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You are here: Export Tools > Translator  

The need to communicate in other languages

One of the many challenges you will face in international markets is dealing with the different languages you will encounter across the world. Fortunately, English is the 'linga franca' of the export world, but nevertheless, you are likely to come across potential customers that simply do not speak English and somehow you may need communicate with them. Alternatively, you may receive a communication from an overseas customer written in German or Spanish or Chinese. You could ignore it, but with a bit of effort you can have the communication translated and a reply set up in the target language and you can be assured that potential customer will be very impressed with your seriousness to do business. Of course, you wouldn't take this effort just with every customer.

You would only do so with reputable firms, so the first thing you would do is check the website of the firm communicating with you - if it appears that they are a substantial concern, then perhaps it is worth taking the effort to translate the communication. If it is a small firm or they simply don't have a website, then perhaps you should think twice.

Online translation services

In this section we provide you with links to both online translation services, as well as human translators in South Africa. Good luck!

  • Interpret - Let's start with a home-based service. Using Interpret you can translate not only from English, but also from other local languages such as Afrikaans, Sotho and Xhosa. Target languages include French, German, Dutch, Swedish, Portuguese, Greek, Italian, Norwegian, Danish and Spanish. You can translate pieces of text, whole web sites and whole e-mails. Keep it up guys!
  • Babel Fish - Babel Fish was one of the first online translators available on the web and has survivied until today. It is a decent facility that is quick and easy to use. It enables you to translate text and web sutes (but not e-mails apparently). Give it a try!
  • Freetranslation - This is specialised translation service that offers both online and human translation services. The online translation facility is free and easy to use. In addition, they offer a website translation service that enables you to enter a website created in another language and to have that translated into English. In addition, they offer professional human translation services at US$0.10 per word.
  • Worldlingo.com - A nice, pleasant, easy-to-use site that offers text, e-mail and multimedia translations. One of the premier translation sites.
  • Prompt - Prompt is another online service that you can use to translate text, web pages and e-mails. It only covers seven languages though (English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Portuguese and Italian). There are also software products for sale. Registration is available - for free - to access more advanced features. Worth a try!
  • Dictionary.com - A basic online text translator and little more.
  • Word2Word's list of online translators - A nice collection of online translators out of the mainstream. If you're looking for a way-out language, this list may cover it.
  • EuroDicAutom - Maintained by the European Commission and mainly supporting the European languages, this services is aimed helping you translate terms and phrases.
  • TravLang - Like the name says, this service is aimed more at the traveller, but offers similar services to all the other online translators.
  • Translation Agency - Offer free website translation and free translation services


There may come a time when you need to look up just a single word or short phrase (in English or in any other language). For this, a dictionary is likely to suffice. What is more, the translators referred to above, only work for a limited number of major languages, but what about Hindi, Indonesian or Korea. Most of the languages in the world are covered by the dictionaries provided below. Browse through them to find the one best suited to your needs.

  • Yourdictionary.com - More than 280 dictionaries, supported by glossaries, language courses, and other features.
  • Wordreference.com - A simple service focusing on French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.
  • Dictionary.com - A nice dictionary with plenty of additional facilities.
  • Word2Word - 201 languages listed!
  • Paderborn University - Maintains an odd list of dictionaries (try it if you can't find anything else).

Human translators

While online translation services are useful and have a role to play in exporting, if you require a professional translation of a document for contractual or legal purposes, the best route is to use a human translation service. There are many translators available throughout the world. We have tried to provide you with a list of local (and a few international) translators that may want to consider for your translation needs. What about interpreting?

  • SA Translators' Institute (SATI) - This is the main place to start your search for SA-based translators. Their list of freelance translators is a fairly comprehensive one.
  • Click2translate - A US-based service. Click to send them the file to be translated. They will send you a quote and if accepted, you pay, they translate and voila!
  • World Lingo - Another US-based service that provides translations in 141 languages - beat that if you can. They make use of translators around the world.
  • TranslationZone - Access a list of translators around the world according to subject, country or language.
  • Immigration-USA - Provides a list of human translators. May be worth a try?

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Learning to export... The export process in 21 easy steps
Step 1: Considering exporting
Step 2:Current business viability
Step 3:Export readiness
Step 4:Broad mission statement and initial budget
Step 5:Confirming management's commitment to exports
Step 6: Undertaking an initial SWOT analysis of the firm
Step 7:Selecting and researching potential countries abroad
Step 8: Preparing and implementing your export plan
Step 9: Obtaining financing for your exports
Step 10: Managing your export risk
Step 11: Promoting the firm and its products abroad
Step 12: Negotiating and quoting in exports
Step 13: Revising your export costings and price
Step 14: Obtaining the export order
Step 15: Producing the goods
Step 16: Handling the export logistics
Step 17: Export documentation
Step 18: Providing follow-up support
Step 19: Getting paid
Step 20: Reviewing and improving the export process
Step 21: Export Management
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