Lost in Translation Remains Key Hurdle for International Business

Posted on March 15, 2017

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Earlier this year, Hult business school out of Massachusetts listed “communication difficulties and cultural differences” as one of the top 11 challenges international businesses will face this year.

We couldn’t agree more. While machine translation tools are often the only and best option for on the spot can-you-help-me-get-to-the-airport translations, when it comes to business transactions, this kind of help is short lived.  

Machines don’t have the capacity to account for language the way a native speaker does. They miss nuance, structure and how the use of words within a phrase convey and change meaning.  

Poor audio and written translations can impact how you’re perceived by business partners, competitors and customers. Take a look at these corporate translation fails that had bottom line consequences.

1. Coors erred when it brought its “Turn it Loose” campaign to Spain. Turns out that when property translated, turn it loose meant “suffer from diarrhea.” Not the greatest gimmick for a beer. 

2. Braniff Airlines got a lesson in lost translations when it brought its “Veula en Curo” ad to Mexico. While the translation, fly in leather, worked for much of Latin America, it didn’t do as well in Mexico where it translated to “fly naked.” 

The other thing machines can’t take into consideration is body language. Take a look at this outstanding infographic from Business Insider that demonstrates the misinterpretation of body language. 

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If you’re looking to expand internationally this year, consider working with us. Our comprehensive multilingual customer service product suite can help avoid embarrassing, costly translations. For more information, contact us here.  

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