ve mastering the entire discipline. Because of that, some believe that the idea of translating content from one language to another is a simple affair, and if they have a bilingual employee within their company that just happens to speak the language the company works with, but is also fluent in a language that same company is targeting for marketing purposes, this amounts to getting a free translation from the existing employee.

There are four big reasons why this is not a good idea.

This Is Not Your Employee’s Job

If you hired your employee to be an accountant, a secretary, a sales officer or chief of tech support, then you should let them do the job they were hired for. It’s can be harmful to the company’s reputation and to the employee if they have to take on extra duties they aren’t qualified to do. This becomes even more problematic if you’re not happy with their work, and feel that quality should be better (or if you aren’t able to verify the quality of their work yourself), which leads directly into the next point…

Bilingualism ≠ Proficiency

Being able to speak and understand two languages does not mean that someone is qualified for translation.

Being able to speak and understand two languages does not mean that someone is qualified for translation. In most non-professional settings, a person will be stronger in one language than another, which can lead to challenges in the translation process. The goal of translation is to take content in one language and convert it to another so the audience of the target language can comprehend as easily and naturally as if it were originally composed for them. Most people who are bilingual that are not working in a professional translation capacity will likely only be able to provide a basic, functional translation, which loses much in the process.

Our Employee Is Likely Not A Writer

Writing is both a craft and an art. While anyone can write a functionally comprehensible e-mail, or office memo, being able to write advertising copy or a professional document takes experience and training. This becomes even more important when the source material is being converted into another language. A word-for-word translation is going to be bulky and inefficient. Having actual writing skills enables a translator to not just preserve the information in the content, but transform it into a more digestible, comprehensible format for the new language, taking advantage of the best traits of that language.

Translation Requires Cultural Knowledge & Context

Another important trait a good translation needs is an awareness of the cultural traditions and context that a piece of content is aimed at. For example, if a product description enthusiastically describes a product as receiving a “thumbs up” from users, this won’t go over well if it’s being targeted at Iran or Afghanistan, where this is considered an offensive, insulting gesture. Just because someone speaks Farsi, doesn’t mean that he or she will be aware of the implications a phrase or figure of speech will have. And if the original source makes use of a specific cultural reference an employee may not come up with an equivalent for the target language. Translation can be a challenging, difficult activity, even for professionals. Asking a bilingual employee to translate work for you is unlikely to yield high-quality, professional results. Contact us today for professional results on all your translation projects.

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