Globalization is a 21st century fact of life. No matter where you are at the moment, you are likely to be eating, drinking, wearing or using a product originally made of raw materials from perhaps two different continents, assembled in another country on a third continent, then shipped off to be sold in your country in a fourth continent.
Even the companies that create these goods or services reflect their nature. For instance, a food and beverage conglomerate made up of Swiss, German and American counterparts could choose its headquarters in Singapore, because it’s early on decided to target the Asia-Pacific region, and set up food manufacturing operations in India, Vietnam, the Philippines and Australia.
This dizzying scale of operations means it’s not all done in English. The days of outright importation and sale of finished products are gone; today’s consumers demand that products and services be fitted to suit their particular language, culture, and needs, before they’re even considered worthy of their attention. Businesses are asked to “think globally, act locally”, and so they have gone multilingual and multi-cultural.
This means the translation services industry has gone global as well, taking their range of services to a more integrated, more sophisticated level.
Take for example, the multinational company Philips. Visit its website (www.philips.com) and immediately you’ll see just how integrated language translation is to its day-to-day operations. The company presents itself and its products in all the languages of its customer base (about 10), down to the last detail in their translated annual report, or the latest press release on a new product’s description, all at the click of a button. The translation work extends onto product packaging and localized marketing as well. Observe any Philips ad in your country, or buy one of their gadgets; you will see the products have been packaged and distributed according to that particular foreign market’s behavior and expectations, using their own language. Try to imagine then, in detail, the kind of work it took to achieve all of this, and the level of sophistication expected of the translation agencies that made it all possible. It’s a profound form of translation.
Today’s translation service agencies are expected to not only be academicians and linguistic experts, but sociology, business management, and product marketing experts as well. Beyond translating books and literary works, or providing on-scene language interpreters, agencies must now also provide their clients with language experts who have secondary experiences or training in other business-related fields. They should work comfortably with clients to create finely-tuned campaigns for specific target markets, or to help negotiate their way through the laws of a specific country.
In fact, translation agencies today should behave less like mere outsourced services for hire, and more like extensions of a company’s existing team. Wherever a company might expand, a translation agency’s representatives will go with them.