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Article: Translation of Internal Reports & Communications - February 2006

by Nigel Massey

In today's global economy, it is not only trade that is international. It's the companies and their employees too. Therefore it's increasingly common to have companies with a variety of languages spoken in the divisions.

So perhaps we should expect that translation of internal reports and communications is a regular occurrence?

I have worked at some pretty large international companies and from my own experience most businesses have not adapted to the language needs of the company. In fact most have not localized and translated their mission statement.

What seems to happen is either: 1) the company informally states that there is a single core language of the company and therefore the translation of internal reports and communications is not required. 2) An internal effort is made to 'translate' information on an as requested basis.

Let us consider these in turn:
Single Language Company - Trying to pretend that you have a single language company when you don't is really a head in the sand approach. This can lead to some of the following issues:
1) Alienation of staff and divisions.
2) Staff turnover - In addition to (1) the career track of an employee will be linked to their ability to speak the core language rather then whether they are the best man for the job.
3) Poorly communicated objectives. If the objective is not fully understandable by all involved, then how can you expect a 100% fulfillment of the objective?
4) Lack of a common business culture.

Internal Translation - Internal translation is certainly better then no translation at all. But this has its own potential issues:
1) Is the translator capable?
2) Are all the documents translated? And are they translated in time? If the translation of internal reports and communications is a secondary task, does the translation always get carried out on time? / at all?!
3) Confidentiality - Jungle drums (informal communications) always beat strongly inside a company. I have seen that some tasks are more confidential when carried out externally.
4) Is the internal translation carried out at the expense of time spent on another core activity or objective?

When you consider the cost of quality you should consider the costs of not having quality. I believe that the cost of translating internal information and communications should be considered the similarly. For some organization the issue of translating internal reports will be less important then others.

But when it is necessary, perhaps the cost is lower then first thought. The translation of internal reports and communications is a regular task and therefore discussion of this with the translation agency should allow improved service agreements to be agreed, providing pricing that is below what is attainable for one off translation projects.

By Nigel Massey - Axis Translations. Click here to contact Nigel.

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