Language: The Next Magic Word for Alibaba

September 29, 2014
Translation reviewed by David Mein – david500500@gmail.com

There has been much talk about Alibaba lately. The Chinese e-commerce giant entered the stock market in September with the biggest IPO in history, raising more than 25 billion dollars. The business, already well known in China, is looking to leave its cave and branch out to other areas around the world.

If you take a quick look at the French version of the company’s website, however, you will see that Alibaba faces a significant challenge. The French used on the website is of poor quality, which causes the web-surfing consumer to question how much they can trust the company. The clear message sent by the poor quality of the website’s French is that Alibaba is another one of these companies that sells poor quality products through the mail.

If this company wants to succeed in the French-speaking market, it needs to learn a new magic word. Their image and their credibility is judged first and foremost by the care they give to the quality of the language.

french_alibaba_com2

Backtranslating the main titles of this French page into English: “Products from and the best international suppliers”, “Businesses in group”, “More sold”, “Large variety”, “Hand-selected suppliers”, and so on…

Ali Baba, the famous woodcutter, used two variations of the same words to enter the cave, depending on whether he was speaking French (“Sésame, ouvre-toi!”) or English (“Open Sesame”) for a reason. A literal translation of the French (or Arabic) version into English would sound akward: “Open yourself, Sesame!”

The Chinese giant will soon find out that language is a critical success factor for expanding globally by saying "Open Market!"

Fabien Côté – cote.fabien@trans-it.ca

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