Why translation and terminology are so important at a global market


Importance of translation and terminology to run global business

Externalization. Global market. International business. Three terms through which currently define the commercial activity around the world. According to these concepts, another import term, “multilingualism”, should be seriously considered when a company (a brand) decides to step outside and go abroad with the commercial activity. This concept introduces a number of key nuances to take into account for business at a global scale.

Today is easier to run business at a global market than in another time before. Due to advances technology companies can sell products are services to clients from many different parts in the world. Anyway, develop an international business successfully means run a correct communication strategy. At the same time that the products go abroad, the word is increasingly carried away and communication must be clear and truthful. Otherwise, increases the risk of misunderstandings and the concepts can be modified from its original meaning. Do you remember playing Telephone Game when you were younger? Something like that!

www.pinterest.comSmall misconceptions can end up making a huge difference!

Business run at a global scale have clients around the world. This means a challenge due to the differences in culture, economic, political and linguistic environments. To succeed in a foreign country, a good communication strategy should ensure that potential customers are enabled to understand what you are talking about. They should be enabled to find your business when they do a search on internet.

Even more and more people are making online purchases from companies that are not ever located in their own country. But before buying people need to find the product or service they are looking for.

For this reason above all, the most important thing in order not to fail in bringing the message across is to make sure the information is successfully received, using terminology people are accustomed to and avoiding cultural and linguistic mistakes, and embarrassing misunderstandings.


When something is lost in translation….

UntitledOne example may be the case of choosing the correct terminology for laptop. In Portuguese, a portable computer is called “computador portatil” and this term can be translated into English as a notebook computer or a portable computer.

According to Wintranslation (a translation services company based in Canada which provides services in over 70 languages), there were over 800,000 searches on Yahoo in one month for “notebook computer”. Conversely, the term “portable computer” failed to yield even 3,000 searches. So, in order to succeed, it is important to make well informed about the best terms to be selected and about the keywords used for searches.


Take another of these mistakes in the use of the concept “open house” for a home for sale. This is a practice unknown in many countries, yet companies nonetheless push the service on their foreign language sites, even translating the words “open house” literally.

This is not only a linguistic and cultural blunder, but it also keeps search engines from pointing to a website. There’s a real lack of understanding and the translation and terminology have not been taken into account again in terms of international marketing.

Another example of misunderstandings and important cultural nuances comes from Nike. The popular sportive brand made a costly error in the last 1990s using flames to depict the word “Air” as the logo on their “Nike Air” running shoes. Unfortunately for Nike, this symbol looked very similar to the Arabic word for “Allah.” Due to the offense this caused to many Muslims, Nike had to remove thousands of pairs of shoes from the marketplace, as well as work hard to repair the damaged relationship with their alienated customers.

In addition, as for tourism, Germans prefer canoe trips, while the Japanese are fond of organized bus tours. The multilingual version of a website web to book travel should reflect these kind of preferences. There are many examples like this one, in which maybe a common practise don’t bother to understand each audiences when a concept is translated and adapted to each language and local customs on websites.

Therefore, choosing the correct term is a key aspect. Whatever the product to make business or the objective of our communications it is important to know how to optimize a website to foreign markets.

In this sense, professional translators and terminologist can ensure to achieve linguistic and conceptual equivalence, thereby avoiding mistakes in contents.

Additional resources:

Marketing Translation Mistakes

Business Glossary

Glossary of Financial Terms for Businesses: Useful terms






Written by

Lidia Capitan Zamora. Journalist, web editor and social media expert.

Communication Trainee at TermCoord