As someone who regularly conducts business in numerous countries in four languages, allow me to present some tips that you should understand and practice when translating your business card.
We live in an age when many of us feel the need to travel the world for meetings, negotiations and business purposes. During the course of such travels, one is sure to encounter plenty of people, all of whom are capable of giving recommendations, pass on work or fulfill some sort of a business need. In order to ensure that you occupy a place in their circle of contacts, the properly-translated business card is all-important.
The prime issue with the use of business cards, is the importance of the best translation into foreign languages (English to Chinese, Spanish or Arabic, being the big three) so that the recipient is able to register your identity and your professional association. But , simple as this may seem, there is much more to business-card translation than merely translating from one language to another. Several linguistic and cultural factors need to be addressed in doing so. You would be surprised how many top companies and businesspersons fail miserably at this.
1. A qualified translator or translation services provider should convert your business card: Resist the temptation to use the services of a friend or family member who may have the ability to translate--or speak the language. It is always advisable to leave it to a localization expert in order to be assured of the most appropriate and proper method of translation, and therefore, presentation.
2. Take care with your logo: Your logo and branding are not to be ignored. Images and colors that work in one culture do not always work well in another. For advice on this, again you need a qualified translation and or localization expert.
3. Always keep your business card simple: The basic requirements of a business card are your name, title, company and contact details. Anything over and above these are usually unnecessary, and can be counterproductive. Translation: the less to be confused the better.
4. Make sure that your title is translated accurately: The translator should make no mistake in translating your title. As it is sometimes difficult to understand a complicated moniker, keep your title as simple as you possibly can. (COO is a killer!) It is interesting to note that sometimes it is better not to translate your title since there is no equivalent in the target culture but yours is understood in English.
5. Never translate your address: Translating your address will only be of help in enabling the reader to pronounce your address correctly and easily. Should they mail anything to you, who knows where the documents may finally end up.
6. Arrange numbers in the correct format: Should the need ever arise to mention a date on a business card; you should ideally use the local practice of writing them. For example in Europe and Spanish-speaking countries it's the date/month/year, while in the Islamic world the Hijri calendar is followed. Do your homework.
7. Have business cards printed only on one side and in one language: This decision is completely up to you. However, two-sided cards are usually unnecessary since translating into the target language conveys the respect your desire. And, often, less is more in this sense.
8. Be aware of the do's and don'ts of presenting business cards in foreign cultures: Which hand should be used, what to say, where to keep and place it, whether to write on it, etc., are extremely important and should be studied before you leave your office.
To summarize, in the international arena, translating your business card into a foreign language can be highly rewarding in terms of success and lasting relationships. But only if you take the time to get it right. First impressions, anyone?