Historically “fried air” was acceptable, even encouraged, in written texts. This was particularly true in academia, the business world, or any technical field. The more obscure the gobbledygook, the better. It made one look erudite, intellectual. The world has changed: people want to be able to enjoy reading texts and to understand them. As well they should.
Deflating the fried air balloon.
Modern consumers don’t have time for unnecessary detail. Companies with the highest ratio of information to time will win. Millennials—the 18-35 year olds, whose umbilical cords came with a chip—also want to be entertained in the process, and be able to share something amusing with their extended network. And all of this should be accessible on a screen that is smaller than the average wallet. Many websites that were built more than three years ago should wisely be trashed and rebuilt from scratch no matter how large the investment was at the time. It is sad, but true.
If your company needs to modify its website anyway then please consider (sit down and take a deep breath) having the text first professionally written in the language that has the broadest reach in the business world: English.
There is nothing superior about English—that it is a primary language is a fluke of British expansionism and history’s cruel joke on the other great colonial powers. Mix in MTV, Disney and Brad Pitt and the staying power seems assured. If yours is one of the many, many companies whose main clients are from non-English speaking countries, then by all means, concentrate your translation eggs into one of their language baskets. However, if you need an English version anyway, consider letting it be primary. Once you have a good, clearly worded English version, you improve your chances of correct translations. You can avoid the “third-generation” translation phenomenon: it is a common practice to have a text translated first into English--subject to inaccuracies and awkward phrasing (see my first blog)--and using that as a basis for other translations.
If your translated English version is less than stellar, imagine how reliable and elegant the subsequent versions will be: double-baked air will definitely not improve your client base!