Mi Casa Es Su Casa: Why Translating Your Business Is Important

Translating is something that is near and dear to my heart. I started learning Spanish when I was in the first grade. Then, when I was in the third grade, my family moved to Mexico for a year. After that, I lived in Mexico again in the 8th grade, before studying in Spain during college. Since then, I’ve used my bilingual skills for every job I’ve had. Needless to say, translating has come in handy on a frequent basis for me.

Now, you may think that translating is something that seems to come naturally to some people. Someone who is bilingual may appear to switch effortlessly between two languages. However, things are not always as they seem. Studies show that people prefer to operate in their native language when negotiating. So, someone fluent in other languages may use his/her original language for business.

Translating and Your Company

So, what does this mean for your company? Well, if you are already translating your documents into another language, then kudos. Even so, there still may be things you can do to better reach your audience. However, perhaps you have not considered translating any aspect of your business. At this point, you might want to think about your marketing and sales departments. Are they reaching your entire market? Are they fully capturing the audience? Or, are there holes in sales and marketing due to a language barrier?


Therefore, if your business is missing opportunities, consider how translating can help you. Here you will discover how translating can benefit some areas of your business. Also, you will learn why you need to be sure to use the proper translation service for the job.

Say What?

Now, a common misconception about the U.S. is that English is the official language. While English is the de facto language for matters of law, that is not a unanimous claim by all states. In actuality, English is the official language for only 32 out of the 50 U.S. states. Furthermore, if you look at history, the first waves of settlers didn’t even speak English. In fact, it wasn’t until the 17th century that English speakers arrived in the Americas. Nevertheless, you will find countless people who proudly support English only.

Photo of two Spanish books sitting on a table, available to use for translating.
Image by Christine Yanner

So, what is the problem with having an official language? For starters, some believe that enacting an official language will lead to linguicide. With an estimated 6,500 languages spoken worldwide, that might not seem like a big problem. However, approximately 2,000 of those languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers. The most commonly-spoken language in the world is Mandarin Chinese. Not coincidentally, Mandarin is the official language of China. Consequently, research shows that non-Mandarin Chinese languages are on the decline.

Although implementing a national language does improve communication, there is a downside. In fact, language and culture go hand in hand, so killing a language can lead to the death of a culture.

Language Is Your Business

While you may be apathetic to linguicide, I bet you are not indifferent about making money. Thus, language is your business. So, if your business isn’t clear to your audience, then you need to consider translating.

Now, I imagine you are wondering what translating is, and how it differs from interpreting. Perhaps you have heard someone mention both words at the same time. Well, for starters, you should know that they are similar in that they are both linguistic skills. However, the difference lies in the conduct. Namely, a translator can write accurately in the target language. On the other hand, an interpreter can skillfully translate in both directions.

So, let’s say your goal is to write marketing materials or documents in another language. Therefore, translating your business requires a translator, not an interpreter. Yet, where should you begin? Which aspects of your business require translating?

Translating from Top to Bottom

Given my passion for language, I’m tempted to tell you to translate everything, but I won’t. The truth of the matter is that it is not necessary to translate everything right away. Not only would it be an expensive endeavor, but it could end up being a waste of time. So, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Let’s go ahead and highlight some ways to begin translating your business.

Three Steps to Translating

First, do your research. You’ve researched everything else about your business, so also research translating. Always start with your successful competitors. Don’t reinvent the wheel. If your competition is successful, look at the way they are translating. This can be something as simple as perusing their website and marketing materials. Or, digging deeper, you could access their onboarding documents to compare to your own.

Second, sort and filter. The best way to determine which items require translating is to prioritize them. So, if you were to sort those aspects of your business, which are most important? Perhaps you only need to translate the marketing materials. In that case, have a link on your website so that prospects and clients can read in their native language. Or, maybe you have complicated contracts. If so, it would be a good idea to keep a translated version on hand.

Photo of people sitting around a table with coffee mugs in their hands, and language books sitting in the middle of the table.
Photo by Christine Yanner


Third, survey your audience. In other words, ask your clientele what would help them. Remember that people are naturally more comfortable conducting business in their native language. So, do everything you can to make them want to do business with you.

Duck, Duck, Goose

After you identify the aspects of your business to translate, there is yet another step. You’ll want to decide on the languages to translate into. This is the target language. Whenever I have had to translate a document, the target language is Spanish. While Spanish is the second most popular language in the world, it might not be your target language. Your product or service will determine your audience, which determines your target language. If you have a multilingual clientele base, then this can feel like a game of Duck, Duck, Goose. If this is the case, start with the largest group, and work on translating to that target language first.

Image of a dialogue bubble with a variety of different languages typed in different sizes and fonts.

Be Picky

Finally, make sure that you are careful to use a qualified translator for translating. In other words, all translators are not created equal. Know the difference between a certified translator and a person who is bilingual. For example, I am qualified to translate sales materials in Spanish. I am not, however, qualified to translate law, medical, or other technical documents. Doing so could result in catastrophic consequences, and huge liabilities. Before hiring a translator, interview translation companies. This will help you find the best fit for your needs.

¡Bienvenidos a mi casa!

At the end of the day, you want to make sure your customers feel at home with you. The goal is to make them never want to leave, and this should be part of your brand. You know the old sales adage, get as many hooks in them as possible. But in order to keep them, you must first get them. A sure fire way to get them is to meet them where they are at, and speak to them in their native language. Show each client that “mi casa es su casa.” If you speak your client’s language, you will only strengthen the bond that you have worked hard to create.

Image of hands holding what appears to be a phone with a translating app.
Image by Mohamed Hussein

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This is not meant to provide legal counsel or advice. Every situation is different. Please contact an HR professional or employment attorney before taking any action.

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