Corporate communications materials are some of the most difficult and most business-critical documents out there when it comes to translation. The company culture, the target audience, the spin that the company wants to put on its news, the most-used grammatical structures of the source and target languages; all of these enter into the picture when you’re translating corporate materials.
Chris Durban’s ATA Chronicle column “The Onionskin” (my favorite part of the Chronicle!) recently highlighted this issue with a photo of the Crédit Agricole group’s annual report, bearing the headline “The Crédit Agricole group under scrutiny.” As Chris points out in the article, the original French term “regards” would more correctly be translated as “close-up” or “focus.” She goes on to emphasize that this tag line was created by a native English speaker, and that the issue lies more in lack of context than in mis-translation. Chris sums it up by saying ” ‘Crédit Agricole Under Scrutiny’ might be fine for an investigative reporter’s filing with a wire service (“…as the tax brigade waited in the wings…”), but it is inappropriate for a factual presentation of key corporate data to shareholders that one presumably wants to keep on board.”
Reader Dierk Seeburg sent Thoughts on Translation the link to an article in The Source for Communicators that highlights these same issues and offers advice to buyers of corporate communications translations. Its key points: avoid machine translation, make sure the translation conveys an understanding of your business, adapt your style to the culture and don’t take shortcuts, and always have local people review the translation.