Thursday, August 17, 2017

Translation Could Make or Break Your International Business. Here’s Why.

Translation Could Make or Break Your International Business. Here’s Why.
How are you communicating all aspects of your business – from sales to compliance – across borders and languages? Your answer to this question is more imperative than you may think.
Companies operating in the international trade sector communicate via different languages in nearly every
facet of the business. From corresponding with manufacturers and problem-solving with export departments to marketing products overseas and cooperating with foreign authorities – multilingual communication is vital – which is why many global companies prioritize hiring bilingual or multilingual employees. And while it’s true that bilingual employees are essential for day-to-day back-end communications, there are many situations in which it is crucial to go a step further and hire professional translators to ensure your company’s success.

There are three main areas where professional translation services (or lack thereof) can make or break a company: marketing and corporate communications, operational documentation and recordkeeping, and compliance. Here’s why:
  1. Marketing and Corporate Communications
“Great Execution is the Ultimate Differentiator”, says Margaret Molloy, Global Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Business Development at the renowned Siegel+Gale global branding consulting firm. This marketing quote is particularly relevant to translation, because the importance of having impeccable multilingual marketing and corporate communications cannot be understated. Marketing materials need to attract customers, plain and simple. This advice holds true not only for the marketing materials you create and convey in your native language, but also for the multilingual marketing materials you distribute. If your message doesn’t resonate with your foreign market, winning enough market share to be successful will be tough indeed.
In addition to traditional marketing materials, social media marketing also needs to be perfectly executed in all languages. Nothing makes a consumer scroll by an ad or post faster than if it’s poorly written in their native language (or not written in their language at all).
Lastly, “great execution” is also essential when translating corporate communications. Investors and shareholders want to see clear and concise press releases and reporting, and to state the obvious, accuracy is key. Poor translations could be preventing you from reaching the elusive unicorn status by turning off people or companies who might have otherwise invested heavily in your company.
  1. Operations
Despite the fact that customers never see the mounds of operational documentation that make a global company function, it is still essential that these documents be translated correctly or written accurately in English for recordkeeping purposes. For instance, US-based importers receive a significant amount of operational
documentation from overseas, and the English in these documents can be less than stellar. This type of documentation includes, but is not limited to, invoices, packing lists, product packaging, power of attorney forms and import-specific documentation such as specific import/export declarations required for government agencies including the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), among others. Having poorly written documentation may not cause any disruption in your normal course of business, but if a customs authority, tax authority or other corporate compliance authority ever decides to conduct an audit, meticulous and easy-to-understand documentation will provide the kind of positive first impression that could set the tone for the entire audit, which leads me to area number three:
  1. Compliance
Undergoing an external audit of any kind is serious business. Whether it be a customs audit, tax audit, HR audit, Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) audit or other, providing the auditing body with professionally-translated documentation from foreign subsidiaries is key to successfully managing an audit or investigation. For US customs audits in particular, customs authorities require an enormous amount of paperwork from the importer and its foreign supplier(s) relating to how and where the imported goods were manufactured, what financial and service agreements the parties have with one another, and documentation proving the company’s compliance with related-party transactions and other accounting policies, if applicable. Most of the documentation provided by foreign suppliers will likely be in another language and will need to be translated. Needless to say, a mistake in the translation of these types of documents could be catastrophic for your business and could ultimately lead to failing the audit – an embarrassing and potentially costly issue.
 The Difference
Although bilingual employees are integral for day-to-day communications and operations, professional translators have extensive experience and training on how to accurately and concisely convey your messages in your unique
voice to your particular audiences. We know that different communication mediums require distinct writing styles and techniques, we know that company-specific terminology is important, so we prioritize working with customers to create company-specific glossaries to ensure term and brand consistency. Most importantly, we know how to ensure that your translations never sound awkward or stilted. Many professional translators have former careers in various industries, and we use this subject matter expertise to guarantee translation accuracy and quality.

Great Execution” Requires Investment
Translation is an investment like any other; once you start allocating resources for this service, you will see returns, as long as you choose your provider(s) wisely. With the proper partner(s), you could boost your company’s reputation overseas, maintain more coherent records and be more prepared should you face a regulatory inquiry or audit in the future. If you’ve never provisioned for translation expenditure before, now is the time to do it.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Get Ready, San Francisco - Here I Come!

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I have been chosen to present at the American Translators Association's 57th Annual Conference not once, but twice, this year. My sessions pertain to two different subjects that, although unrelated, are both very near and dear to my heart. If you plan to attend the conference, please check out my sessions. In the meantime, if you have any questions, thoughts, or comments on these topics, I'd love to hear them in the comment section below or via email at

My first presentation, which is currently scheduled for Friday, November 4th, 2016 at 3:30 pm, is on understanding language service provider contracts and the importance of having your own terms of service. Below is an abstract of my presentation:

Contracts: Friends or Foes?

Vendor contracts have become an indisputable part of the translator < > language service provider (LSP) relationship, but what are the implications of these contracts for translators? This interactive session will help attendees decipher vendor agreements, detect red flags in vendor contracts and propose amendments to certain LSP contract clauses. This session will also discuss the importance of translators sending their own terms of service for every project. Attendees will walk away with more confidence in handling vendor contracts as well as example clauses to include in their own terms of service.

I love this topic for several reasons. One, teaching colleagues how to decipher LSP / Vendor agreements helps freelance translators enter into more equitable business partnerships and creates a more balanced marketplace. Two, when freelance translators are more comfortable discussing and negotiating service agreement clauses and creating their own terms of service, it advances the profession as a whole, and I am a staunch advocate of industry professionalization. Lastly, I enjoy helping my fellow translators develop their business. Believe it or not, translation companies LOVE professional translators who treat each project like a business transaction, because that's what they are - business transactions. When a translator exudes professionalism from the outset, it makes project managers feel more comfortable about the translator's ability to deliver quality product in a timely manner, and they will come back for repeat business (as long as the translator really does deliver quality product in a timely and professional manner).

My second presentation, which is currently scheduled for Saturday, November 5th at 3:30 pm, is on international trade:

International Trade: A High Growth Market for Translators

International trade is a vital component of the global economy and a massive untapped market for
translators. The US government is poised to pass a broad-sweeping customs reauthorization law to facilitate trade enforcement, which will only increase demand for translation services. This session will introduce attendees to the international supply chain and US customs process, explain the parties involved in the international supply chain, provide information on how to gain expertise in this field, and serve as a call to action for us to raise awareness of the importance of professional translation to the international trade community.

I have a particular fondness for this topic because it's a lovely confluence of my past and present. I learned an enormous amount about international trade in my former career as a trade compliance manager, and I love to share my nerdy love for international logistics with anyone who will listen. In all seriousness though, this sector truly has the potential to be a huge market segment for professional translators, but to achieve this, we all need to rally together and make the international trade community understand that they're doing themselves a disservice by choosing bilingual employees to translate their documentation rather than professional translators - because make no mistake - that's what many of them are doing. I know this from personal experience.

So come get nerdy with me in San Francisco at ATA's 57th Annual Conference! I hope to see you at one or both of my presentations!

For more info about the ATA 57th Annual Conference, visit

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Translation Buying Strategies for the Internationally Challenged



Sunday, January 31, 2016

15 Must-Follow Twitter Accounts for Financial Translators

As professional translators, we need to keep abreast of the latest information relating to not only our profession, but to our area(s) of expertise as well. There are many ways you can do this – being actively involved in translators associations is one way; attending conferences, workshops, seminars, etc. is also a vital component in honing your skills. However, you can also keep yourself au courant on a day-to-day basis using social media. A mere 10 years ago, Twitter was just a weird platform where teenagers wrote 140-character sentences to each other and no one really knew why, but now Twitter is a major source of information where an almost infinite amount of content is blasted out constantly, and where virtually every industry has a presence. What’s nice about this is that it is now very easy to stay informed of the latest news in both the world of translation and within your specialist area.

Being a French to English financial translator, I like to keep up-to-date on accounting and finance news. Below, I’ve listed my 15 favorite Twitter accounts relating to accounting and finance.

1. IFRS Foundation
The IFRS Foundation/IASB tweets about changes to IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) and publishes presentations and videos explaining new standards or amendments. This is a great resource if you translate the Annual Reports of companies that use IFRS.

2. IFRS Demystified

IFRS Demystified posts about changes to IFRS regulations and the impacts that those regulations have on businesses around the globe.

3. Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF)

This is the official Twitter account of the the Autorité des Marchés Financiers. They post news and information about French financial markets. This is a great resource for FR<>EN financial translators.

4. The International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB)
The International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) tweets about international auditing, audit reporting, financial reporting, new accounting standards, etc.

5.  Francesca Airaghi
Francesca Airaghi is an English to Italian financial translator who tweets about financial translation, accounting/finance/global markets, freelancing and general topics for freelancers. She's the only individual I have on this list, but her Twitter activity is practically tailor-made for financial translators and is definitely worth a follow.

6. The Federation of European Accountants (FEE) 
The Federation of European Accountants is an active organization that issues opinions on new European accounting standards. This is a good account to follow if you want to know how experts in the field are reacting to new and/or amended accounting standards and practices.

7. The International Federation of Accountants

The International Federation of Accountants tweets about audit standards, ethics, the integrated reporting movement and other accounting topics.

8. Accountancy Live

Accountancy live tweets news about taxes, accounting and audit for mostly the EU, but posts some US news as well. This Twitter account is a good source for industry news.

9. World Economics

World Economics posts about employment, global trends for many different industries, and other topics and news related to global economics.

10. The FAF, FASB and GASB

The FAF (Financial Accounting Foundation),  the FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) and the GASB (Governmental Accounting Standards Board) tweet under one handle (@FAFNorwalk). This is the go-to place for information regarding GAAP, as these organizations set financial reporting standards and accounting standards for organizations that use GAAP for their accounting.

11. Accountancy Age
Accountancy Age tweets about accounting news and analysis for mostly the UK, but they also post some articles about the rest of Europe and the US as well.

12. Investopedia

I'm sure every financial translator who translates into or out of English has looked up a term on Investopedia at least once, so it shouldn't be a surprise that it is included in this list. Investopedia posts news articles about the economic/financial situation of countries and companies across the globe.

13. Compliance Week

Compliance Week tweets about all things compliance-related. Internal controls, risk management, accounting compliance/audits, etc. This Twitter account is a personal favorite of mine because I was a trade compliance manager before becoming a full-time translator. However, my personal background aside, this is still a useful resource since compliance and internal control are such integral components of corporate reporting.

14. Funded News

Funded News is pretty self-explanatory. They tweet about start-ups that have just acquired funding. If you want to do some digging and research to hunt for direct clients, this could be a good resource, as it can help you figure out which start-ups are ready for international expansion (and thus could should need translation services).

15. International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Last, but certainly not least, is the International Monetary Fund. This Twitter account is a great go-to source of information on the global economies and information on efforts being made by the IMF to promote sustainable economic growth around the world.

Final Thoughts

This is not an exhaustive list - just some of my favorites that are very active on Twitter. If you would like to see all of the accounting/finance Twitter accounts that I follow, I keep them in a separate list here. Do you have any favorites that are not on this list? If so, let me know!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Unexpected Differences between French and American Corporate Communications

Over the past six years, I have translated (and/or edited) hundreds of Annual Reports of publicly traded French companies that do business in industries ranging from telecommunications, the energy sector, logistics, food manufacturing, postal services, banking, advertising, television and film production, real estate, nursing homes – you name it and I’ve probably translated an Annual Report on it. While many might cringe at the thought of even reading a 600-page document that talks about a given company’s operations and financial results, much less translating it, I really enjoy it. I love learning about various companies’ operating models, how they motivate employees, CEO and Board of Directors compensation (my favorite part), what they consider to be risks to their business, internal control procedures, efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, etc. Over the years, while being neck-deep in talk of operating profit, BU synergies and Corporate Social Responsibility, I have noticed that cultural differences run deep, even in corporate communications. I could write an annual report-sized essay on this topic alone, but I don’t have time to do that (it is financial season, you know), so I am going to focus on what I consider the largest most glaringly obvious difference – how companies from France and the United States refer to themselves in Annual Reports. One thing they have in common is that buzzwords abound in both American and French Annual Reports, but how companies in both countries refer to themselves in writing differs quite a bit.

Let’s take a look at the US Social Media Giant, Facebook’s Annual Report. In the first four sentences of Part I, they say “Our mission is…”, “Our business focuses on…”, “How We Create Value…” and “Our top priority is…” The overwhelming trend in the United States is to make a company sound like a person. Endear people to the company. Engage with customers so closely that you feel like that company is a family member. When a company makes a mistake in the US, Americans react very emotionally to the situation– as if they were personally affronted.

In France, on the other hand, corporate management generally tries to separate the people from the company as much as possible. Rarely do I see a French Annual Report use the first person in their corporate communications and reporting. It’s always “The Group”, “its financial statements”, “its operations”, or the name of the company.

Six years ago, I attended my first financial translation-specific conference presentation, and the presenter, David Jemielity, a renowned translator in the field, implored us fellow financial translators to start translating French Annual Reports with “our” and “we” in English as opposed to “its”, so that financial translations would start sounding more natural to English-speaking audiences. His suggestion made perfect sense to me, so from that day forth, I set out on a noble quest to start convincing clients to let me have more liberty when translating pronouns in Annual Reports.
The result: almost every time I suggested that the client let me change “its” to “we” or “our”, their reaction was swift and forceful. THEY HATED IT. Almost all of them have responded immediately with a resounding and firm NO WAY. So my question is, why? What’s the big deal with a “we” and an “our”? What makes American corporate culture so different from that of France?

Coincidentally enough, just this afternoon, while browsing Twitter, a headline caught my eye. It said “Elon Musk says there’s ‘no such thing’ as a business”. I immediately had two simultaneous thoughts: 1) ‘Huh, cool, Elon Musk, let me read this real quick, this super genius always intrigues me’, and 2) ‘You know what, I bet this article directly pertains to the blog post I’m developing’; and sure enough, I was not disappointed. When being interviewed by Tim Urban of Wait But Why, Elon Musk said:

"I don't know what a business is." All a company is is a bunch of people together to create a product or service. There's no such thing as a business, just pursuit of a goal — a group of people pursuing a goal."

Combine the above attitude with actions such as the historic January 21, 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court Ruling, which upheld a corporation’s status as a person, thereby protecting Citizens United’s rights to free speech, and it’s no wonder American companies have no issue referring to themselves as a “we”.

The French, however, have a particularly impersonal attitude towards work, and they make sure that their personal lives are very distinct and separate from their professional lives. Additionally, their business etiquette has maintained a high level of formality that has been disappearing in the US. In France, you have to be very careful how you approach and talk to your superiors, you have to dress meticulously, and you have to maintain their formal and rather rigid salutations and writing style in any business communication. Perhaps these reasons at least partially explain French companies’ hesitation to embrace the exceedingly personal tone of American corporate communications. 

I have seen a few pioneer French companies buck this trend, but they are still few and far between -at least in my experience. Maybe the recent boom in French start-ups and young French entrepreneurs will bring a breath of fresh and informal air to French business communications. I personally prefer American companies’ corporate writing style, so in the meantime, I will continue to fight the good fight and try to convince French companies to let me say “we”.

What say you on this topic, fellow financial translators? To those who translate into and/or out of different language pairs: do you experience these types of cultural differences in financial or business translation as well? How do you handle them?


"Shared Publication." Facebook 2014 Annual Report. 2015. Accessed January 16, 2016.

Dickerson, Kelly. "Elon Musk Says There's 'no Such Thing' as a Business." Tech Insider. September 3, 2015. Accessed January 16, 2016.

"Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm'n 558 U.S. ___ (2010)." Justia Law. January 21, 2010. Accessed January 16, 2016.

"Business Communication." Business Culture. Accessed January 16, 2016.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Infographic: 10 Common Misconceptions About Translation



Sunday, December 13, 2015

Trust Me on This - Don't Ask Your Bilingual Friend or Employee to Translate Important Stuff

I know what you're thinking. Professional translation services can be expensive. My [website, mobile app, annual report, insert any number of things your company could need translated; the options are practically limitless] has a ton of words, and I don't want to dip into my budget to pay for something like that. Oh, I've got it! Suzanne, who works in sales, grew up in France. I'll ask her to translate my [insert any number of things your company could need translated] into French.

It sounds like the perfect solution, doesn't it? It costs $0.00, and surely someone who is bilingual is just as qualified as a professional translator to translate your [insert any number of things your company could need translated], right? Unfortunately, it doesn't really work that way.

Bilingualism ≠ Good Translator 

At a glance, it may seem as though any bilingual person can automatically be a translator because they are fluent in two languages; however, this perception is, quite simply put, 100% incorrect. Believing that any bilingual person is automatically a good translator is like believing that anyone who speaks English can be a New York Times® Best Seller. It's just not true. To be a good translator, it is absolutely imperative that said person be a good writer. If you can't eloquently convey thoughts on paper (or via your keyboard nowadays), you do not have what it takes to render a high-quality translation. Not a member of the grammar police? You need to be commissioner of the grammar police as a translator. If Suzanne sometimes confuses 'they're, there, and their', chances are likely that she will make a mistake that embarrasses your company in the translation you had her do for free.

Let's say Suzanne isn't commissioner of the grammar police, but she's at least a card-carrying captain. That's great, but is Suzanne an expert in French grammar rules too? Does Suzanne know that the French use more noun clauses than we do in English? Does Suzanne know how to maintain language register between the two languages? Does Suzanne know that the French like to start out sentences or paragraphs with an explanation and end with the main point (or topic sentence), whereas in English we often make our main point immediately, then spend the rest of the sentence or paragraph explaining1? Not knowing all of these mechanical and cultural differences could make your translation sound like an awkward and stilted....well, translation.

The goal when translating a [insert any number of things your company could need translated] is to take the message from the original, then shape, mold and craft that same message into another language in the most appropriate way possible. A good translation should never sound like a translation. Professional translators have been educated on all of the above-mentioned topics. We learned about modulations, transpositions and equivalents. We studied and practiced how to translate for years before getting paid to do it. We can spot a grammatical error from a mile away (and we know that "spotting something from a mile away" is an Americanism that can't be translated word-for-word in French or other languages). 

The fact of the matter is that professional translation is worth the cost for any text that needs to be publication-quality. If your company had a legal issue, would you consult your employee John who took one criminal justice course in college, or would you consult a practicing lawyer who is a member of your region's bar association? I rest my case.


Siepmann, Dirk. "Academic Writing and Culture: An Overview of Differences between English, French and German" Erudit. 2006. Accessed December 11, 2015.