SFM – translating and copywriting for corporate communications

SFM Traduction online

Sara Maltaverne, founder of SFM Traduction, a Grenoble-based translations and copywriting company. She shares with Grenoble Life her knowledge and advice about the translation business in the area.

Grenoble, where going international just comes naturally

The greater Grenoble area is home to some 450 foreign-owned businesses and is one of the French economy’s leading exporters. So, for many local businesses, enlisting the services of a translator—a potentially risky undertaking—is simply a fact of doing business across borders. But how do you know if the translations you’ve purchased do your product justice when you don’t understand the language? Worse, can you be sure that the translations won’t cause serious damage to your image or result in the costly duplication of work?

Whether you need the latest foreign market research to launch your product overseas or compelling marketing collateral to grab the attention of potential customers, a professional translator or interpreter is an invaluable ally. Remember: translators work with written documents (brochures, reports, correspondence), while interpreters communicate orally.

Here are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting a successful translation—and your business’ chances of making it in today’s global marketplace.

Penny wise, pound foolish: bilingual does not equal translator

A Grenoble-based building management services provider needed an English version of its brochure for an upcoming trade fair. To save money, the company decided to assign the translation to its in-house staff. One of the gems produced: as an introduction to an excerpt of the company’s lengthy and prestigious client list (“quelques références” in French) the erstwhile translator—no doubt with the help of a French-English dictionary—came up with the translation “few references,” which is the exact opposite of what the brochure was trying to convey. Thanks to their savvy bilingual secretary, who sensed something just wasn’t right, this and other embarrassing bloopers were avoided when she called in a professional translator to check the brochure before going to print. However, in addition to the lost work time the company’s employees spent slogging through the translation, the firm had to pay a rush fee to have the brochure reviewed by a professional in time to get it to the printer.

How can you avoid falling into the same trap? By calling in a professional translator from the planning stages of your project and drawing up clear specifications.

The following three steps will help you get your translation project off to a good start

   1. Decide what needs to be done, when, and who is responsible for each stage. Everyone involved in the production process (from document authors to DTP) should be aware of the timeline and specifications. Put it all down in writing.

   2. Once you have determined your workflow and deadlines, you will need to choose a service provider. As a general rule, professional translators work into their native language only. Referrals from colleagues in your industry are a good place to begin your search, as are professional translators associations. In France, you can try the Société française des traducteurs online directory at www.sft.fr. The ideal translator has a track record both in your industry and with the type of document you need translated and can prove it by showing you examples of previous work.

   3. Once you have selected a service provider, check again to be sure the purpose of your translation is clear. Are you translating incoming texts that your business needs for information purposes only or outgoing material that will have an impact on how your company is perceived by customers? The quality you need—and the cost—will vary accordingly. Discuss this with your service provider and get all commitments in writing. You and your service provider should know and agree on who is responsible for each step in the translation process.

Still not sure you’re ready to cross the language barrier?

You can better prepare your business to go international by learning as much as you can about working with translators and interpreters before the pressure is on. Start with Translation: Getting it right, and Translation: Buying a non-commodity, free downloadable brochures endorsed by language industry professionals. Professional groups like the American Translators Association are also an invaluable source of information. Once you have the tools you need to take your business overseas, the sky’s the limit.

About SFM Traduction

Grenoble-based SFM Traduction was founded by Sara Maltaverne as a freelance translation business in January 2003. SFM Traduction is today a premium professional translation company specializing in creative, marketing, and financial translations and copywriting for high-profile corporate communications. You can learn more about the company and its services at www.sfmtraduction.com or blog with us at www.sfmtraduction.com/blog

Sara Maltaverne

7 thoughts on “SFM – translating and copywriting for corporate communications”

  1. Bonjour,

    Vous pourriez également ajouter que l’Université Stendhal Grenoble 3 dispose d’un Master de Traduction Spécialisée Multilingues qui vient de recevoir le label EMT (European Master in Translation).

    (je suis moi-même étudiante en Master 2 !)

  2. Hi Anne-Sophie, I hope you’re not too snowed under with all the work :P (we should catch up soon…)

    I finished my Master’s degree at Stendhal last year and it really is a high-quality course and deserves the title it has been accredited with. The teachers have a lot of contacts and can therefore try to help you even after you have finished studying there. After all, its in their best interests to see their former students succeed in life and go on to bigger and better things!

    Thanks for this very interesting article. I’ve been thinking long and hard about becoming a freelance translator and this gives me more confidence about doing so.

    However, Sara, would you suggest becoming a self-employed translator or is it best to start off as an “auto-entrepreneur”?


  3. @Woody & Anne-Sophie,

    You might want to check out my blog for translators, http://www.sfmtraduction.com/marmite for tips and tricks to help you run your translation business.

    I don’t personally recommend the “auto-entrepreneur” system (you might want to attend an informational meeting on that at the Grenoble Chamber of Commerce – they are held regularly and are free of charge).

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