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Translating for export markets

This article, originally written for publication in the Institute of Export’s member magazine, addresses exporters’ common concerns about translation.

A few years ago, we were approached by a company that manufactures products for the car industry. They had established themselves in the UK and were looking to make an impact in other European markets. They were considering tackling these markets using existing English content as they had three common concerns about translation.

Everyone speaks English

Our client believed that English is spoken widely enough to be able to sell their products using their English material.

In major export markets like China and Russia, only a small percentage of the population speak English. It’s true that in Europe a lot more people understand English but even those who do prefer communication to be in their own language. Making this effort can go a long way to establishing relationships and building trust, meaning they are more likely to do business with you.

Lost in translation

Our client’s existing English material had helped them achieve positive results in the UK and they were concerned this successful message could be lost in translation.

The reality is that material should be adapted and translated for other markets. A good mother-tongue translator can interpret the original material for your new audience, maintaining your message while taking into account the cultural differences of the target readership.

Translation is expensive

Our client was concerned that getting all of their material translated for several European markets would be very costly.

We advise that it is best to choose two or three key markets to begin with, assessing the results as you go. There is no need to translate your entire range or your whole website right away. Trial a few key areas before adding more. This reduces risk and spreads the cost, allowing you to alter strategies if required as well as forming well-tested templates for future export markets.

An enjoyable investment

In opting to embrace translation, our client is achieving greater success in Europe and is advancing into Asia. They now value the impact that linguistic and cultural knowledge have on export success.

View translation as an investment as it increases sales in new markets. Take it one step at a time and don’t be afraid to alter your strategy as you go. Finally, enjoy it! Translating for export markets will present further opportunities to travel and meet new people, expanding your horizons as well as your profits.


If you are thinking of using translation services, please get in touch. We would be happy to provide a quotation, or even just advise you and share our experience.

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