There is so much that goes into crafting the perfect message on behalf of a client. There are issues of linguistic adaptation and cultural appropriateness in marketing messages. There are aspects of technical accuracy and consistency in technical documents. All texts, even the better formulated ones, may hide potential pitfalls when looked at from a translation standpoint. It takes a true professional to spot such weaknesses and sort them out in order to achieve the result sought by the client: rendering the message effective, safe and engaging for the target audience.
Here are a few examples of the types of damage that wrong or incorrect translations can cause.
- On January 22nd, 1980, eighteen-year-old Willie Ramirez from Spain suffered irreparable physical consequences when “intoxicado” was mistakenly interpreted as “intoxicated” rather than “poisoned,” prompting treatment for a drug overdose rather than for poisoning at a Florida hospital. An intracerebral hemorrhage, coupled with treatment for a drug overdose, left Willie a quadriplegic. The malpractice suit was settled for $71 million.
- HSBC’s tagline “Assume Nothing” was mistranslated in several countries as “Do Nothing.” As a consequence, in 2009 the bank launched a rebranding of its global private banking operations at a cost of $10 million.
- In 2003, Mead Johnson Nutritionals of Indiana was forced to recall 4.6 million cans of Nutramigen Baby Formula due to misleading Spanish directions printed on bilingual labels. Had the product been prepared as instructed, it could have caused renal failure, heart palpitations and even death (according to the FDA). Thankfully, the problem was caught before any infants died or fell ill; the cost of recalling and re-labeling the cans was, however, exorbitant.
The bottom line is that, apart from initially seeming advantageous from a cost standpoint, substandard translations can be dangerous —and ultimately much more costly than “expensive” professional translations.
Cheap translations can:
- negatively affect a brand’s image
- lead to poor sales
- cause customer dissatisfaction
- stunt business growth
- hinder international relationships
- damage the public’s perception of a product or service
- cause serious legal issues
- cause physical injury and even death
- end up being very costly in terms of fixing the damage they cause
Professional translations will:
- increase international sales
- positively highlight a brand’s image
- increase customer satisfaction
- guarantee the correct perception of the product or service
- ultimately still cost a fraction of the actual return on investment