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Hiring a Foreign Writer Involves More Than a Translation Assignment

September 16th, 2013 by

Hiring a Foreign Writer Involves More Than a Translation AssignmentWhen small and medium businesses start to consider the idea of going global, especially via the Internet, the issue of languages tends to be seen as just being able to get a good translator. Some languages, such as Spanish for example, can be easy to resolve as a number of Americans are very fluent in the language. However, other languages can be harder, requiring outsourcing and hiring of professional foreign language writers. That said, a translation isn’t necessarily enough; localization often makes the difference in a good breakthrough to a foreign market versus a translation mistake people make fun of.

Getting the Right Translation

Good translation involves writing to a key group of readers, or the use of localization. The practice of localization involves more than just translating a document or writing to another language. It matches the translation to the area of the country or type of readers that will most likely read the document. The differences can be huge, especially in countries with multiple dialects and nuances among the same general population. Using localization practices, a translation ends up matching local customs and behavior in phrasing and writing. This avoids distractions and allows communications to hit their targets better.


When using multiple writers on a bigger project, coordination is also key to making sure translation work is done in a cohesive, efficient manner. Related work is often written in a disjointed manner with multiple writers working on their own. Instead, a multi-point project should use the same files, the same style, the same glossary, and the same voice as much as possible. This cuts down on various pieces literally reading as if written by different writers, and it also reduces extra words, which tends to drive up costs. With a coordinated team approach, costs of translation can be reduced in some cases up to 20 to 40 percent.

Legal Issues

Small businesses also need to be aware of potential legal issues when hiring out-of-country writers. Many countries don’t recognize non-disclosure and anti-competition contracts and won’t enforce them if a writer breaks a contract term. Additionally, companies that want people to work by the hour may find themselves being told “no” as some countries legalize minimum requirements for vacation or family leave. Those assuming by hiring a contractor they control a foreign writer’s time could be in for a big mistake.

Further, in large, ongoing projects, a company with a large number of staff working overseas in a particular area could be subject to union encroachment into the project. Just because everyone is hired on a contract versus employee basis won’t stop a labor issue from rising up. Many countries look at how many are hired, for how long, and often determine a union has a right to represent their issues and wage requirements. A small business not paying attention to these issues could quickly find itself with a stuck project and labor impasse very quickly.

In Summary

In many cases, a translation job will usually be a one-time project by one writer. In those cases, buyers should still make sure they are hitting the target with local reader needs versus just a generic translation. Choosing a writer that can do both is key. However, on bigger projects, other issues can raise their head if not planned for. Companies hiring writers need to be cognizant that global business doesn’t mean the same U.S. rules of business apply elsewhere.

Tom L is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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