The importance of a good translation

When I started weLanguages (eLanguages) in Kansas City in 2000, I immediately joined the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and got very involved. I learned years before, how important it was to join a local chamber AND volunteer if you wanted your business to grow. The Hispanic Chamber worked a lot with other KC chambers, and one year one of them decided to reach out to Hispanic owned business from the Hispanic Chamber by organizing a half day event. The chamber President sent out printed personal invitations in Spanish to all of us. When I opened my invitation and read it my first thought was “Oh no, she used Google Translate to translate it into Spanish!”

Sure enough, when several of us called this chamber to let them know about the terribly written invitations, the President found out that her assistant, who had said he spoke Spanish when he was hired, did not actually speak Spanish very well, and thought he was very smart by using Google Translate to translate the invitation. Well, it back fired on him, and it really embarrassed the President of the chamber. I have a feeling there are many people out there with similar stories. When I advise businesses regarding translations, I always say “For your own good, don’t rely on your ‘bilingual’ staff to translate your documents!” Being bilingual does not make you a translator, just like knowing how to write doesn’t make you a writer.

Stay tuned for more funny (or interesting) mistranslation stories in my next blogs. And if you can’t get enough, sign up for our monthly newsletter to see what Charlie Croc (our company Ambassador) has in store in each issue:

Fake Sign Interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s Funeral

Do you remember in 2014 when they televised Mandela’s funeral worldwide? They showed Obama speaking with a sign interpreter standing right next to him “interpreting” what he was saying at the same time. His name was Thamsanqa Jantjie, and he grabbed the headlines and caused an uproar after standing for hours next to Obama and other global leaders making “childish hand gestures” in a bizarre attempt to sign their tributes to Mandela. It was so very funny because he looked so serious and professional, like he really knew what he was doing. Apparently, deaf groups responded immediately saying he made no sense in ANY language. If you want to see the video, click this link:


Stay tuned for more funny mistranslation stories in my next blogs. And if you can’t get enough, sign up for our bi-monthly newsletter to see what Charlie Croc (our company Ambassador) has in store in each issue:



Did you throw all your resolutions out the door already? Are you frustrated because by February you broke most of them? I can guarantee you are not alone… in fact, it’s already been 7 weeks since the year started, and I suspect you may not even care anymore, and who has the time or energy to still care? But don’t lose hope, I’ve learned the hard way through the years, how to do one or two things that help me get better each year without expecting that I will change EVERYTHING that needs to be fixed in one year. 

My only secret is that instead of starting the year all gun-ho and rearing to go, ready to face the new year full of enthusiasm and energy to lose those 10 pounds, not have that second glass of wine, or buy that awesome Michael Kors purse in Steinmart (but it’s 40% off here!) that I don’t need, I start slowly… I start cutting back gently, giving myself time to get used to a little less of what I really want, two weeks at a time… less cookies, less wine, less hot crunchy buttered French bread … then next thing you know, bang… I’ve lost 1-2 pounds (wow!), I’ve gone to the gym one more time per week than I normally do (for a grand total of once a week), and … no, wait… we have that 3 day cruise… the food, so much of it.. the drinks… always available… ☹ is it 2020 yet?

Should You Ask Your Spouse To Translate Your Legal Documents at Work?

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After 25 years in the translation business my biggest challenge has been to educate clients about why they should hire a professional translator (preferably an agency), instead of taking the easy, but eventually costly and embarrassing, way out and using Google Translate, or asking their spouse or relative to translate for them.

So what are your options?

1.       Do Nothing: In today’s global business environment, this is just not an option anymore. At best you will definitely miss out on business opportunities, and at worst, you can be held legally or criminally liable. Example: if you own a factory, and one of your employees loses an arm because he did not know how to properly shut off a dangerous machine when it malfunctioned, and the only instructional manual was not in his native language, you will be liable.

 2.       Google Translate: I know, such a tempting an easy option, and I agree, many times that’s all you need to communicate with a buddy in Germany, or to try to figure out what a word means. Even though “machine translation” has come a long way, and one day it will probably replace human translators, we are not there yet. Example: Google Translate doesn’t know if you are referring to a “bank” where you put your money, or a park “bench” when you type the word “banco” in Spanish to translate it into English. If you are lucky, it will know based on the context of the whole paragraph, but it doesn’t always get it right.

 3.       Bilingual Staff or Relative: Like with any industry, those who are in it tend to be those who understand the importance of expertise better than anyone. Would you ask a person from Russia to teach a course in Russian history at the university just because he is Russian and has lived there all his life? Probably not. The same applies to your translations. Just because someone is bilingual doesn’t mean they know how to translate a written document properly. Sure, you can ask your relatives to interpret (verbally) what someone is saying in a casual conversation, but that is far different from actually transferring a written document from one language into another correctly. Case in point: when I worked at the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Translation/Interpretation Unit in the 90’s, most of our interpreters (verbal) who took the test to be translators (written) failed. They were great at interpreting verbally, but could not get the context right when translating, and/or their grammatical skills were never up to par.

 4.       Freelance Translator: This is a translator that works independently, on his own, not through an agency. Some are excellent, in fact, many actually work for an agency too, but the problem you will run into is the fact that they mostly work alone. They don’t have a strict quality control process that consists of 3 different professionals touching your important documents: translator, editor, and final proofreader. A good agency does, and no matter how good a translator is, he or she can and will make mistakes, mistakes that can only be caught if you have a separate editor review their work.

I always say that I don’t envy an HR manager that has to find a good translation partner to translate his or her employee handbook into Spanish for instance. If he is not bilingual, how will he ever really know if the quality is excellent? He won’t, and he will just pray that he picked the right partner, and that no one will come back to him months, or years later, to complain about a poor translation.

We would love it if you chose us as your translation partner, but whether it’s us or someone else, we encourage you to work with a professional agency when you need anything that is business related translated into another language. You can check their website for testimonials or reviews from happy clients, and even ask them for a reference. A good partner will have one AND share it with you.

Pamela Godoy Fiume

We’re here to help!

Social Media When Globalizing

social media when globalizing

Social media is a useful tool to help your brand get noticed around the world. This makes it an exciting tool for anyone trying to do business in another country. In this post, we list a few tips to help you take full advantage of your social media campaign.

Carmen Urbano, is a known expert on international online strategies. She warned us about the biggest mistakes that are frequently repeated during a global launching process and the use of the 2.0 platforms.


-          Treating a new foreign market the same way you would treat your local one.

-          Using social media as an end without a base strategy. Looking for the “most popular social network” in a general manner without taking into account your brand or consumer patterns.

-          Not having the appropriate digital databases that are well categorized (segmented).

-          Using English as a universal language, or translating your platforms in a “literal” manner (word for word, instead of in context, example: by using Google Translate).

-          Not taking advantage of the international networking that is being developed in some networks. They are not just for selling. You must take advantage of the multiple tools that these virtual networks have available.

“The social media platforms have an immense database that helps you segment your target audience. Social CRM (Customer Relationship Management), social competitive intelligence, social branding, and international networking, among others, are disciplines we must consider in order to define our strategies when investing abroad. Companies and brands need the commitment of online communities, the well-known engagement. And by all accounts, there are no self-respecting SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies without an SMO (Social Media Optimization), or a good complement with the social web.

So, where do you start?

The first thing you must do is answer the following question: Who am I speaking to?

A vital part of getting to know your target audience is to understand their motivations and concerns, which is an excellent guide to help you position your brand in the new market.

Once you have identified the market, you will know what the most appropriate media is to get closer to your meta-audience, and to speak to them in their language with the accurate communication codes that will achieve the long-awaited engagement you’ve been seeking.

Secondly, get to know your competition well: their strengths and weaknesses, and the reasons why people prefer or reject them. In digital terms, evaluate their presence in the different platforms. Analyze their digital strategy, in which platforms are they present, how they do it, what they talk about; analyze their metrics. Evaluating the category, particularly in a new market, can help you understand the behavior, and trace a clear map of what works and what doesn’t.

Lastly, build your digital strategy on the premise that observing your performance is vital, where you are open to letting the results give you a clear guide as to whether you’re on the right track, or not.

Considerations when creating a social media profile:

-          Online competition is not the same as competition in the offline world. Key points: competitive intelligence and market intelligence, behavior patterns, brand positioning and above all, adaptation. One must complement the online and offline to define a communication strategy.

-          Every market is a world of its own. Every country plays by their own rules regarding the networks that are used most, the types of user profiles, and trends. Frequently, with international strategies, companies rely on area-based, corporate and specific networks to globalize, that provide a professional point of view, and an opportunity to gather knowledge and contacts in each target market.

-          It’s not enough to have your website translated into the most spoken languages: you must create specific messages for each audience. Pay attention to the large brands: they have a different profile for each country their brand reaches.

You have the keys: now being able to implement them will be easier with allies. That’s where we come in. We help you adapt your strategies in different languages for your target audience with the appropriate messages. Don’t waste the multiple tools that the 2.0 world has to offer. Don’t limit your brand’s reach. To adapt is to succeed. Here’s the link to your first ally in this process:



Be careful when handling international business deals!

Alfredo Zuloaga is a lawyer who specializes in international business law and business arbitration matters. He is a member of the Spanish Arbitration Club (CEA for its acronym in Spanish), and is an arbitrator at the Arbitration Center of the Chamber of Commerce in Caracas, Venezuela. He spoke to us about this subject in a special interview for weLanguages.

When one is doing business and signing an agreement or a contract with a company abroad, it is very important to determine the jurisdiction (or country) where the contract will be enforced, so that in case of any disputes, the contract has an arbitration clause that indicates that the dispute would be resolved in an independent jurisdiction, which is different from the jurisdiction of the respective civil courts.

An international business arbitration is the mechanism most commonly used to resolve private disputes regarding business matters due to its broad scope, its flexibility, and promptness in resolving disputes. It is a matter of particular interest for business people: it creates more confidence in the markets, and it provides greater certainty in the legal frameworks and judicial systems regarding the standards that regulate international business arbitration.

Several countries in the Americas have moved forward consolidating attractive investment environments and international commerce by revising their arbitration laws.

-          Is arbitration optional?

AZ: Yes, it is. International business arbitration as an alternative to an ordinary judicial process is voluntarily chosen by the parties (companies with a contractual agreement), and must therefore be expressly established in the respective contract (arbitration clause) or be subsequently agreed upon when a business  dispute arises.

For those cases where the contract does not contain an arbitration clause, if a conflict or controversy arises, it is still possible to resolve it. In this case, both parties must come to an agreement and establish an arbitration agreement “a posteriori.” It can also be done without before any disputes arise: when the parties want to “ex-post” the original contract.

There are several entities that carry out arbitration processes, including: the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, the Inter-American Commercial Arbitration Commission, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) , International Investment Dispute Settlement Institution (ICSID), and the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA). However, Zuloaga explains that “the parties that uphold an international business contract can decide to be ruled by an institutional international arbitration even though the countries where they come from are not signatories.”

-          The arbitration process begins once the negotiationphase between the parties has failed.

-          The arbitration process carried out by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has several phases.

-          The arbitrators are chosen by the parties at the time of a controversy and the Court President is chosen by mutual agreement between them.

-          After paying for the cost: the Court arbitrator receives the file and the arbitration proceedings process begins by a “Missions Act;” a document where the task is defined and which must be signed by the parties and submitted to the arbitration Court within a two-month period. Likewise, it defines for the Court, the interim calendar it intends to follow.

-          How are the costs established?

AZ: “It will depend on the institutional structure and the fees of the chosen arbitrators. Generally, these costs and fees will have a percentage relationship with the amount or estimate of the arbitration lawsuit and are included in the Guidelines of the different arbitration institutions in order to have an approximate cost for a specific arbitration process. The cost will be shared equally among the parties in conflict.”

Since an international business arbitration deals with controversies among parties domiciled, or with residence in different countries, the language chosen and the translation of legal documents that will be presented during the arbitration process, are very important for the parties. Therefore, choosing translation professionals or companies with specific knowledge of legal matters and arbitration processes is a very important step for the work of attorneys and firms dedicated to this specialty, as well as for transnational companies. At weLanguages we have vast experience with legal translations: therefore,  we consider ourselves your ally in these processes.