“How can a business, that struggles with English, trust its reputation, its future, to a translation that it knows to be unreliable?"

Small mistakes can have large consequences.

Image by Elisa Ventur

It is completely understandable that those who speak some English would assume that they can equally write it, especially with the help of online translation sites.


 The problem is that in business you need to be accurate, and as the examples below show, if you rely on this method to communicate in English, even with translation sites, then trouble could be just around the corner.

Translation sites while perfectly acceptable for general online chat, are riddled with mistakes, and normally in life, in business, you only get one shot, one opportunity.  Why risk it all on technology that simply is not yet accurate enough for the task you need it for?  

How can any professional business, which does not have English as a first language, trust its reputation, its marketing, its future, to translations that are notorious for their inaccuracies?

Below are some genuine examples of how easy it is to get it wrong from the very beginning.

A supplier received this request from a potential client:

Client:  "Did you not like the added suggestions we made to the contract?"

Client meant: "Did you like the added suggestions?"

The supplier's online translation site translated it to: "Do you not like the added suggestions?"

The supplier with limited English responded: "No like" (meaning "no, we liked them")

"No Like" in English means "didn't like them"

Confusion reigned.

A client wished to terminate a sales agent’s contract, and the translation site translated:

"We give you six months notice to immediately terminate your contract today."

While the overall message is clear, it is very unclear if the agent is being dismissed ‘today’ or in ‘six months’.  It did not become the amicable separation the client was hoping for, and worse, it led to their other agents revisiting their contracts. 

All avoidable with the correct English.

A translation site’s translation:

"Return overdue payment is required as we are not able to ship your order"

What the accounts manager wrote in their own language was:

"We require your overdue payment by return or we will not be able to ship your order."

The translation was the opposite of what was meant.

"And I just send to you, would you be able to help to revise more professional book?"

"if I send you my email will you help by giving it a more professional look?"

A famous European brand sent a letter headed "Dear Mister" opposed to ‘Dear Sir’ because in some languages ‘Dear Mister’ and ‘Dear Sir’ are the same word.  In English we never use the full word ‘Mister’ to address someone, we only use the abbreviation 'Mr' but always with a name following it.  If someone does address someone as 'Mister' (even with a name following it) it can seem impolite, even aggressive. It looks terrible for a renowned business to make such a simple mistake, yet many do.

Everyone makes mistakes, but business cannot afford to, as it can be very damaging and expensive.  We specialise in ensuring that business communications are accurate, and that it is the intended message everytime, which unfortunately translation sites cannot do.

 (Welcome to English Language Support)