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In today's global economy, it is not only trade that is international. It's the companies and their employees too. Therefore it's increasingly common to have companies with a variety of languages spoken in the divisions. So perhaps we should expect that translation of internal reports and communications is a regular occurrence?

I have worked at some pretty large international companies and from my own experience most businesses have not adapted to the language needs of the company. In fact most have not localized and translated their mission statement.

What seems to happen is either: 1) the company informally states that there is a single core language of the company and therefore the translation of internal reports and communications is not required. 2) An internal effort is made to 'translate' information on an as requested basis.

Let us consider these in turn:

Single Language Company - Trying to pretend that you have a single language company when you don't, is a 'head in the sand' approach. This can lead to some of the following issues:

1)     Alienation of staff and divisions.

2)     Staff turnover - In addition to (1) the career track of an employee will be linked to their ability to speak the core language rather then whether they are the best person for the job.

3)     Poorly communicated objectives. If the objective is not fully understandable by all involved, then how can you expect a 100% fulfillment of the objective?

4)     Lack of a common business culture.

Internal Translation - Internal translation is certainly better than no translation at all. But this has its own potential issues:

1)     Is the translator capable?

2)     Are all the documents translated? And are they translated in time? If the translation of internal reports and communications is a secondary task, does the translation always get carried out on time? / at all?!

3)     Confidentiality - Jungle drums (informal communications) always beat strongly inside a company. I have seen that some tasks are more confidential when carried out externally.

4)     Is the internal translation carried out at the expense of time spent on another core activity or objective?

When you consider the cost of quality you should consider the costs of not having quality. I believe that the cost of translating internal documentation should be considered similarly. For some organizations the issue of translating internal reports will be less important then for others.

But when such translation is necessary, perhaps the cost is lower then first thought? Routine report translations is a task regular enough to warrant more detailed discussion with the translation agency and should allow pricing agreements that are below what is attainable for ad hoc translation projects.

The author has worked internationally for many years and is now co-owner of the translation and interpreting agency Axis Translations where you can find assistance with a wide range of language matters. Including the translation of internal reports and communications.

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