Translation Best Practices for International Franchises

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By Peter Betts, Globalization Partners International (GPI)

International franchising is mature in many markets, yet immature in others. Traditionally, franchising was more prevalent in a business’s home country and translation was seldom required. Today, international franchising is practiced by large and small organizations and is increasing in markets like Mexico, Saudi Arabia and China.

It’s not always guaranteed that the franchisor will provide translations of training videos, master franchise agreements, company websites, etc. Often, the master franchisee is responsible for their own local content.

Why Professional Translation Gets Overlooked

Translations are sometimes skipped because of the relative cost, as commonly overheard at industry conferences. The franchisor often seeks the in-market master franchisee to assume the translation costs. Ultimately, the master franchisee may forgo translations to decrease costs.

Translation Shortcut Risks

A common way to decrease costs is to use native-speaking internal staff. This may appear inexpensive and efficient, but employees are likely not professional translators. It’s one thing for an employee to translate an internal memo, but it’s another to translate marketing messages or an FDD.

So why would an organization spend enormous amounts of time and money on source language branding, yet do translations as inexpensively as possible? By using amateur translations, international franchises risk embarrassing and damaging their brands. Let’s not forget, “nothing sucks like an Electrolux”.

Professional translation companies employ vetted linguists and copywriters. These linguists often live in the target markets, so they are up to date with the changing nature of language. Additionally, any reputable translation company will perform multiple QA steps and be ISO certified to ensure the final content is of high-quality and appropriate.

While the cost of professional translation is higher than using employees, it won’t be “as much as legal costs”, which I heard mentioned at a recent IFA conference. Legal costs could arise from cutting corners and publishing incorrect and damaging translations.

 “Quality translations are not inexpensive, but they don’t have to be expensive either. Knowing our contracts and branding are translated professionally and accurately is important to us”. Joe Manuszak, Vice President of International Franchise Development, HRI, a division of the BELFOR Franchise Group.

Translation Tools and Processes

There are processes and tools translators utilize to reduce your translation costs and increase quality.

Translation Memory

Translation memory (TM) is a tool that translators should always employ on projects. TM has three distinct benefits: ensure consistency, reduce costs and decrease timelines.

TM is not machine translation or AI. It’s a software tool that is part of the translation workflow and helps translators achieve efficiencies. TM doesn’t work on a word to word level, but rather on a segment or a sentence level.

For example, if a franchise’s training manual for a fryer has 50k words, 10k words might be within repeated segments. TM helps save costs in the initial translation of the manual and said TM will build from project to project once established.

Glossary Development

Translation companies provide qualified resources to perform the translation and offer tools to manage the process, but it is also important to work with your vendor to develop a glossary of your key terminology.

Key terminology is identified, translated and provided back to the client for review and approval. The glossary will be used for all ongoing translations and will help your internal review process go smoothly when your reviewers see your preferred terminology being used.

Quality Assurance Review

A formal quality assurance (QA) review is handled by the vendor and your internal staff should be invited to participate. Their feedback will help the translators to learn your preferences. This will help ensure the translations are not only accurate, but your preferred style and terminology are used for each project.

In a document translation project, the vendor should give opportunities to review and approve at the translation phase and the desktop publishing phase. Either the translations and/or the formatted document can be sent to the client for their review and approval.

If it is an application or website translation project, the vendor will send the content to the client for the build or the content import to the website. Then in a staging environment, the vendor will review the content in the app or online environment. Once they have completed their QA processes, they will ask the client to review and provide feedback. Test plans and cases may be developed as appropriate.

Transcreation (Copywriting)

The primary responsibility of a translator is to accurately translate the source content into a target language. In order to stay true to the source content, this can result in translations that are more literal. Multilingual projects involving marketing or persuasive text may require true copywriting, or what is known as "transcreation". In many cases translated text must be rewritten to make the message persuasive, as well as accurate and culturally appropriate. A target language locale may be so different that a complete rewrite of the source marketing text is required.


When it comes to translation, international franchises should avoid taking short cuts, utilize translation tools (like translation memory) and follow localization best practices. Important translation processes your vendor should follow include developing glossaries, performing QA tests and transcreating.

Global markets present lucrative opportunities for international franchises. Professional translations are a major factor for market entry success. The time and money invested in language translations will be worth it when you can confidently trust that your brand’s message is being effectively delivered to your global audiences.