Boston is a city of many languages. The educational institutions in the city and its suburbs — Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Suffolk, Boston University, and many others — bring in people from many countries who play important roles in commerce, politics, and science. Walk through Harvard Square and listen, and you might hear a dozen different languages. Being able to do business in Boston’s linguistic diversity opens many opportunities. Translation services help in finding and using these opportunities.
As with many large American cities, its second most widely spoken language is Spanish. About 15% of its population uses Spanish at home. Its largest Spanish-language newspaper, El Planeta, has a weekly circulation of over 100,000.
Portuguese follows after Spanish, and speakers include immigrants from Portugal as well as Brazil and Cape Verde. The Massachusetts Association of Portuguese Speakers maintains a busy schedule and publishes a newsletter, Voz da Comunidade.
The Chinese language is also well represented. Boston’s thriving Chinatown is packed with small businesses of all kinds, including many restaurants with authentic cuisine. Signs and publications in Chinese are everywhere.
The international community in Boston includes many other languages. The Foreign Language Guide From Massachusetts’ Office of Public Health Strategy and Communications provides a lot of useful information on the languages used in Boston and throughout the state.
The need for translation
There is a constant need for translations to serve people who are more comfortable in these languages than in English. Managers who are fluent enough in English for most situations will be wary of translating legally required information on their own, and they’ll want professional services.
Public relations is another area that calls for top translation skills, in both directions. Material that reaches out to a language community has to be accurate and idiomatic to have the best effect. Likewise, material which leaders of those communities aim at a general audience should be in fully fluent English.
The Boston area has a strong computer technology presence. Software needs to be localized into the languages its users prefer. This requires not only understanding of the languages, but of how they’re used in computer tech.
About 14% of the people in Massachusetts are immigrants. Learning English is a high priority among them, so that they can have more economic opportunities. This requires educational materials to be translated into their languages, so they can use them while working on their English proficiency.
Many people are bilingual enough for ordinary conversation, but they’re rightly cautious about trusting their skills in more formal settings. Documentation, instruction manuals, notices, and other materials can use a professional hand.
A single mistake can draw attention away from an otherwise well-crafted document. Idioms or ambiguities can be explosive. Using idioms that belong to a different linguistic subgroup can confuse or annoy the reader. Using the almost right word is an easy mistake; for instance, the Spanish “preocupado” means “worried,” not “preoccupied.” The difference between good and mediocre translation can be the difference between business success and failure.
Business benefits of translation
Expert translators for business understand not just languages but business. They know how to express information in the most effective way, taking legal concerns into account. They understand the culture they’re dealing with, which may differ from ours in many ways besides vocabulary and grammar. Some cultures tend toward a more relaxed approach than ours, while others insist on strictness in business communication.
Presenting information that isn’t just in the appropriate language, but that fits the expected tone for the situation, lends a highly positive impression to all interactions. While people may be outwardly tolerant of a slightly clumsy translation, it gives them a negative impression, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Boston and its suburbs are the home to people of many backgrounds and languages, all trying to communicate. Skilled translation is a key element in making communication possible. Please contact us to learn how our translation services can help your business.