Our free phone number is 0800 TRANSLATE (or 0800 872 675). Now, imagine that you have to translate our website or our brochure. What do you do with this number? Should we translate it? Should we keep ‘0800 TRANSLATE’?

The answer isn’t as straight-forward as one may expect. In France for example, it is very uncommon to use words in phone numbers, so as a professional translator I would recommend using ‘0800 872 675’. That said, it may be fine to use a word for other languages, but don’t just translate ‘TRANSLATE’. Your aim is to make sure that the reader dials the right number. So you can either keep ‘TRANSLATE’ or find a meaningful word in the target language that reproduces the same number. For instance, ‘0800 TRADUIRE’ (in French) or ‘0800 ÜBERSETZEN’ (in German) wouldn’t work as the former equates to 0800 872 387 and the latter to 0800 823 773.

Another point to bear in mind is the location of the reader. New Zealand free phone numbers are only available if you call from New Zealand. You might need to add a note stating ‘from within New Zealand’ and maybe draw the attention of your client to the need to insert a number for overseas callers, starting with ‘+64’. You might also need to include the country code: say for example that you are translating a legal document issued in Germany. It is printed on letterhead paper and contains all the lawyer’s contact details. Your client is located in New Zealand. Do you need to translate the contact details in such a way that they are meaningful to your client and that he or she can use them? If so, you would probably need to include country codes in the phone numbers, and maybe add ‘Germany’ to the address.

Contact details, including phone numbers, are often overlooked or quickly translated, and not much thought is given to them. But they are an integral part of a translation and as such, they require the same critical approach as any other element of the original text.

Feel free to ask us questions if anything is unclear, or share your tips and tricks with other TTS translators.