Strengthening Small Businesses Through Translation From the Recession

    In just a few months, the coronavirus pandemic is making its presence felt throughout the world. With over hundreds of thousands of cases as of early 2020, the coronavirus pandemic is already taking a toll on the global economy as much as it is changing people’s lives overnight. What can businesses do to help them keep in touch with global clientele and global markets to weather out this storm? 

    Going online is the only route possible in doing business but will it be enough to stay connected? Since the current situation warrants enough reasons to look for opportunities, then translation is one of the many options on the table. Through translation, any small business will understand what it means to connect to the community and world at large in trying times and when the dust finally settles. 

    How Is the Coronavirus Pandemic Impacting Businesses?

    The world is currently in a recession as the coronavirus pandemic is forcing governments to enforce quarantine and even lockdown measures. Suffice to say that such measures are taking a heavy toll on global economies as travel comes to a halt and supply chains are heavily disrupted. But considering the necessity of mandating people to stay indoors in hopes of flattening the infection rate and fatalities, it’s a bitter pill for everyone to swallow. But these global economic losses at this scale and pace haven’t been observed since the times of the 2008 Financial Crisis and the Great Recession that followed soon after wherein $2 trillion was wiped off. 

    Some experts are even predicting that the current recession will result in more losses than the economic crises. There’s some truth to this as people’s freedom of movement wasn’t restricted then. The global supply chain wasn’t as disrupted before as it is now as manufacturers are forced to scale down to even halt the production of non-essential goods to protect their staff from infection. Many businesses are expressing doubts about whether or not they can reopen once everything goes back to normal. 

    WA report published on the 14th of April this year by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) noted that “ For this year, growth in advanced economies is projected at -6.1 percent. Emerging market and developing economies with normal growth levels well above advanced economies are also projected to have negative growth rates of -1.0 percent in 2020, and -2.2 percent if you exclude China. Income per capita is projected to shrink for over 170 countries. Both advanced economies and emerging markets and developing economies are expected to partially recover in 2021.

    How Can Translation Help Businesses During Troubled Times?

    What is translation, in its most fundamental sense? It’s about establishing and maintaining connections. Translation is just an avenue to connect with others across borders and language barriers. It’s as important today in further connecting our globalized world as it was in the past when our ancestors relied on it to share ideas between tribes and civilizations. 

    Whether in times of prosperity or crisis, the need to communicate across borders and between different peoples will always exist. As the COVID-19 pandemic is now forcing all kinds of travel, domestic and abroad, to an absolute minimum, along with the temporary closure of non-essential businesses of all sizes worldwide, the world is experiencing all forms of isolation from the global to the individual level. But in times of isolation, it not only helps but it pays to stay connected. Switching to an online business is one way of staying connected but is it enough?

    Small businesses that rely on local clientele are hanging by a thread as both foot traffic and demand from all directions dry up. Those who are providing essential goods such as food, medicines, and hardware among others are not having such a rough time due to the necessity of their operations. But businesses, specifically online businesses, whose inventory consists of non-essential products of all kinds from consumer electronics, sports equipment, to casual and luxury apparel, what can they count on? The global market and regional multilingual audiences. 

    Many businesses from global industries to small to medium businesses are already familiar with the necessity of translation in regards to expanding their transactions and operations in foreign markets. The projections for the translation industry as noted by the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics are well above the national average in terms of projected growth. 

    The report noted that “Employment of interpreters and translators is projected to grow 19 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Globalization and large increases in the number of non-English-speaking people in the United States will drive employment growth. Job prospects should be best for those who have professional certification.” 

    Not only are foreign markets the targets of many businesses but also multilingual audiences within their domestic markets. Relying on English as your sole business language means potentially disconnecting your business from other multilingual residents who are more comfortable with other foreign languages. But the situation now has changed. While translation was utilized before under the scope of growth during times of economic prosperity, it is now a necessity to access more potential opportunities in times of crisis and keeping businesses afloat for as long as the crisis ends and the global economy recovers. 

    Which Business Materials Need to Be Translated and Which Language to Choose?

    Now, the value of translation, especially considering these trying times, is more apparent than ever. So how can an online business integrate translation into their operations? After taking into account the cash crunch businesses are facing, it’s best to dedicate your translation budget to these two areas; 


    Your website is and has always been evidence of your online business’ existence to global audiences. But now, your website is one of, if not the only, lifeline connecting you to global audiences and the global economy. With that in mind, it’s only natural that your website must be one, if not the first, in line that has to be translated. 

    Website translation means translating all vital web content from your product/service descriptions, company details, and any other relevant info that has to be translated accordingly and deployed in a multilingual version of your website. While blogs are also web content, the priority now would be focused on critical web pages as many would not be eager to overspend beyond what is required as of the moment.

    Social Media Pages

    Your business’s only other possible lifeline is your social media business pages. If you’re looking to diversify your audiences, then consider translating them. You can do this by creating separate multilingual pages apart from your master English version. That way, multilingual social media users can include your translated page when they’re looking to further optimize their social media feed. 

    Language Choice

    As to which language you choose, it entirely depends on which audience you want to prioritize. If your main focus first is maximizing your community reach, finding the language you ought to use is as easy looking out your window. See what other languages other than your English is being spoken. For example, in the US, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language before English so providing English to Spanish translations is a practical choice. 

    Should You Compromise on Translation Quality

    If you’re looking for translation quality, then the only reliable way to guarantee translation quality is via a professional translator. You can easily hire one from a freelance network site or a translation company. But in light of the current situation, it’s perfectly understandable as to why anyone, during and even before the crisis, would opt to use Google Translate and not pay for a translation service. Every cent counts now and it can mean so much for businesses who are in a cash crunch.  

    While pre-pandemic times were forgiving enough to provide us black-and-white situations of when to use free online translators, which is almost usually never, priorities have changed now. Can businesses figuratively and literally afford to invest during this crisis? If it contributes to their prolonged survival, then perhaps anything is on the table now. 

    Quality translations speak greatly about a business’s brand. Since many of you will be attempting this for the first time, then it’s fair to say that first impressions do matter, and native speakers think so as well. But does that mean you shouldn’t use Google Translate at all at whatever circumstances? Perhaps leeway can be given here. But it pays to know the limits of machine translation (MT), by which Google Translate and every other free online translator is. 

    MT like Google Translate can render pretty passable simple translations for high-resource languages such as Spanish, French, German, etc. What I mean by simple translations are common phrases, single words, etc. But if your message is filled with nuanced context, then-current MT technology does not have an algorithm or any other capability that can decode contextual nuances. 

    But if you want your message, whatever form it be, to be understood loud and true by your intended multilingual audience, then quality and accurate translations are what you are looking for. Of course, current circumstances dictate a change in priorities so in the end, it’s your call. If you’re translating English to Spanish for instance, then you can probably rely on Google Translate to an extent as it’s one of the most supported languages out there compared to Gaelic and Basque. Nevertheless, translation is perhaps your only avenue of letting your message reach far in wide beyond geographic and language barriers. 

    How can Translation Help Us Win The Fight Against the Coronavirus Pandemic? 

    As much as translation can help businesses weather the economic storm, translation is also inherently part of the ultimate battle against the coronavirus pandemic. As mentioned many times again, accurate communication is essential during crises, especially medical crises. 

    One of the essential ways to stop a possible transmission is for people to divulge all necessary information to health professionals and whether or not they can be considered PUIs (Persons Under Inspection) or PUMs (Persons Under Monitoring). But what happens when they don’t speak the language? Translation, but more accurately, interpretation is the answer here. However, general translation and interpretation will not suffice. 

    Medical jargon has its own set of language conventions and esoteric medical terms. With that in mind, only a medical translator and medical interpreter is up for the job. Medical interpreters are among the frontline professionals as tourists are among the most common carriers. Their profession, compared to other forms of translation and interpretation, is highly regulated. Poor mistranslations can potentially lead to life-threatening consequences. Since health professionals need accurate information to form diagnoses and prescribe treatments, then inaccurate information as a result of poor mistranslations is something that cannot be afforded. 

    This notion can’t be more relevant now in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as almost every country is reporting infections.  Fighting a pandemic requires multilateral coordination between countries. Researchers rely on medical translators for their research to be disseminated to their foreign colleagues and research institutions. Medical device industries also rely on medical translators to translate user manuals of medical devices as countries’ stocks of medical devices from surgical masks, N95 respirators, medical suits, to ventilators are rapidly dwindling. 

    It’s fair to say that the imperative now in medical translation and interpretation is both speed and quality. This is both tall order that medical translators and interpreters have never faced before. Speed and quality are like oil and water; they never mix but now, the circumstances demand a change in conventional thinking and approach as lives are on the line. 

    All in all, what we can see is what’s working and imperative in the frontlines can also be translated (pun-intended) to the business environment. While most businesses don’t need to adhere to the stringent standards of medical translation, there are enough reasons to always go for quality and accurate translations. 

    Translation After The Storm: Final Takeaway

    During times of mandatory isolation, it helps to stay connected not only for you but also for the community and the world at large. Now is the perfect time to connect with your clients wherever they are and know that you are with them during these trying times. In these situations, it’s best not to conduct in a salesly manner. Rather, it’s all about cordial public relations and letting the people know that you are showing compassion and understanding, during these trying times. 

    But once the dust settles and the storm clears away, businesses will be better equipped to take on new market opportunities, be it domestic or foreign, through translation. Not only that, they will have the means to further deepen their relationship with multilingual communities. Through the hardships they faced, they will begin to understand the importance of communication and are now able to translate (pun-intended again) their experiences and apply it to a different world ripe of fresh challenges and opportunities. 


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