15 March 2016

Is Your Message Getting Lost in Translation?

Hola. Bonjour. Hallo. Здравствуйте.

Most of us probably recognize one or two of these translated versions of “Hello.” Russian may have stumped a few; but with a wave of the hand, we would have figured it out.

Now apply this same thought to benefit-speak. Would it hold up as well? Would employees be able to “figure it out,” or would they be “lost in translation?” Many terms aren’t even in a standard dictionary. And what gesture could make “pay for performance” understandable?

Some terms just don’t translate

Translating is great…unless “PPO” means “dog” in Spanish. Take the extra step to ensure your translations are accurate. Find someone within your organization who understands the native language and culture to review the piece you’ve had translated. Not everything translated stays in the same context. Some pieces may have to be rewritten even after translated to ensure the message is truly accurate and understandable.

Consider your communication vehicles

We all read messages through different avenues — some people prefer electronic messages (email or posted online); others prefer a printed piece they can take home. Get a pulse of what your employees prefer. You don’t have to use every single communication vehicle available to you, but consider what’s out there and repurpose your messages to reach the majority of your audiences.

Happy writing!