What Is Business Translation? The Definitive Guide

Pawel Tatarek
27 Mar 2023

8 min. read


As companies expand globally, they need to overcome linguistic barriers to communicate effectively with their partners and prospects. That’s where business translation comes in.

This article will help you understand what is business translation, its types, and uses. We also look at the business translation challenges and offer effective tips for solving them.

Pro tip: Streamline your business translation and localization process with Centus, a cloud-based localization management system. Translation memories, machine translation, collaboration tools, integrations with your tool stack—Centus has got it all.

What is business translation?

what is business translation

Business translation is the translation of business-related content to one or several languages. The ultimate goals of business translation are to support business activities, enhance operational efficiency, and tap into new markets. Small companies usually rely on individual translators, while enterprises use translation agencies for their business translation needs.

6 Types of business translation

Content that businesses need to translate falls into 6 broad categories: technical translation, organizational communication translation, marketing translation, legal translation, financial translation, and industry-specific translation. Let’s tackle them one by one.

Technical translation

Technical translation is a specialized translation of technical documents. This type of translation is usually performed by well-trained translators with a strong command of industry-specific terminology. Technical translation is a common starting point for most companies. It allows ensuring that technical documentation is accessible to users in overseas markets.

The following types of documents require technical translation:

  • User manuals with installation and usage instructions, feature descriptions, specs, and troubleshooting guidance
  • Technical reports with summaries of technical research, including experimentation and data analysis processes
  • Product specifications detailing product features, functions, and performance
  • Safety manuals with information on the safe use and maintenance of a product or system, including warnings, precautions, and emergency procedures
  • White papers featuring an in-depth technical exploration of a topic or issue, including research, and analysis

Organizational communication translation

Organizational communication translation is the translation of all internal and external communication documents. Such translation supports the company’s objectives and ensures smooth communication between employees and management. It is also crucial for managing relations with investors, partners, media, government, and public.

Here are the types of documents requiring organizational communication translation:

  • Emails and instant messages including announcements, reminders, or policy changes
  • Letters for official communication with global business partners, clients, or shareholders
  • Memos to communicate updates or instructions
  • Reports to collect and present factual business data to the company’s management
  • Presentations to make essential business data easily accessible to the audience
  • Newsletters to share company news and updates

Marketing translation

Marketing translation is the translation of marketing materials. Unlike other types of translation, marketing translation focuses on influencing consumer preferences, and ultimately, purchasing decisions. Therefore, rather than translating the source text word-for-word, marketing translators take a more creative route and tailor the message to the target audience.

Marketing translation involves:

  • Website content including landing pages, service pages, blog posts, and even visual and audio elements on them
  • Social media content such as posts, videos, infographics, polls, and even memes.
  • Advertising assets such as social media and paid internet ads, TV commercials, flyers, and brochures
  • Product descriptions and packaging to convey specifications, usage instructions, or other information to consumers.
  • Email newsletters and marketing campaigns to project a consistent, positive brand image
  • Press releases and media kits to shape the brand narrative and messaging

Apart from communicating information, effective marketing translation needs to evoke the intended emotional response in the target audience. Achieving this often requires transcreation rather than word-for-word content translation.

Legal translation

Legal translation is the translation of legal documentation to support business operations overseas. Business documents requiring legal translation should have a binding effect and be enforceable by law. For example, corporate reports don’t require legal translation, unlike contracts, deeds, and patents.

Legal translation falls into two broad categories:

  • Legal documents such as warrants, registrations, contracts, agreements, patents, trademarks, copyrights, certificates, licenses, insurances, and decrees.
  • Judicial documents recording judicial proceedings, including sentences, lawsuits, torts, and property deeds. Judicial documents also include affidavits and legal correspondence.

This is probably one of the most challenging kinds of business translation. In most legal systems, legal translation should be performed by a certified translator who can adhere to legal terminology and avoid ambiguity. Translations performed by unlicensed translators are not legally binding.

Legal translation certification can be issued by the American Translators Association.

Financial translation

Financial translation deals with the money side of business operations. This includes translating documents like:

  • Purchase documents including purchase orders, accounts payable invoices, accounts payable disbursements, stock transport orders, and framework orders, among others.
  • Financial reports and statements, such as annual reports, balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements
  • Audit reports that provide verified information about a company’s financial performance
  • Investment prospectuses that detail the financial performance of stocks, bonds, and funds for potential investors

This kind of translation requires high accuracy to ensure the conveyed information is reliable.

Industry-specific translations

Industry-specific business translations are normally required by companies operating in technical or niche sectors. That’s where translators with subject matter expertise are particularly useful. Some of the industries requiring this kind of translation are:

  • Healthcare
  • Energy sector
  • Aerospace and defense
  • Industrial manufacturing
  • Electronic engineering
  • Information technology
  • Pharmaceutical sector

Business translation challenges and solutions

Business translation is often a large scope, cumbersome project that tends to expand far beyond its allotted time and budget. Fortunately, you can overcome most business translation challenges by following our tips below:

Challenge: Content quantity

From internal and external communication documents to website content to legal materials, the quantity of content requiring translation could be overwhelming. On top of that, business documents are created, updated, and organized by different departments, further compounding this challenge.

Solution: Harness the power of machine translation

Machine translation can reduce the cost and time needed to deliver large business translation projects. Even though machine translation tools shouldn’t be used to deliver the final product, they’re perfectly capable of translating huge amounts of text into multiple languages and to a decent standard. Later, the machine-translated documents can be refined by human translators.

Challenge: Brand consistency

Brand consistency is difficult to achieve because a company’s message needs to be adjusted to the cultural reality of each target market. In the process of translation and cultural adaptation, the brand can lose uniformity, and value along with it. The issue is exacerbated if translation is performed by separate teams.

Solution: Build translation memory and termbase

Most types of business translation, apart from marketing content, involve repetitive content that should be translated consistently. To this end, use translation memories (TMs) and termbases. These tools suggest suitable translations from the database of previously translated content.

Granted TMs and termbases require initial time and money investment to develop. However, the investment pays off in the long run. That’s because they improve the quality, speed, and consistency of translation while reducing its cost. how translation memory works

Challenge: Fragmentation

Fragmentation happens when separate teams or freelancers are involved. Therefore, a business translation project of a large scope tends to inevitably turn into a sprawling mess of email threads and disparate documents. As a result, you will have to deal with a slow pace, lack of accountability, and version control issues.

Solution: Centralize your processes for easy coordination

With all the people involved, centralization is essential to avoid fragmentation and inconsistency. The best solution is to provide all project stakeholders with a translation management system (TMS). Using it, you can ensure that all the team members use the same:

  • processes
  • translation memories and glossaries
  • templates
  • translation tools

Furthermore, a TMS can serve as a central knowledge hub available for all stakeholders. Not only does it allow to access the translation resources, but it can also serve as a version control tool.

A good TMS for a business translation project should have the following features:

  • Translation memories
  • Glossaries and term bases
  • Quality assurance features
  • AI-powered machine translation
  • Import/export of popular document types
  • Version control
  • Screenshots and extra text fields for context
  • Rule-based automation
  • Collaboration tools
  • Integrations and webhooks
  • Cloud-based setup for centralization

Centus is a professional localization management suite that ticks all these boxes. Try Centus now! Centus’ dashboard

Challenge: Accuracy and quality

Accuracy and quality can be undermined by inexperienced translators, thereby disrupting business communication with its stakeholders. Worse yet, inaccurate translations can undermine the brand image and even result in legal disputes and financial penalties.

Solution: Hire professional business translators

Look for translators with practical experience in the field. Your second-best bet is experienced business translators working in tandem with your company’s subject matter experts. This will give the third-party translators access to the knowledge required to deliver accurate and reliable translations for business.

The benefits of using professional translation services:

  • Higher quality: A translation service does not only source the best translators but also provides robust QA.
  • Lower risk: Poor translation subjects your company to the higher risk of customer complaints, lost deals, and even litigation
  • Consistency: A translation services agency handling a translation project is more likely to deliver content that is consistent in its tone and messaging.
  • Access to the right experts: Established language service providers (LSPs) have well-developed networks of translators with industry-specific expertise. This is particularly valuable when you’re entering a new market and have no contacts of your own.
  • Efficiency and cost-effectiveness: While agencies may cost more than in-house experts, they translate faster and better, saving you money in the long run.
  • Cultural sensitivity: A translation agency operating in the target market has better knowledge of the cultural norms and expectations which is essential for transcreation and localization projects.
  • No awkward blunders: Substandard quality and lack of cultural sensitivity could lead to embarrassing and potentially expensive marketing blunders that can undermine your brand image. Professional translators specializing in marketing can help you avoid them.

Get the week's best content!

By subscribing, you are agreeing to have your personal information managed in accordance with the terms of Centus’s Privacy Policy ->

Keep learning

29 Dec 2023

17 min. read

15 Must-Have Machine Translation Tools in 2024

Discover the top machine translation software tools available. Check out their features, user feedback, and helpful expert insights to make the right choice.
04 Aug 2023

5 min. read

Globalization vs Localization in Business: Which Strategy is Right for You?

Discover the differences between globalization and localization in business. Explore strategies to effectively balance globalization vs localization.
13 Mar 2023

10 min. read

Expanding a Business Internationally: 9 Essential Factors

International expansion is a massive feat for any business. Wondering what to consider when expanding a business internationally? Start with these nine factors.
05 Jun 2023

10 min. read

How to Start a Translation Business Online: A Step-by-Step Guide

Want to learn how to start a translation agency online? Read our article to find out what steps you need to take to start your translation agency today.
16 Mar 2023

13 min. read

Best Internal Growth Examples + 8 Expert Strategies

Internal growth happens when a business grows from within. How do you do this? Let’s explore the best internal growth business examples and expert strategies.
01 Jan 2024

11 min. read

Website Translation Costs: How to Calculate and Manage Them

Don't let website translation costs catch you off guard. Discover the factors that influence website translation prices and learn how to manage your budget.