Business, as usual, went out of the window the moment the coronavirus pandemic took over the world. With half of humanity in lockdown by early April 2024, many businesses have needed to completely reshape the services that they offer in order to stay afloat.
However, as a translation agency Tomedes points out, with every challenge comes the potential for opportunities. They have found that some of their clients are pivoting their businesses in exciting new directions during the COVID-19 outbreak, as the cancellation of normal ways of operating leads to some interesting innovations.
Using translation to cross international borders
For some companies, the coronavirus crisis has spurred them to operate internationally for the first time. For others, it has been a time to reach out to domestic customers who speak different languages. In both instances, translation and localization services have been at the core of making the change possible.
What is a translation service? It’s a service that converts one language to another. Why do we need translation? We need translation in the business world so that companies can connect with customers who speak other languages and thus build up a varied customer base. Translation and localization services also enable businesses to work with suppliers, manufacturers, haulers, and so forth. This means that they can source the best and/or most cost-effective parts, reduce their production costs, and reach new networks with their products.
The role of interpretation services in trading internationally
It’s not just translation services that are useful for those trading internationally or engaging with local consumers who speak other languages. Interpretation services can plan an important role here too.
What are interpretation services? Interpretation services are essentially spoken translations. The interpreter listens to the speaker and then repeats their words but in another language. What is the purpose of an interpreter? In the business context, we’ve discussed, an interpreter can facilitate conversations between the company and its customers and between the business and its supply chain. Ultimately, interpreters can support the business to operate more efficiently and to expand its customer base.
Translation and interpretation in action during the crisis
At the time of writing, there have been more than 3.4 million cases of COVID-19 globally, with more than 200 countries and territories feeling the impact of the disease in both health and economic terms. Countries have responded to the crisis in different ways, just as individual businesses have.
We can look to Taiwan for an example of companies using the crisis to open up new markets. Taiwan’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been one of the most effective in the world, thanks to early intervention and the huge range of measures (over 120 of them) that were introduced to help slow the spread of the disease.
Already an established producer of medical-grade equipment, Taiwan has been able to come to the rescue of countries that have been more adversely affected by COVID-19 than Taiwan itself has. Taiwanese companies are now producing 15 million face masks daily, with translation and interpretation services enabling them to interact with buyers across the globe.
From establishing commercial relationships to producing legally compliant packaging and filling out customs documentation for different countries, translators and interpreters are invaluable in their scope for providing support.
Yet goods don’t have to cross international borders in order for companies to open up new markets during the coronavirus crisis. The US is a good example of this. The country has no official language. While English is the most widely spoken tongue there, 22% of the population do not speak it at home.
Given that the majority of consumers prefer to shop in their own language, local grocery, and pharmacy businesses that offer multilingual ordering and delivery services have a huge opportunity in the US right now. A simple English to Spanish website translation (or Spanish to English translation) could lead to a whole new customer base, meaning that companies have the chance to impress new customers and then seek to retain them once the pandemic has passed.
What to look for when hiring translators and interpreters
If your business is one of those that are using translation and/or interpretation services for the first time during the pandemic, then it’s important to ensure that you don’t rush into using the first company that you come across.
Translation services differ in their response times, their specialisations, and the quality of the work that they provide. No two companies are the same, so be sure to shop around to ensure that your chosen language provider meets your individual needs.
Make sure that you look beyond language when selecting an interpretation or translation company. Legal translation is very different from website translation, which in turn is very different from medical translation. Whatever sector you operate in, seek out a translation company with relevant experience.
Undertake due diligence, as you would with any company that you plan to do business with. What are people saying about the company online? Do they have a good reputation? Can they show you multiple samples of completed projects? And have they been operating for long enough to have proved their expertise?
One final word of caution is to avoid machine translation. When you’re entering new markets, the last thing you want to do is present a poorly worded website with laughable grammar and nonsensical prose. Yes, machine translation can be handy if you’re wondering what the odd word is in another language. No, it’s not good enough for professional purposes. Enough said.
We’re living through unprecedented and extremely challenging times, but there are still plenty of opportunities out there. If you’re thinking outside the box and are keen to tap into new markets during the coronavirus crisis, don’t let a little thing like a lack of language hold you back! With a team of translation and interpretation professionals beside you, you will be well placed to find new revenue streams across the globe, despite the complexities that COVID-19 has brought about.