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5 top tips for accurate multilingual food labelling

Back in February 2013 the UK was in the middle of the horse meat crisis, I wrote an article about the correct labelling of food, entitled “100% horse meat translated into 26 languages

In the article I discussed some of the limiting factors on accuracy of food label translation, a fundamental one being the accuracy of the original text. Using meat declarations as an example, the scandal was that products containing horse meat were being sold labelled as 100% beef, translate such a misdescription into 26 languages, and you will be equally none-compliant in each of the 26 target languages!

Here are our 5 top tips for accurate multilingual food labelling:

  • Before thinking about translation, ensure the legal accuracy of the source text. If the product is misdescribed in English it will also be misdescribed when translated.
  • Do all the necessary due diligence to ensure your packaging is legally complaint for the target market(s), including commissioning a compliance report if needed.
  • Ensure you have the full legally required text, normally food labels struggle for space on pack, so when going multi-lingual the temptation is to cut the text to the absolute minimum, but if you miss anything out which is legally required the packaging won’t be compliant, and also if you need additional translation after finishing the project you will be paying extra.
  • Think carefully about the number of required languages – as a consumer I like clear packaging, prominence of my own language, and readability; all of these will be compromised if you try to include too many languages.
  • Only use professional translation by translators experienced in food label translation, for EU languages this should include a check against EU approved terminology, and all food labelling translations should include independent QA.

More information can be found on our food label translation page.

Senior Translation Project Manager vacancy

Do you have a degree level qualification in translation, and experience in a Project management role for a translation company?

betterlanguages.com is looking for a Senior Translation Project Manager to join our team based in our modern head offices in Nottingham. Reporting directly to the company directors, you will be responsible for co-ordinating complex multi-lingual translation projects, leading a team of Project Managers, freelance translators and other suppliers.

The work requires effective communication with both suppliers and clients, and efficient account management of a our regular customers. Our intention is to grow the business. You need to be a dynamic self starter, with the ability to work effectively with large corporate clients, to lead a team of translators and other suppliers. Essential are excellent communication skills in English and another major language, a good understanding of the role of the translator, and the ability to co-ordinate complex projects, and plan work in accordance with our strict quality requirements. An eye for detail, the ability to form an essential part of an effective and close knit management team, and to be able to work under pressure are also important. More details of the vacancy can be found on our Translation Manager job page, including both person specification and job description. If you would like to apply, please submit your CV , stating current job role and salary, relevant experience and qualifications, together with a covering letter stating how you think you meet our requirements, submit this by email to enquiries(at)betterlanguages.com replacing the “at” with “@”.

Please note that you must hold a translation relevant qualification, be working in a translation project a management role within the translation industry, and be eligible to work in the United Kingdom. Candidates who do not meet these requirements will not be shortlisted.

EU referendum, better off out or in? Thoughts of a local Nottingham business.

As the EU Referendum approaches this week, Mike Hunter, betterlanguages.com CEO presents the case as to why it is good for business to remain in the EU.

“I have been very clear throughout the campaign, that I think it is good for business if we stay in” says Mike, “I firmly believe that a vote to leave the EU would be disastrous for British business.”

Background, how better languages works:

  1. First let’s explode a myth: we don’t do any business with the Department of Justice, or other Government institutions, so get very little direct business as a result of EU migration.
  2. So who are our customers? The company translates into over 60 languages, and clients are predominantly retailers and food manufacturers. Clients can be multinationals, such as Mothercare, who are currently in over 60 countries. We have been sole translation suppliers to them since 2006, translating own brand packaging, and marketing materials into 15 languages, and 17 languages for ELC, who they own. Other major clients include Paul Smith, Debenhams, Next, Barbour, Mulberry, Burberry, Kettle Foods and Thorntons.
  3. How do we work? Most of our projects are multi-lingual with English as the source language, we project manage the work in-house, and work with freelance translators in many parts of the world.
  4. Which languages do we translate, is it mainly EU or European languages? The simple answer here  is “no”. We translate into lots of Middle Eastern and Far Eastern languages, as well as Canadian French, and Latin American Spanish for the US market. We do have clients for whom we translate into mainly EU languages, but this would be unlikely to change in the event of a Brexit.

So how would betterlanguages be adversely affected in the event of a Brexit?

  1. Impact on Exporters: As our client base is predominantly exporters, and we also directly export ourselves, anything bad for export is bad for betterlanguages. Many leading retailers have been very clear that they support Remain, and believe that being in the EU is key to our future economic prosperity. Mike Hunter comments: “I was at a training course last week, and every business present was in favour of remaining in the EU. What did they have in common, bearing in mind they were a variety of businesses from different sectors? They were all exporters.”
  2. Exchange rates: most economists and business leaders agree that a Brexit will impact negatively on the value of the pound. Even leading Leave campaigners largely agree with this. Nigel Farage was arguing on TV last week that a low pound is good for export, as it makes our exports more affordable. He clearly has never studied economics – or if he did he was asleep during the relevant lectures…. Although in theory this is good – Britain is a net importer of products and raw materials. A low pound raises input costs. This would directly impact on us, as we work with translators in many parts of the world, and pay in USD or Euros, a low pound is really bad for our business, and for many others, as well as putting inflationary pressure on our economy.
  3. Erasmus placement scheme: we have an excellent Erasmus funded placement scheme for Translation Masters students from European Universities. They spend 3-6 months with us, in our Nottingham offices, improving their English skills, and learning more about the translation industry. Whilst here, they bring money into the city, and they leave with a very positive view of the UK. The scheme has been very successful, with students going on to develop successful careers within the industry. 3 are currently working in different companies as translation project managers, and one of our French interns has become one of our lead translators. OK, overseas students coming to the UK, so what about UK students, I hear the sceptics ask? Well if your native language is English, you need a placement in a country that speaks the other language of your language pair, so English masters students currently have great opportunities to work in any of the other EU member states – this opportunity is likely to be denied future generations of students if we leave the EU.
  4. Uncertainty, a BBC article this morning discusses what happens next in the event of a Brexit. Michael Gove is arguing that negotiating a Brexit deal could take 4 years to complete. 4 years – of uncertainty, and instability. The pound has been the lowest against the dollar since the Thatcher era, on worries of a Brexit, whilst it has rallied in recent days, on opinion polls putting Remain ahead. Speculators clearly think a Brexit will be bad for the British economy.

As the EU referendum approaches, is a BREXIT good for business?

As many business leaders are entering the political debate about the approaching European Union referendum, I thought it was time to give a few thoughts. Views here are my own, but also represent our official company position, writes Mike Hunter, betterlanguages.com Ltd. CEO.

Firstly, some direct impacts on our business:

betterlanguages translates between a wide range of world languages, including all official EU languages, the company’s leading specialism is retail translation with expertise in both fashion retail and food. Whether business will be directly affected one way or the other on the result of the vote, is hard to say. Companies trading internationally will still need translation. We have certainly seen a decline in enquiries from first time potential exporters, as uncertainty doesn’t help business planning.

The biggest direct impact on our business is likely to be on the supply side however. Here is how:

  1. We make extensive use of in-country freelance translators throughout the EU, and in other parts of the world. We trade with both suppliers and customers in USD, Euro, and Sterling. An immediate impact of the announcement of the referendum was to weaken the pound, any further or sustained weakening, will push up our costs and impact competitiveness.
  2. Erasmus placements: we have a very good Erasmus placement scheme which is EU funded, and enables translation students from European universities to undertake placements with us. Leaving the EU would result in the collapse of this programme. Previous students have gone on to have successful careers in the translation industry. One of our top freelance translators is one of our former students.
  3. VAT and cross border trading: would become much more complex, at the very least there would be uncertainty whilst a new agreement is reached between the UK and the EU.

There is also likely to be direct impact on our customers, some of the biggest issues being:

  1. Divergence of legislation. We translate lots of food packaging, currently UK and EU requirements are broadly identical, as UK legislation is essentially EU legislation. This may not change in a day, but a stated aim of the “no” campaign is to have UK control of UK legislation, so over time UK food packaging requirements will vary with the rest of Europe. This will be an added cost, as companies will have to ensure compliance to EU requirements (or UK if an importer) and then think about translation. As none-members of the EU, we would also lose the ability to influence European law, so the EU could require UK exporters to implement new requirements when selling in the EU, and the UK would have no ability to influence those requirements.
  2. Exchange rate uncertainty. If independent commentators such as the IMF are to be believed, the UK economy will be weakened by a Brexit, this is likely to push down the value of sterling, making international trade harder as it will push up supply side costs.
  3. Political uncertainty. It is likely to take some time to negotiate leaving the EU, Norway is the example of a nation which has left, they have some of the benefits of the EU as they are still part of the trading block, but no political power, as they can no longer influence European decisions. The leave campaign, believe that Britain will be strong enough to be able to negotiate directly with the EU, but the difference being on the outside, is that the country will lose the ability to lobby and negotiate in Brussels.

Some impacts on the Nottingham and UK economy

  1. As a city with approximately 60,000 full time students and two large and prestigious universities, Nottingham would be very significantly affected in its student population should the UK leave the EU. A significant proportion of students are from other EU nations, and they bring money into the country, and the local economy, as well as the universities being major employers.
  2. Employment: there is a lot of rhetoric in the press about migrant workers being on low pay, claiming benefits etc. but our experience has been far from this stereotype, we have found migrant workers to be extremely well educated, hard working, and an asset to UK business. The EU freedom of movement is often cited by critics as a reason to leave the EU, but the likely impact if migrant numbers were significantly reduced is that it would become even harder for UK employers to recruit.

Translating for the Amazon platform – 6 top translation tips

Translating for the Amazon platform has much in common with translation for other e-commerce platforms, but there are some specific issues which need to be taken into account. Here are our top tips on preparing to translate your Amazon store:

  1. Like any area of translation, preparation is really important, ensure all the information you will require translated is well written and presented in the original language.
  2. In preparing the text for your chosen translation company, consider how you want to receive and upload the information. International versions of Amazon such as Amazon.de and Amazon.es have the same backend systems as Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com, this means that it is possible for us to work directly on an Excel spreadsheet, or similar file, and provide you with a single target language version of the file, which you can then upload to create your listings. An important aspect of this, is that there are many data fields which won’t require translation. As you are effectively paying per translated word, it is really important that you give your translation company clear instructions on what should be translated and what shouldn’t.
  3. Marketing messages are key, like in your own language, the power of a good listing, is in the quality of its marketing message. Translation can easily overlook this aspect, we talked to a top retailer recently who was looking for a new supplier, having been “let down”, by their previous translation company. On further investigation, we found the translators had been “playing it safe” with the product descriptions, providing target language descriptions that were not in any way inaccurate, but lacked the marketing “punch” of the original text. Marketing is a specialised area of translation requiring careful time and thought by the translator.
  4. Using machine translation – or rather not using machine translation. Using Google Translate, or a comparable machine translation tool, might be tempting, as it is both fast – almost instant, and free. So what’s the catch? Well product listings have to be very carefully worded, if your product is mis-described, not only will it hurt sales, but it may leave you open to being sued. No machine translation tool has the aptitude or ability of a human translator. Marketing texts very often have to be quite lateral – conveying concepts and ideas, not a literal word by word translation. Then there is the serious risk of error – if a word has several possible meanings, which will the machine choose? Google translate was recently translating “Russia” in Ukrainian as “Mordor” – the mythical dark kingdom of The Lord of the Rings, I’m certain I would find this offensive if I was Russian. Imagine your nice product title being translated by machine into an offensive word in the target language.
  5. Localisation, or adapting your product to the target market – this is really important, and should not be overlooked. We know a local manufacturer who sells children’s fancy dress costumes.When they started selling in Spain, they started by trying to sell their top UK selling products, but found that Spanish parents had major differences in their buying habits, for example, they liked different styles and colours than their UK counterparts. Is your product suitable for the intended target market? Are fashions and trends different there? Will there be demand?
  6. Legislation: if you are selling on Amazon.co.uk and want to sell on another European version of the Amazon platform, then broadly speaking, there is likely to be the same legal requirements for product labels and packaging, as the EU has common standards in many areas of consumer products. However, this is a complex area of law, and professional advice should normally be sought before trying to sell into another market. If you are selling on Amazon.com and are a North American business, then the different regulatory requirements within the EU are likely to present more of a challenge, quite simply FDA requirements and EU requirements for labels and packaging can be quite different. Larger companies may have the expertise to deal with this in-house, but smaller businesses are likely to need specialist compliance advice. Compliance should normally be addressed before translation, so you are translating the correct text.

The forgoing are some general tips and advice, but our general advice would be to “have a go”, many products which are successful on a domestic market, will also be successful when sold internationally. A great aspect of the international Amazon platforms is simplified fulfilment, and leveraging the support and branding of one of the world’s most successful e-commerce platforms. For a relatively modest investment, it is possible to test selling in an international market, without the big commercial risks of setting up your own distribution network or local representation, or the costs associated with localising your own e-commerce site.

bet they wish they had used betterlanguages translation services!

Today the BBC has reported an interesting problem with Google Translate, apparently the Ukrainian to Russian translation of “Russian Federation”, was being given as “Mordor” – the fictional evil kingdom in the Lord of the Rings. Google have been quick to confirm that the error has been corrected, and commented that their programme is machine based, and therefore not the work of human translators…hmmm, we’re inclined to agree there.

At first read this was quite funny, yes we had a good chuckle, but the worrying reality is that we hear of many businesses and other types of organisations trying to use Google translate in a professional context. If you were trying to do business with Russia, you probably wouldn’t want this kind of mistranslation on your sales brochure or website, yet organisations persist in trying to use Google translate as an alternative to professional human translation services.

A couple of years ago the New York Times ran a story about pharmacists using Google translate to supply medicine labels in any of 28 ethnic languages spoken in the City of New York. The problem is if Google Translate will do this with a simple term like “Russian Federation”, what will it do with a description of your medicine or dosage instructions? Suffice to say as a linguist myself, I would not accept a Google translated medicine label, and nor should you!

One of our local councils, Rushcliffe Borough Council, where I live, has a “translate” function on their website – thoughtfully provided for speakers of other languages. OK, they probably aren’t going to commission better languages to produce hundreds of pages of content in the offered 57 languages – I would probably have something to say about this as a council tax payer – but the result is very poor, and gives a bad image of the organisation. I just tested it, looking at the Spanish translation of the site. The health warning before you use the “translate” function should ring alarm bells “You can translate our site into 57 different languages using Google Translate. Rushcliffe Borough Council is not responsible for the content or accuracy of external websites.” (An odd statement actually, since the translated text appears on their website, with full Rushcliffe branding).

So what’s the result like? Pretty poor, for example http://www.rushcliffe.gov.uk/atoz/a/ has the heading from the English version AZ (as in A-Z), translated  helpfully into Spanish as “Arizona”.

One of our competitors, Elan Languages, recently won an advertising award for their taste test, pitting human translation against Google translation, suffice to say, I know which recipe I would prefer.

Happy New Year from the betterlanguages translation team

Wishing all our customers, suppliers and website readers a very happy and prosperous 2016, from the betterlanguages translation team. New Year is often a time for reflection, 2015 was a year of transition for us as a company, as several staff members moved on, and we welcomed Bryony to our project management team in the autumn. We are continuing to develop our back-end systems, including improving QA processes. We were very pleased to pass our ISO9001 audit in November without any none-conformances. The company contines to grow, this year we made major changes to our offices, creating a new board room. The summer saw the much heralded completion of the Nottingham Tram system, which now passes our offices, with direct services from the city centre, Nottingham station,  and Beeston every 4-7 minutes throughout the day.

So what are you looking forward to in 2016? Well for betterlanguages, we are looking forward to some more placement students joining us during the year, to one or two more permanent staff, (watch out for adverts if you are suitably qualified and looking for work), we are also working on new website content, and further work with many of our regular clients, including both large multinational brands, and small local companies.

Nottingham based Senior Translation Project Manager Vacancy

We are looking for a Senior Translation Project Manager to join our head office team based in Nottingham. Reporting directly to the company directors, the post holder will be responsible for co-ordinating complex multi-lingual translation projects, leading a team of Project Managers, freelance translators, placement students and other suppliers.

The work requires:

  • Excellent communication skills, both in person and in writing in English, and at least one other major language
  • minimum of 3 years Translation Project Management experience
  • Practical experience of CAT tools in a translation management role
  • post graduate level qualification in Translation, and/or Professional Membership of a translators body such as CIOL, ITI, ATA
  • The right to work in the UK, candidates from outside the EU, and/or not meeting UK right to work criteria will not be shortlisted

In addition you will need a good understanding of the role of the translator, the ability to co-ordinate and plan work in accordance with our strict quality requirements, an eye for detail and the ability to form an essential part of an effective and close knit management team. More details of the vacancy can be found on our Translation Manager job page, including both person specification and job description. If you would like to apply, please submit your CV via our contact form.

Please note that you must hold a translation relevant qualification, meet the experience criteria, and be eligible to work in the United Kingdom.

Multilingual Translation Services

Translation Services are the major area of better languages business. The company translates into a wide range of languages, over 60 on a regular basis. Much of the work is multi-lingual, translating a single source language into multiple target languages. The translation is carried out by professionally qualified, native translators and all work is independently checked before delivery. (more…)

The Chancellor George Osborne addresses East Midlands business leaders in Derby

Mike Hunter our CEO this morning attended a ministerial visit by George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Garrendale Ltd, in Derby. The Chancellor spoke to an invited business audience about the Government’s plans for the economy, and specifically about the Midlands as a “Powerhouse” of the UK economy, citing Garrendale as an example, having expanded significantly in the last 5 years, and created 40 new jobs.

The Chancellor mentioned a number of key local infrastructure projects, including improvements to the road network, such as widening of the M1, the M6 and A453, and proposals for HS2, the high speed rail project. As a company betterlanguages.com Ltd. welcomes the prospect of HS2, which will bring improved rail connectivity to the region. The company also welcomes the Government’s commitment to UKTI as a vehicle to help businesses trade internationally. The Chancellor was very forthright in saying that the keys to future strong economic performance, are strength in exporting, and improving productivity. In response to a question on the future strength of sterling, he reiterated the independence of the Bank of England to set interest rates, and commented that there is precedent for nations with strong currencies also performing well in international trade, despite the impact of exchange rates on international competitiveness.

As a business we broadly welcome the Government’s commitment, both to East Midlands businesses, and to strengthen international trade. We remain however very concerned about the impact of the forthcoming European Referendum, both on business confidence and on economic performance.