Case study: Turns out, secretaries aren’t (always) good translators

Case study: Turns out, secretaries aren’t (always) good translators

One of my first long-standing clients was a global leader in the production of surface treatment equipment.

The German parent company had started creating a bunch of marketing material; they wrote all texts in German and translated everything into English in-house. The Italian branch, located near Milan, needed to translate all these documents from English into Italian.

Their first approach was fairly common: they decided to deal with it in-house, too. A secretary was entrusted with the task. There were a couple of major problems with this choice:

  1. This person wasn’t a translator. She knew English pretty well, but she made all the typical mistakes of an amateur, producing texts that weren’t completely fluent and also contained several minor errors.
  2. This person had another role within the company and she didn’t have the time to fully focus on translation.

This wasn’t working. So, they finally decided to hire a professional translator.

They asked me if I was available and they promised a person would’ve helped me with the technical jargon of the surface treatment industry. I said yes.

First of all, I edited all the old marketing documents, correcting every mistake and making them more interesting and compelling. Then, I started a long-term collaboration with them for all new texts. The company started actually using this material, bringing it at trade fairs and distributing it among its sales agents to inform existing and potential customers. A localized website and a blog followed after a few years.

More than ten years later, we’ve translated thousands of thousands of words from press releases, catalogs, blog posts, and two website versions. They never looked back, because they soon realized that professionally-translated texts were usable, effective marketing tools that could actually improve their sales, not just mere rhetorical exercises.

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