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4 reasons why asking bilingual employees to translate can backfire

It’s very tempting, right? You need to translate something and you have an employee or colleague at work, who speaks that language. Of course, the first thought would be to have this person translate it for you. Who wants to spend time, money or energy finding a translator, when one seems to be available right there, in your office?

Not a bad idea actually if the purpose of translating something is merely to be understood. If the employee or colleague is smart enough and even averagely gifted linguistically, they should be able to do a decent job of it, considering they know two languages and understand the domain and the company too.

However, if the purpose of translating is not merely to make someone, yourself included, understand but impress, make a case or be precise, you might want to think again. Employees or colleagues might easily fail, despite their best intentions or abilities.

Here are four reasons why you need to reach out to a professional:

  1. Speaking and translating are two completely different things

Being able to speak and being able to translate have the same correlation as having a voice and being able to sing. You could be a great orator but not quite as good when it comes to writing content.

Translating well entails exactly that, the ability to write in the target language such that documents look as though they were written and not translated. This involves understanding the finer nuances of the language such as grammar and language register. You can get away with minor or even major mistakes in either of these when speaking. However, mistakes in content make you look extremely unprofessional.

  1. They could be unaware of or lack in the necessary skills

There is a lot more that a translator needs to be skilled in than merely know two languages well.

Possessing skills such as the ability to research, format documents, work with different kinds of design, content writing and content management software and use state-of-the-art memory, terminology management and QA tools are a part of what goes into the making of a high quality translation. If employees lack in any of these skills, it could result in undesirable outcomes.

  1. It could come with collateral disadvantages

Translating can be an extremely time-consuming and brain-intensive activity. This could impact you and the employee in ways that aren’t always obvious.

Employees were hired to do specific job. If they are used to translate content every now and then, apart from their own work getting affected in terms of quality and schedule, it could also result in employee dissatisfaction. They will do it because they can’t refuse, but deep down there could be resentment for having made to do something that is not exactly their idea of happiness or work.

  1. It could turn out to be way costlier

Last but not the least, having employees translate could actually turnout to be way costlier, depending on how you chose to look at it.

Considering how one needs to be well educated, generally experienced and bilingually gifted, you could potentially be looking at a not-so-junior employee when it comes to translating something for you. Considering current pay scales, this could end up costing way more than if you were to hire a professional.

The way ahead…

If it is a one off situation and you need to translate something from or into English only for information, you should most definitely have an employee help you out. It will be quick, almost free and will serve the purpose.

If however, you need to make an impact or if accuracy is of the essence, it is about time you write to us at projects@bitsindia.co.in or call us on 83800 31438 to start a conversation.

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Sandeep Nulkar Founder, Chairman & Managing Director, BITS Private Limited Sandeep Nulkar heads one of India’s largest translation and localisation companies. He is a linguist by passion, businessman by choice and author by circumstances. Over the past decade, he has been working closely with the corporate world and with students and the academia to bring credibility and recognition to the Indian translator within and outside India.