Several international studies confirm that, in spite of living in a globalized world, buyers still opt for proximity for products or services that are being offered in their language.
This statement is based on the premise that we feel more at ease if we understand what we buy and if we do not clearly understand a product or service, we are reluctant to request it. To address your prospective clients in their language will convey the trust and proximity they need to utilize and purchase your products or services instead of those of your competitors. As an example, a U.S. equipment manufacturer was doing business with a company in China. A new sales rep came on board and suggested to management that they translate the manuals into Chinese. The owner said there was no need and their client had never asked for it in all the years they were dealing with them. Several months later, a competitor from The Netherlands stole the business right out from under them and for more money. How? They approached the Chinese company in their native language and offered all the manuals and support materials to be provided in Chinese. Sad to say that with the loss of that one large client the company went out of business.
Reversely, another company saw growth from $3M to over $40M in ten years with market and global diversification, which included the translation of the necessary materials to support the strategy.
There is a growing concern regarding the increased amount of non-native speakers in higher injury risk jobs working for American companies either in the U.S. or abroad. The number of workers for whom English is a second language is expected to continue to increase in the future. Therefore, taking a proactive initiative is critical to ensuring worker safety. It is imperative to remember inclusivity in safety training versus exclusivity. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for all employees. Bridging the language gap in workplaces small and large with the ultimate goal of aggressively eliminating injuries, illnesses and fatalities for all workers, is essential for success.
English-speaking workers have the benefits of learning from each other. Traditional safety training is not effective for non-native English speakers or those who speak a little English, especially when it is delivered by a trainer who expects the worker will receive it properly enough to understand and use it. Furthermore, safety memos, tool box talks and posters are not as productive when only presented in English. Efficient communication with non-Englishspeaking employees results in fewer workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities, as well as increased morale, productivity and profit. Injuries impact insurance and unemployment rates as well as leave open the door for law suites.
OSHA has alliances and public-sector outreach initiatives for Latino and Hispanic workers as well as other non-English speaking groups. Many OSHA publications and safety training materials are available in multiple languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Creole, Korean, Russian and Vietnamese.
The legal ramifications of not having a translation of even the simplest of documents can have such an impact that a business could fail. The legal realm of translation is a really broad area and can cover any of the following both internally (employees, distributors, or vendors) or externally (customers or competition):
- Product liability issues from misuse of the product and injury
- Loss of proprietary information and trade secrets that result in loss of sales and court costs to rectify
- Law suits from an employee who is let go, to a class action suit filed on the behalf of many injured parties
- Breach of contract and use of logos
Patent infringement cases; such as infringement on a current patent held in another country Exporting or importing compliance and regulation followed incorrectly may mean a delay in being able to sell, as well as additional legal fees or IRB costs.
Certain industries like chemical, medical and pharmaceutical, and other countries as well, require the translation of specific material to be compliant. Product labels, instructions for use, or equipment warning decals may need to be provided in the target language. So know what you need to have in order to do business in a particular country.
Where there may not be necessary rules that mandate translation, there are the safety issues of products or equipment exported and the risk of injury and results that should be considered. Manufacturing equipment, safety equipment, electronics and consumer related items such as food, beauty items, and toys. Any that would present a hazard or danger if improperly used, should be properly communicated.