Despite uncertainty in the global markets, many organizations are still experiencing significant international growth. This means localization is as important as ever, and companies need to have a translation process in place that is both efficient and accurate in order to communicate effectively with global clients and employees.

In reality, many companies do not regard localization as a core part of their global business and end up asking bilingual employees to help with the translation of business documents. Some supervise the process or handle final proofreading, but many assume the most critical role of all — translator.

Consider the following scenarios:

  • One of your products is wildly popular in France, and it’s about to be upgraded. The local marketing manager volunteers to update all of your French-language marketing brochures and sales presentations.
  • You’ve just set up a new sales office in Shanghai. To train your new employees on company policies, you ask a bilingual employee in your New York office to translate all of your learning and development materials.
  • When your company had only two international offices, you only needed internal communications translated into those languages. Now that your company has expanded, you find you’re coordinating the efforts of five bilingual staff members.

Arrangements such as these can work, but it’s usually not long before organizations begin to outgrow them. For instance, you might begin to notice inconsistencies in boilerplate copy at the bottom of every press release. Your legal team may be surprised by small tweaks that have significant implications in a localized document. You start to experience delays because your bilingual employee needs to manage a more urgent deadline related to their regular work before getting to your translation. When time is of the essence and you need a fast turnaround, delays can have a negative impact on business.

Many organizations seek to avoid the pitfalls of relying on employees for this task by working with a translation service provider. Those that make the transition find there are several advantages to this approach. For instance, a full-service agency will be able to manage translations in almost any language and area of expertise. These services have access to hundreds of professional translators and can source bilingual experts that have the language- and industry-specific technical knowledge you need. Further, you’ll always have access to a dedicated professional translator whose primary job is to focus on your translation. As a result, you can count on a fast, professional translation that is entirely consistent with prior and future documents.

What’s more, it removes the burden of this task from your employees, many of whom assume these tasks as “side” jobs in addition to their regular work. When you engage a dedicated translation service provider, your employees no longer need to spend valuable time working on a tedious translation. Instead, they can use that time to focus on work that drives your business forward.

In addition, while it may seem an effective approach, assigning translation duties to members of your team presents numerous drawbacks. For example, although bilingual employees may be confident about their ability to translate a piece, that doesn’t mean they’re qualified for the task. Most don’t have the specialized training or knowledge that’s required to produce an accurate translation. The result is a poor-quality translation, which can make your organization look unprofessional.

Another problem: Employees usually don’t have the tools or software that professional translators use for speed, consistency and accuracy. Not surprisingly, most companies don’t invest in translation memory software. That means employees must translate documents manually. This approach is highly inefficient. It takes more time, results in delays and creates inconsistencies. Also, since they may not have access to the software used to create the original content (InDesign or MadCap Flare, for example), they simply recreate it in Word.

By contrast, professional translators can employ Translation Memory to leverage previously translated content and work within the original file format to retain formatting and context. And in some cases, machine-translation with post-editing (MTPE) can be used to save time, accelerate the process and reduce costs.

Once you’ve decided to make the leap to an external translation service provider, there are four steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition.

1. Build the business case. If you’ve decided your internal process isn’t meeting your needs, take the time to document how and why working with an external provider will be an improvement. It’s common to meet resistance to this type of change but spelling out the advantages up front will help you gain buy-in from key stakeholders.

Be sure to outline how the translation service provider will help your company:

  • Save time and soft costs on tedious translation tasks being done by your employees.
  • Avoid missing big opportunities, such as responding to large RFPs or launching new products before competitors, because your internal staff cannot meet your deadlines due to other priorities.
  • Manage larger volumes of documents for translation.
  • Handle translations in more languages.
  • Improve efficiency of the translation process.
  • Obtain more consistent, higher-quality translations.

Some of the soft costs associated with translation might include:

  • A poor-quality translation of your website can discourage potential marketing leads from making contact as well as hurt your reputation.
  • The time your sales manager spends translating marketing material is time they could have spent selling.
  • Missed deadlines delay delivery of products or services to customers and may put a valuable relationship at risk.

2. Involve your team. Many organizations find the loudest objections to using a translation service provider come from their own employees. Some aren’t eager to give up the responsibility, and few believe the quality of the agency’s translation meets their standards. One way to build trust in the translation service provider is to give the employees on your team – especially those who have been translating documents – a role in the transition. During this period, they can work alongside the agency, providing guidance and ensuring accuracy and consistency. They can help build a company-specific glossary and also transfer their knowledge about company style.

3. Communicate the benefits to your employees. Be clear that the switch is a business decision made both for the overall benefit of the company as well as your team. Some employees may take the change personally. Engaging a translation service provider means that all employees previously involved in day-to-day translations will have more time to focus on their main job responsibilities and advance critical projects. And if they’ve been working after-hours on translations, they can now spend more time with family and friends and on personal pursuits. If they seem reluctant to the change, seek to find the underlying reasons why.

4. Strive for consistency. It’s important to work with a translator who is not only fluent in the required languages, but who is also a good match for your organization’s tone and writing style. A good translation service provider will allow you to test two translators during the transition period so you can find the right match. During this period, you and your team will have the ability to communicate directly with the translator. The goal here is to collaborate and learn. Translator consistency allows you to move the process forward and not get stuck in an endless cycle of trials.

Making the switch to a translation service provider is easier than you think. The steps above will ensure your transition goes smoothly. With the new process in place, you can be confident professional linguists are providing quality translations of your global communications.

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Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 21% of corporate counsel in a recent survey said they’d experienced an increase in cross-border litigation. Recent global events, ranging from Brexit to tariff fights, all but ensure this trend will continue – and with it, the need for businesses to have a multilingual eDiscovery strategy.

In releasing its findings, the authors highlighted the expected impact of COVID-19, which the consulting firm believes will drive commercial disputes because it’s “threatening supply chains, challenging contracts and changing how companies are doing business.”

Such macro events affect both the urgency and scope of cross-border litigation. So it follows that attorneys who deal with international commercial disputes will be pressured to manage multilingual eDiscovery as efficiently as possible.

That’s no easy task. Cross-border litigation and eDiscovery are dauntingly complex, especially when matters involve intricate aspects of law and span several countries. For instance, a seven-year investigation of Walmart Inc. involved subsidiaries or affiliates in four countries: Mexico, Brazil, China and India. And Uber recently faced challenges to its operations in several non-English-speaking countries including Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.

In cases like these, the scope of discovery forces legal teams to contend with a vast store of documents, in addition to all of the usual challenges that go along with preparing for negotiations and court. On top of dealing with different formats – such as Word documents, emails, text messages and spreadsheets – legal teams also must cope with material in multiple languages. It’s not unusual to find records of digital conversations in more than one language. For example, executives in a France-based firm might email their British colleagues in French and receive their answers in English.

How can legal teams navigate multilingual eDiscovery, especially when dealing with large and complex datasets? While one approach is to engage bilingual contract attorneys, organizations can also leverage technology like machine translation to accelerate document review. In fact, artificial intelligence can do much of the heavy lifting, as it can handle three times more work than a human can. Combined with human translation, this approach can shorten the process and allow lawyers to focus on only relevant documents. It’s often more economical, too.

Best practices for multilingual litigation

If you think your organization may be at risk of cross-border litigation, act now to put best practices and systems in place. This way, you’ll be ready for any potential actions even before the need arises. Understanding the steps involved in multilingual eDiscovery is a good place to start.

Step 1: Expect the unexpected

Ask about languages during the custodian interview phase. Is it possible the documents that will be collected may be in more than one language? Once you’ve collected your data, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re dealing with. More often than you’d think, collections include documents in multiple languages. For instance, you might expect your collection to be entirely in Russian, only to discover it also includes documents in French, Georgian and Italian. Even within a single document, you may find content in two or more languages.

Step 2: Use language tools to structure your hosting environment

A language detection app, which is a common but not always used feature of processing software, will help you identify both primary and secondary languages within your document set. Translating your key search terms into the appropriate languages will ensure you don’t miss any important documents in, for example, French, even though you’re searching in Russian.

When it comes time to review foreign language documents you should consider running a machine translation test to see if the English output files are good enough for a first-level review. If so, this can save time and money over the traditional method of staffing a review with bilingual contract attorneys. And machine translation may be the best choice for less-common languages, as bilingual contract attorneys fluent in these languages may be harder to find.

Step 3: Add the human element for more polished translations

Once the review is complete, you may need to produce a subset of “hot docs” for court. Though machine translation is very efficient, it isn’t always able to handle some of the specialized language used in legal documents. For this reason, “human-like” translations need to be reviewed and polished by real people. Human translators will review and correct for specialized language, capture nuance, and deliver a polished translation that’s acceptable for court. Be sure to work with a professional translation service that can provide a Certification of Accuracy.

In conclusion, when it comes to cross-border litigation, it’s best to have a “language management” plan in place. Identify the languages of the documents you have collected, separate them for processing, translate keywords for searching, use machine translation where appropriate, and finish the process with high-quality professional translations for court.

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Marketers have enough to do to manage their websites and campaigns in one language, let alone several. When it’s time to reach other audiences around the world, the effort can quickly become time-consuming and overwhelming.

Website translation, especially, can get a bit tricky. Websites are more complex, often involving embedded technology and images. Keeping up with constant content additions and changes adds another layer of difficulty. Many content management systems (CMS) recognize this problem and offer tools to help streamline the process. Even so, complications often arise that make it challenging for your team to effectively manage and maintain the translation process on their own.

The best way to solve this common struggle is to work with a language services provider that specializes in website translations. An experienced vendor can deliver a turnkey solution for any CMS, giving your marketing team the option of participating as much or as little as they like. 

For instance, let’s consider the impact of this approach for businesses using WordPress. This open source software is the most popular CMS, powering 38% of the world’s websites, including well-known brands such as TechCrunch, Sony Music, and Rolling Stone. Marketers can use its multilingual plugin to streamline the translation process, but they can save more time and improve the process further by working with a translation provider that specializes in WordPress WPML deployments.

Getting started with website translation

Your marketing team may find themselves in a number of scenarios as they consider how to approach website translation:

  • You’re considering or starting a website redesign project. This is the perfect time to add languages to your new site.
  • Your website may be partially translated, and translation needs to be completed or expanded.
  • There may be new content that has been added to your website that requires translation into one or more languages.
  • Perhaps your website has been translated, but the translation process isn’t integrated into your workflow, requiring manual copying and pasting of content.
  • You may even have a fully translated site with a relatively efficient process in place, but the person in charge of website translation has left the company.

Regardless of your situation, the WordPress WPML Plugin is often the first solution multinational companies leverage to solve the translation dilemma – and for good reason. The WPML Plugin is designed to make it easy to build multilingual sites. It’s a tool that allows companies to translate website pages and posts, and it can be compatible with every theme or plugin that uses the WordPress WPML.

However, there’s still a lot of setup and maintenance work involved for your marketing team. After the plugin is installed, there are many steps required to complete the translation process. You need to configure the layout for the languages and address all of the items – both static and dynamic – on the site including:

  • User Interface
  • Pages
  • Blogs
  • Images
  • Menus
  • Categories
  • Multimedia content
  • Downloadable content
  • Widgets and third-party content
  • SEO
  • And more

Depending on the volume and complexity of your site content, the process can quickly become overwhelming. If you have questions during the process, it can be hard to get immediate assistance. Maintenance is another headache altogether, especially if new content and images are added to the site on a regular basis. The complexity of both setup and maintenance grows with the number of languages being added.

It becomes all too easy for your marketing team to get pulled in other directions, and their plates are probably already full. As a result, the translation process falls off the radar. When this happens, you can’t reach customers or employees in their native languages, thus losing business and possibly not complying with certain regulations. Fortunately, you can spare your team this headache and fast-track the translation process.

Partner with a WordPress-savvy translation provider

When you work with a language service provider that specializes in WordPress WPML deployments, all of the heavy lifting is taken off of your marketing team’s shoulders. You can remain involved in the process as much or as little as you like, with the option of a complete turnkey solution in which the translation provider manages the initial and ongoing processes for you.

Your team only needs to purchase the WordPress WPML Plugin and determine the content requiring translation. Your language service provider will handle the rest, including:

  • Assisting with the setup and configuration of WPML
  • Processing source XLIFF/XML files
  • Creating glossary/style guide
  • Translating, editing, and proofreading
  • Implementing your subject matter experts’ translation feedback
  • Uploading translated XLIFF/XML files
  • Completing website quality assurance (proofreading via testing/staging)
  • Updating glossaries and Translation Memory
  • Performing final User Acceptance Testing (UAT)

Throughout the translation process, the bilingual subject matter experts on your team have the option to be involved in such tasks as the creation of glossaries or style guides, and side-by-side translation reviews. After the translation vendor has completed the QA process, your marketers can participate in the final website review process. Since they’re closest to the original content, they’re in the best position to identify any content issues or errors. However, participation in the review and editing process is entirely optional, giving your team the opportunity to focus on their other obligations.

A translation provider with proven expertise in the WordPress WPML Plugin will help your marketing team avoid getting bogged down in the details of website translation. They can take on the heavy lifting, allowing your marketers to spend more time on developing campaigns that drive business growth.

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Artificial intelligence is transforming machine translation (MT). Deep learning and neural networks have evolved into a new model – neural machine translation (NMT) – that has made MT faster and more sophisticated. But the future of translation lies in combining this new technology with human translators. Machine translation with post-editing is a rapidly developing service, and it heralds a swath of new opportunities for companies with a global footprint.

What Is Machine Learning with Post-Editing?

In 2014, researchers introduced the concept of neural networks to machine translation. Rather than memorize “windows” of words in sentences as previous models had done, neural networks look for the whole context of a particular translation. As a result, NMT produces a higher-quality translation in a shorter amount of time. What’s more, it continues to “learn” and improve.

Still, the technology has limitations. Though it’s suitable on its own for some use cases – such as getting the “gist” of an email message – it falls short when greater precision is required. That’s why machine translation with post-editing is one of the fastest growing services in the translation industry. The process is simple. Content is initially translated using NMT. Then, a skilled human translator reviews the output and edits for clarity and precision. The result is a better-quality translation – in less time.

This process is also highly efficient, an important consideration for businesses that need to translate larger volumes of content. For instance, as the internet has expanded access to a more global customer base, marketing teams must make social media and digital advertising content available in local languages. This is not an insubstantial task, especially as six in 10 international marketers don’t have support in all the local markets in which they operate, according to data from eMarketer.

However, machine translation with post-editing streamlines and simplifies translation projects. This process allows organizations to:

  • Handle large volumes of content. Many translation projects involve hundreds or even thousands of documents or pages. Examples include website pages, product support documents, human resource materials, and litigation documents used in the discovery process.
  • Accelerate turnaround time. Using NMT for the initial translation means human translators can focus on smaller sections of content, enabling them to deliver a high-quality translation in much less time than if they’d started the entire project from scratch.
  • Achieve greater precision. Though it is fast, NMT has its limitations. While it produces significantly better translations than statistical machine translation, it isn’t yet adequate for specialized text. However, when human translators conduct post-editing on machine-translated output, they can clean it up faster while ensuring creative and nuanced text is precisely translated.
  • Improve efficiency. By providing a foundational translation from which to start, NMT helps human translators be more productive. For instance, one longtime translator estimated that a good quality machine translation improves his productivity by 30% to 40%.

Working with Machine Translation with Post-Editing.

When evaluating a project for machine translation with post-editing, be sure to consider the following.

  • Languages. Because of the large amount of training data needed for NMT, the technology serves some languages better than others. For example, English, Spanish, and Chinese are more widely spoken and thus will require less post-editing and time to produce. Other languages will require a native speaker to produce a higher quality translation, extending the post-editing time.
  • Specialized text. Machine translation with post-editing will become more common for standard translations, but specialized content will still need the involvement of human experts. One of the limitations of neural machine translation is domain adaptation. The technology performs best in general use cases, but it’s not quite ready for specialized use cases, such as patents or healthcare.
  • Sector expertise. In order to ensure the subject matter is accurately represented and is compliant with government regulations, you need sector expertise. Certain disciplines such as life sciences and manufacturing have their own shorthand and terminology. Precise translation of this type of content is more difficult for artificial intelligence to achieve, making post-editing a critical step in the process. The American Translators Association recommends working with a translator who knows your subject inside and out.
  • High-stakes communications. What happens when more is at stake? Legal advisers can’t afford to misunderstand text as they determine how to proceed in a significant lawsuit. Products may not sell if the translation misses the cultural mark. Precision is essential in high-stakes communication, and the cost of errors can be high. For example, literal translations can lead to serious misunderstandings, especially in domains where words may have different meanings. A skilled linguist can ensure cultural accuracy.

When to Use Machine Translation with Post-Editing.

Machine translation services such as Google Translate are valuable for personal use or when “a sense of the content” is an adequate outcome. For example, Google Translate is ideal for tourists who want a quick translation of foreign-language signage at places they visit. Businesspeople conducting first-line research may value speed more, if they only need to get the gist of the news covered in an online article.

But for large scale projects that need to be completed quickly and accurately, machine learning combined with post-editing produces the best results. Artificial intelligence offers an efficient, cost-effective way to handle the large volume of content that businesses need to translate. However, human translators are better at capturing style, cultural nuances, and context than their machine counterparts.

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Two-thirds of companies say it’s challenging to be sensitive and adjust to local culture and communication styles, especially across multiple geographies, according to Globalization Partners. They can simplify the process by working with a translation partner that thoroughly understands these challenges.

The following checklist makes it easy to determine which content should be a priority for translation.

  1. Business-critical Documents
    • Mission and vision statement
  2. HR Materials
    • HR Manual
    • Employee benefits packages
    • HR forms
    • How to conduct a performance evaluation
  3. Internal Communication
    • Newsletters
    • Email messages
    • Corporate presentations
    • Employee handbooks
    • Company intranet
  4. Training Materials (scripts, training modules and quick reference guides)
    • HR training
    • Risk, regulatory and compliance
    • Organization leadership and development
    • Safety training
    • Anti-bribery/anti-corruption/ anti-trust
    • Workplace harassment
    • Cybersecurity training
  5. Ethics and Compliance Policies
    • Code of conduct
    • Regulatory compliance
    • Export compliance
    • Ethics hotline, posters & brochures
    • Procurement & supply chain
    • Ethics investigations
  6. Health and Safety
    • Safety data sheets
    • Manuals
    • Risk assessments
    • Occupational health and safety training
    • COVID-19 guidelines and reopening plans
  7. Salary and Payment Documentation
    • Compensation plans
    • Sales incentives

As you prepare to translate critical internal communications, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Define important terminology: Some words and phrases have different meanings in different languages, so they need to be clearly defined.
  • Account for local variations in languages: Regional dialects can have a big impact on a translation’s accuracy. Make sure you consider these nuances during the translation process.
  • Quality is key: Translations must be accurate, so a formal quality control process is necessary. Errors can result in misunderstandings and even injury.
  • Don’t forget revisions: It’s all too easy to translate a document once and then forget about it. If you revise the compensation or benefits package, be sure translated versions are revised too.

A reputable translation services vendor can work with you to ensure accurate translations of critical internal communications and help create a more inclusive, diverse environment across all locations.


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With operations spread across multiple countries and continents, it can be challenging for global companies to engage distant employees. Companies with a global workforce face many challenges when it comes to employee engagement. After all, communicating company news and policies in multiple languages can be complicated.

However, research shows diverse and inclusive company atmospheres deliver tangible benefits. According to Gartner, they accelerate innovation and improve the bottom line. Meanwhile, a recent survey by Globalization Partners found that embracing multilingualism helps organizations achieve better results overall.

At the same time, though, Globalization Partners discovered that three in 10 employees don’t feel a sense of inclusion or belonging in their organizations. Just as translation of marketing content helps companies connect more effectively with customers, translation of critical internal documents helps global businesses make all workers feel as if they’re a part of the same organization.

6 Reasons you Need to Translate Internal Communications

It may be tempting to simply declare English as your official company language. It can certainly be a faster and less complicated way to disseminate information. Yet, there are many reasons why global companies should, and in some cases must, translate internal communications.

  1. Foster Diversity and Inclusion: According to Gartner, 75% of organizations whose frontline decision-making teams reflect a diverse and inclusive environment exceed their financial targets. Translating critical documents ensures universal understanding of, and higher engagement with, your organization’s mission and vision.
  2. Promote Ethical Behavior: While no organization is immune from corruption or misconduct, global corporations are especially at risk. Almost half of companies have experienced economic crime and fraud, according to a 2018 PwC survey. In addition, problems are more likely to occur in subsidiaries or joint ventures far from headquarters, writes Mary Jo White, former chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in Harvard Business Review. Leaders, more than compliance programs, set the tone for ethical behavior, White noted, underscoring the need to translate both messages and policies.
  3. Ensure Legal and Regulatory Compliance: In some countries and states, the law requires certain internal communications to appear in the employee’s primary language. The best way to avoid legal issues is to err on the side of caution and translate all important communications. For additional insight on the types of workplace language laws in various countries, the Association of Corporate Counsel covered a number of examples here.
  4. Attract and Retain Better Talent: Global organizations can’t be sure the best employee for a given role will be a native English speaker. When they fail to provide internal communications in a preferred language, employees are more likely to feel undervalued and misinformed. That makes them more inclined to look for a job somewhere else. Also, companies risk missing out on hiring future top performers if compensation and benefits materials aren’t available in local languages. Simply put, a person who can’t fully understand what comes with the job is less likely to accept it.
  5. Reduce the Risk of Misunderstanding: When companies provide materials in the staff’s preferred language, everyone is sure to understand the organization’s goals and expectations. When they know what to do and how to do it, employees are more productive.
  6. Improve Worker Safety: If employees can’t understand your safety procedures, they’re at much greater risk of on-site injury. Such incidents not only lead to downtime, but could result in lawsuits or possible legal penalties. While safety should be top of mind for all organizations, it’s especially important when employees are working in factories or operating machinery of any kind.

A reputable translation services vendor can work with you to ensure accurate translations of critical internal communications and help create a more inclusive, diverse environment across all locations.



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A Fortune 200 global manufacturer was transforming their Human Resources (HR) platform so that the workforce would be able to carry out activities previously handled by HR team members. The goal was to engage employees and their managers in making decisions swiftly, without requiring multiple levels of approvals. They determined this change would require translation of hundreds of documents into the eight languages most frequently spoken by 90% of their workforce.

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Colors can have a huge impact on the success of any communication, but they can also have positive or negative connotations depending on where you live and the culture in which you have been raised.

Below is a general list of colors and cultural symbolism you may want to consider when developing your global communications.


African: Good luck, anger
China: Good luck and celebration, joy, festive occasions
Hebrew: Sacrifice, sin
India: Purity
Japan: Anger, danger
South Africa: Mourning
Russia: Bolsheviks and communism
Eastern: Happiness and prosperity, worn by brides, purity
Western: Danger, love, passion, stop, anger
Middle East: Danger, evil
South American: Cruelty, success
Celtic: Death, afterlife


Korea: Trust
Eastern: Marriage, femininity
Western: Love, baby girls, Valentine’s day, feminine
Belgium: Baby boys
Japan: Spring, femininity, youth


China: Family, learning
Ireland: Religious color for Protestants
Hindu: Desire, courage
Japan: Warmth, energy, happiness, courage
Netherlands: Royalty, color of Dutch royal family
Western: Creativity, autumn, Halloween if with black
India: Purity, courage, sacrifice


China: Money
Japan: Money, heaven
Eastern: Wealth, strength
Western: Wealth


China: Royalty, nourishing, honor, respect
Egypt: Mourning
India: Merchants
Japan: Courage, grace, nobility, childish, gaiety, illness, religion
Eastern: For the dead, sacred, imperial
Western: Hazards, coward, weakness, hope, taxis, caution, joy, happiness, energy
Middle East: Happiness, prosperity


African: Religion, life, success
China: Exorcism, youth, growth
Ireland: Symbol of the country, religious-Catholics
Japan: Life, future, youth, energy
Eastern: Eternity, family, health, peace, prosperity
Western: Spring, go, money, Saint Patrick’s Day, safe, sour
Middle East: Fertility, strength
South American: Death


African: Peace, love
China: Immortality, strength, power
India: National sports color denoting secularism
Iran: Heaven and spirituality, mourning
Japan: Villainy
Eastern: Wealth, self-cultivation
Western: Depression, conservative, corporate, masculinity, calm, authority
Middle East: Protective
South American: Trouble


Japan: Decadence, God, insight, mystery, celebration, wisdom
Thailand: Mourning, widows
Eastern: Wealth
Western: Royalty, flamboyance, decadence, cruelty, beauty, modesty, mystery
South American: Mourning


China: Death, mourning, humility
India: Unhappiness
Japan: White carnations symbolizes death, mourning
Eastern: Funerals, helpful people, children, marriage, mourning, peace
Western: Brides, angels, good guys, hospitals, doctors, peace, purity, virtue
Middle East: Purity, mourning
South American: Peace


China: Color for young boys, evil
Japan: Evil, mystery
Thailand: Bad luck, evil, unhappiness
Eastern: Career, evil, knowledge, mourning
Western: Death, evil, bad guys, rebellion, Halloween with orange
Middle East: Mystery, evil, mourning
Africa: Maturity, masculinity
South American: Masculinity, mourning


Japan: Modesty, reliable
Eastern: Helpers, travel
Western: Boring, dull, sad, plain, respect


African: Truce
Japan: Intelligence
Western: Stylish, money
Western: Personal power, peace, truce, death


China: Earthy
Japan: Earth, durability, strength
Western: Earthy, dependable, wholesome, steadfast, health
Eastern: Earth, mourning
India: Mourning

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Solving a Law Firm’s Translation Challenge.

An AMLAW 100 Firm approached Translate.One with the need to translate 380,000 words from Spanish into English on a rush basis. The matter involved litigation related to a power company.

All documents were in PDF format, which were created from several different file types: PPT, Word, scanned documents with handwriting, and Excel. Even with the most advanced document conversion tools, most files could not be converted cleanly in order to leverage translation memory software or machine translation technology. Keeping in mind that the average word count capacity for a professional translator is 2,250 words per day, we had to quickly scale up production efforts to meet the client deadline of 25 days.

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Naming a new product or company, or coming up with the perfect tagline or logo is not easy. Even within your home market, you need to consider whether the proposed product name has any other meanings or particular associations that you may not have initially considered. This becomes an even greater challenge when it comes to marketing products internationally, as you contemplate the impact of the name in other places around the world and in other cultures.

Questions to consider are:

  • What is the meaning in other languages and countries?
  • Is it easy to pronounce?
  • Does it have any positive or negative cultural implications?
  • Do your color choices carry any specific connotations across the world?

Failure to take these questions into consideration could result in embarrassing blunders, costly corrective measures and even irreparable damage to your brand.

What are the pitfalls?

There have been numerous examples of embarrassing blunders such cases over the years, now infamous in translation and marketing lore. One of these involved the Rolls Royce company which planned on naming a new model “Silver Mist” until they realized that “mist” meant “dung” or “manure” in German. “Silver Dung” was not quite the impact they were looking for! Rolls Royce renamed the model “Silver Shadow.” A liquor producer was not quite so careful and ended up marketing their product in Germany as “Irischer Mist” or “Irish Dung” as it translated locally. Perhaps not quite the image they were looking for.

Why carry out a linguistic and cultural assessment?

So, how can you avoid such embarrassing mistakes and ensure a product name will be accepted around the world? While it is probably not possible to completely eliminate the risk, it can be drastically reduced by carrying out an impact assessment to analyze the linguistic and cultural connotations of the brand name in the target countries and regions where the product will be marketed. This will help to determine whether the brand name has any meaning in the main local languages, whether it is easy for people to pronounce and whether it has any positive, negative, or other associations through its meaning or its sound.

Which language for which country?

This can sometimes be more complex than you might think as more than one language is spoken in some countries. For example, India has two national official languages, Hindi and English. You might then think that an assessment of your product name in these two languages will be sufficient for the Indian market. However, this only scratches the surface of the complexity of language in India. While the central government uses Hindi and English for official purposes, there are actually an additional 22 languages which are official languages at the state level and about 30 languages spoken by over a million people each. In fact, less than half of all Indians speak Hindi. The official language of the state of Maharashtra, for instance, is not Hindi but Marathi. Any company looking at India as a potential market could not afford to neglect assessing the suitability of the brand name in the Marathi language as this is spoken in Mumbai (Bombay), the largest and most prosperous city in India – as well as its business and financial capital.
Is the same language applicable in all countries?

Another complication arises where a particular language has several regional variants spoken in different countries. This is the case for French, Portuguese, Arabic, Spanish – and also English of course – which are all widely spoken in numerous countries around the world. You may think it is safe to market a product under an established American brand name across the English speaking world but the many varieties of English as spoken internationally may lead to some unintended results. The common “fanny pack” for instance is known as a “bum bag” in Great Britain where “fanny” has quite a different meaning than in American English (look it up if you don’t know what it means!).

Do Language and Culture Impact Slogans and Taglines?

Slogans and taglines often use informal language or slang, sometimes coupled with humor or double entendres. Any translation for these needs be done very carefully and sensitively, not only with regards to linguistic meaning, but also taking into account cultural perceptions and associations in the target country. Humor in particular can be very difficult to translate and a bad translation may result at best in confusion to the audience and at worst a major gaffe. One such case took place when the KFC slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good” was translated into Chinese as “Eat Your Fingers Off” in the local lingo.

Do Colors Have Implications?

A single color can have many different meanings in different cultures. In Asia red represents blood, passion, self-sacrifice and strength, while in the US it is a color of warning, safety rescue, hot and spicy. There are traditional meanings associated with colors in various cultures, like those linked to birth, weddings, funerals or even the color of the mailbox.


The bottom line is that companies need to tread carefully when extending their reach internationally, do their homework and seek expert advice on the suitability of their plans before taking the plunge.

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