Business Jargon Lost in Translation
Firms that trade abroad should steer clear of using jargon when communicating with foreign contacts as their meaning will be distorted when literally translated, translation firm The Translation People has warned.
The translation business has published a list of some of the most common phrases which make no sense when translated from English into other languages.
For example, “Give me a ball park figure” translates back as “Give me to the diagram of the baseball stadium” in Russian when an online translation tool is used, “Flag it up with me” comes out as “Mark it above by me” in German, and “We need to get our ducks in a row” as “We to need to obtain our duck continuously” in Chinese.
The Translation People spokeswoman, Gail Owen, said that badly translated material can look unprofessional and the meaning may be lost.
“Businesses should write in jargon-free language, if they want to translate a document or email,” she said. “Then they need to realise that a machine-generated translation will not usually translate things correctly, so they may need to seek professional help from an agency or translator.
“It’s a risk to try to use jargon or to translate things badly, especially if it is translated literally, because it will make no sense and your message will be lost,” added Owen.
A UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) spokeswoman said that businesses can also contact UKTI if they need assistance with language issues.
“UKTI recognises the importance of clear communication in helping UK companies succeed in the global economy,” she said. “To assist businesses navigating the local culture, UKTI has a network of specialist advisers based in foreign offices around the globe to provide companies with specialist help on cultural and language issues.”
For more information on overcoming language barriers in business, see the business article on Exporting: Local Language and Cultural Barriers.