Neil Payne

Article Summary:

10 points to consider when having your business card translated into a foreign language.

How to Translate Your Business Cards Into a Foreign Language

International business today necessitates people travel all over the world for meetings, negotiations and other business functions. Along the way one will meet numerous people that all have the potential to give recommendations, pass over work or provide some sort of benefit. The business card is the key to remaining in their sphere of contacts.

Increasingly business cards need to be translated into foreign languages to ensure the receiver understands who you are and who you work for. However, translating a business card is not a simple as literally translating one language into another. There are many linguistic and cultural considerations one must take into account. In order to assist those needing their business cards translated the following ten tips are presented:

1 - Always have your business cards translated by a translator or translation agency. Your neighbour or friend may be capable of translating but to ensure the most suitable and professional language is used, use an expert.

2 - Try and have business cards printed only on one side and in one language. In many countries people will write on the back of your card. However, this is not always necessary and if there is a considerable amount of text you may use both sides.

3 - Keep your business card simple. All the receiver needs to know is who you are, your title, your company and how to contact you. The rest is superfluous. This also helps keep your translation costs down.

4 - Ensure the translator translates your title accurately. In some cases, due to the Western liking of complicated titles such "Associate Director of Employer Solutions", this is not always easy. It is critical the receiver understands your position within a company. Therefore simplify your title as much as possible.

5 - Do not translate your address. All this does is help the reader pronounce your address. If they ever posted you anything the postman will be scratching his/her head.

6 - It can be useful to transliterate names including company names. This then helps the receiver pronounce them properly.

7 - Make sure numbers are arranged in the correct format. For example, if for any reason you need to write a date on a business card consider the local equivalent for dates - i.e. in Europe dates are written as date/month/year or in the Islamic world the Hijri calendar is used.

8 -Ensure you use the correct language when having your business card translated. If you are travelling to China you would need Simplified Chinese, whereas if you were travelling to Taiwan you would need Traditional Chinese. Similar differences exist in many parts of the world where language may have political consequences, i.e. the area formerly known as Yugoslavia.

9 - Try and research whether there are any cultural nuances that make a business card attractive in another culture. For example in China, using red and gold is considered auspicious.

10 - Finally, always learn a bit about the cultural dos and don'ts of giving/receiving business cards in foreign countries. Which hands should be used? What should one say? Where should you keep it? Can you write on it?

Although technological gains over the past few decades have fundamentally changed the way people across the world contact and communicate with one another, it is sill the humble paper business card that acts as the initial glue which binds two business people together. Within the international fold, having your business card translated into a foreign language goes a long way in making an impression and forming relationships.

Neil Payne has travelled, worked and studied extensively in the Middle East. Based in London, UK, he has successfully completed an MA in Middle Eastern Studies at SOAS University. Drawing on his experience as a language teacher, translator and cultural consultant, he has established Kwintessential Ltd., a cross cultural communications consultancy that provides cultural awareness training, language tuition, translation and interpretation. For more information, visit our "Cross Cultural Communication section" at

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