Many entrepreneurs today work for at least part of their work with international partners, suppliers or customers. This is mainly in English; so it is not surprising that most Dutch entrepreneurs think that their English is fine.
However, when contracts, terms and conditions or even something as simple as a news article is to be published on a website in English, the annoying monkey often turns up quickly. Flawless, business English turns out to be something other than a foreign customer by telephone. Because how do you actually translate that from Dutch to English, 'other cake'?
Translation is a profession in itself
Why is it difficult to translate from Dutch to English for people who, for example, can have extensive conversations in English on holiday? First of all, it is difficult for many language users to write down an error-free, strong text in their own language at all. That's why there are copywriters and text agencies. Entrepreneurs are good at their profession, and that is often not the communication profession. Rob Geus, for example, is an excellent TV presenter and chef, but his English is not very professional.
Being able to speak a foreign language nicely is also fundamentally different from being able to write flawlessly. In an oral conversation, for example, it doesn't really matter if you use wrong cases in German - they do that themselves - but in a business text, things like that have to be right. In addition, every language has its own do's and don'ts. 'I wanted' is fine in Dutch, for example say, but not to write. Then you have to use 'I wanted'. In English, you may not similarly close your sentences with a preposition, which you often do in colloquial language ('The one I'm with' then becomes 'The one with whom I am').
Translating business content from Dutch to English is really a profession in itself.
Three tips for self-translation
Are you going to start translating yourself? Then keep these tips in mind:
- Tip 1: Provide error-free source material. Is your source text professionally made? Then you can continue. If not, have it checked by a professional first. You cannot work with insufficient input.
Tip 2: Use translation machines only for single words, but not for whole sentences. Throw any foreign text into a Dutch translation machine and see what low quality you are left with.
Tip 3: Have several people proofread. At least two, preferably more. Translation agencies do that too. Most proofreaders always overlook mistakes.
A useful link is Spelling.nu with which you can check American English, German, French and Spanish for typical errors free of charge.
Three typical pitfalls
Also note these three vicious pitfalls:
- Pitfall 1: The friend from abroad. The one Brit you know probably speaks great English, but you have no idea if he can write well and how his language skills are. Trusting a foreign friend is dangerous when it comes to your contracts or a legal document, for example.
- Pitfall 2: Proverbs, sayings and metaphors. Our language is full of it (and that is also one). Imagery and sayings are difficult to translate and often as a foreigner you don't really know the meaning, which makes them difficult to use.
- Pitfall 3: Unknown words. Anyone can look up something in a dictionary, but not every translation means exactly the same as in Dutch. Using foreign words you don't know is dangerous.
Conclusion: handle it well
All in all, good translation takes a lot of time and preparation, and even then mistakes often lurk. Do you want to have business content translated in a responsible, professional manner and be sure that everything is legally correct, for example? Then one translation agency a warm recommendation.