International Trade Requires International Languages

Around 72 percent of the world does not speak English. And even in the multi-lingual EU, 90% of Internet users choose a website in their own language. Only half are happy using an English website even where there is no other alternative.

This means lots of additional opportunities for spreading the impact of your business if you communicate in other languages. And doing so means relying on a professional language agency, not on amateurs, students, foreign residents or your neice who used to live abroad.

To begin the process, many executives make some incorrect assumptions:

  1. Anyone who speaks the language can translate into it.

While those people may be able to render simple conversations, most businesses use technical terminology and complex sentences that only professionally trained translators can do correctly and quickly. This applies to manuals, brochures, contracts, websites, apps, videos and more. If you don’t speak the target language, how will you know whether the translation is written with correct grammar? And how will you know whether your in-house employee is using his local dialect? We once reviewed a dental text in German only to discover that the translator grew up near the Swiss border and used his native Schweizer Deutsch instead of standard, educated Hochdeutsch.

  1. Our foreign-born employees can interpret at meetings.

Perhaps. And as long as your conversations are not too long or too technical. Interpreting (speaking) at meetings is very mentally draining. One has to think instantly without consulting friends or glossaries about how to render complex concepts. Professionally trained interpreters require frequent periods of mental rest to avoid errors. The only way to guarantee accuracy at long meetings is to have two professional interpreters who take shifts of 20-30 minutes each. The second rests while the first is working, and then they switch.

  1. Google Translate or other software works fine.

Years ago, a client used Machine Translation (MT), as it’s called, to put a letter into Chinese. His correspondents replied saying, “We know not what you say. Please to write in English.” His MT letter had rendered the sentence, “Next Tuesday we shall have a Board meeting” as “Next Tuesday we shall have a collection of planks of wood.” MT has vastly improved since then but still makes comical and critical mistakes. It should properly be used only to get the sense of what a foreign file says, and never to translate into other languages any complicated sentences or outbound marketing brochures, websites and sales information. Even if the MT file is 90% accurate, which 10% of your message do you wish to jeopardize? Your messaging demonstrates your company image. If your advertising is not precise, how can a customer be sure that your product or service is precise?


Converting files from between languages requires professional linguists who:

  • are trained professionally with advanced degrees or equivalent experience;
  • translate or interpret into their native languages only;
  • have learned the technical terminology of your industry (such as Biology, Automotive, Law, Video games, Winemaking, Diseases, etc.);
  • use Translation Memories to maintain consistency when terms recur within the same or in future projects; and
  • know how to work accurately, quickly and efficiently.

Unsurprisingly, our almost-30-year-old language agency meets these criteria. Our professional linguists:

  • translate, interpret or localize into over 80 languages and dialects (including US and UK English);
  • adapt your message to the target culture;
  • deliver as quickly as humanly possible; and
  • provide through us a single source for all language needs (layout; name evaluations across languages; localizing of websites, videos, apps and software; transcribing audio files; dubbing and subtitling of videos; and more).


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Philip Auerbach is a partner at TBG Global & Partners, London and Director of Auerbach International Inc, San Francisco. He specialises in supporting international trade by helping businesses communicate across borders, cultures and languages through specialised global marketing and professional translation services. For quotation requests or to discuss your requirements, please write him directly at or visit to get in touch.