The Complexity of Translation

Due to my trilingual background, I don't read translated Chinese, English or Malay literature, I prefer the original languages. We all know that literary works and creative writings are the hardest to translate. It might not be so much the case of misinterpretations, it is more about the tone ended up feeling differently from its original version. To indulge in literature, unless you have no command of its original language, avoid the translated version, perhaps at all costs. 

Every language has the substance of its own culture

It’s simply because every language has the substance of its own culture; the complexity of the culture is even extended to the names of its people. For some famous Chinese writers who originally write their novels in English like Jun Chang, Ha Jin and Geling Yan, when their stories set foot in China, the Romanized Chinese names of the characters still bother me. Not only that they're hard to remember, the vivid meanings behind a Chinese name can no longer be discerned. It's the same effect when I read celebrity names like James Watkins, Daniel Craig, Tom Cruise or Cameron Diaz in Chinese, you have to sacrifice extra brain cells to figure out who is who.

We are lucky because our commercial products have nothing to do with literature. The language we use to explain our products can be very simple and straightforward, users do not need to read between the lines. But still, you simply cannot trust any machine or software or Google Translate to do the job; to translate accurately, human factor is crucial.

We have no doubt that translations and localizations are vital for business to compete successfully in the global market. According to 2006 Common Sense report that surveyed more than 2,400 consumers in eight countries, in fact, 52% of consumers will only buy something from a website in their own language. In France and Japan, that figure increased to more than 60%. We have to bear in mind that consumers who do not speak any English are six times more likely to avoid English websites altogether. 

Can you speak my language?

Customers would perceive companies that can speak in their native tongue as more credible, but that’s not the reason why we privilege translations and localizations. As we steer our practical branding in full gear, we don’t want language to become the barrier for our customers to understand and to use our products.

And for that particular reason, we are managing a large volume of contents for translations everyday.

Let me explain why our translation work is complex. We have websites, software, hardware, usual manuals, video guides, technical tips, training and marketing materials, voice clips and etc, and for some materials, we translate them to more than 10 languages. We also frequently upgraded our software and hardware, and improving all kinds of support materials all the time. The contents around the products have to sync with the latest upgrades, hence the translations need regular updates as well.

When it comes to details, we know that translators always stumbled at literary works and sometimes decided to rephrase the sentences to bring the gist out rather than translating them directly, the same might happen to our products as well. For example, when we created some usernames as the sample data in software user manual; translators would need to be reminded to create different set of localized usernames instead of using the same names for translation. Isn’t it weird for users in the Gulf to read Wong Ah Kow as a name even if it is written in Arabic?

To manage contents and translations more professionally, this month, we have promoted Nattalina Zainal to this new position, Content Manager, to oversee the market and support of FingerTec products across languages. 

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Due to my trilingual background, I don't read translated Chinese, English or Malay literature, I prefer the original languages. We al...