Think International and
Set Realistic Deadlines

by Olga
(Saint Petersburg, Russia)

Going global is advantageous to any company because it generates more sales and profits and reduces dependence on a local market. In their efforts to expand into foreign markets, companies use professional translation services to communicate with potential customers in the customers' native tongue.


However, sometimes these companies make the mistake of not taking into account cultural differences between countries. They write their marketing materials furnishing the latter with many cultural nuances related only to their own culture. These nuances may be difficult to understand for people representing other cultures.

As a result, a translator has to adapt such texts in way to make them suitable for a foreign audience. It may require cumbersome workarounds and the translated material may not read as fluent as the original. What is more, mistranslations of culturally-bound expressions and clichés can cost companies sales and image. So it is advisable for companies to think international and to write their materials neutrally avoiding cultural clichés.

Despite globalization, nations remain so different. Obvious or subtle, these differences are worthy of being noted so as not to get things wrong. Explore world cultures with Culture Briefings.

Following is a historical example of how difficult it may be to translate cultural context:

"I (we) will show you Kuzkina's mother (Kuzkina mat')" is a popular Russian expression. The rough English-language equivalent is "to show smb. what is what." That expression was often used by Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier (1958-1964) at top-level international summits, and translators had great difficulties translating it. They either left it as is, i.e. "Kuzkina mat' ", or translated as "We will bury you." Both translation options, however, did not convey the actual meaning. That caused a lot of misunderstanding.

My second tip is about deadlines. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of realistic deadlines. I have seen terrible translations produced as a result of ridiculous deadlines. Unfortunately, it happens that translators / translation companies do not refuse to do a translation job with an unrealistic deadline just because they have to earn their living too.

For your information, a translator translates about 300 words per hour on average. So she/he will be able to produce about 2,400 words of quality translation per an 8-hour working day.

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Set Realistic Deadlines

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Reasonable advice
by: Irina

Olga, thank you for the example and tips! I also think that deadlines are a sore point in our industry. The increased tempo of life makes people want very quick results. But it is not always possible without scarifying quality. Translation takes time and efforts, even with all the CAT tools that we have. Very tough deadlines put translators under stress and translation quality at risk.

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