Who should translate your brand’s content? A translation tool on the Internet can help you decipher that coy text your love interest sent you in high-school-level French, but when it comes to running global content marketing campaigns, rough translations of Lady Marmalade simply won’t cut it. Cultural context, colloquialisms, and nuances of language are lost on machines and non-native speakers alike. Take the famous old marketing myth of the Chevy Nova: When Chevrolet launched its hot rod in Latin American markets, the story goes, the car didn’t sell because nobody considered that “Nova,” split in two, becomes no va—”doesn’t go.” While there’s no lasting data to substantiate this myth, it’s a popular proverb about the risks of misguided global marketing campaigns.
As tech jargon continues to proliferate, and markets keep going global, weighing the risk-reward factors of using machine translation will become much more important. And as it’s looking, the risks for blanket-translating content with an online tool appear to be many.
Technically Speaking The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for information security analysts will grow 37 percent from 2012 to 2022; software developers have a projected growth of 22 percent; Web developers are at 20 percent. Job opportunities in the tech industry are growing at rapid rates.
Because tech is an invention- and innovation-heavy industry, it generates a massive amount of jargon. But do terms like “cross-site scripting” and its strangely non-parallel acronym (XSS) translate literally across languages? While online tools that translate website content might pick the most literal translation of that phrase, they may not convey the actual idea of XSS or SQL as accurately as a native speaker could. For a brand that’s running a global marketing campaign for security software, relying on mass translation can spell disaster—much easier than it can spell “controlled innovation and horizontal management at mid-size startups.” Instead, brands should seek to recruit local experts who are fluent in the nuances of the language and locale to translate/transcreate (mixing translation and original content creation). Not only will the copy read cleanly in the language, the translation will be optimized for a specific audience.
Lost in Translation The translation problem is much greater than simply learning the language-appropriate equivalents of tech jargon and acronyms. Take an iconic ad campaign like MasterCard’s “Priceless” series. What’s priceless in America—say, your team winning the Super Bowl—is neither priceless nor particularly relatable in China, Russia, Europe, or South America. The idea of your team winning the championship is priceless, and buying all of the fan perks you can purchase with MasterCard is universal. Regional experts can help deliver your global marketing strategy to regional markets in a way that conveys that your brand cares about its customers, no matter where they are. A roughly translated ad about American football does not make customers in Buenos Aires feel individually valued. An ad that conveys the same values of victory, camaraderie, and ease of purchase with language and cultural nuances specific to the locale can deliver your global marketing strategy to customers in a much more personal and relevant way.
More than Words Yes, there’s no denying that translation tools expedite the translation of massive amounts of text into multiple languages (think product instruction manuals). But for companies that hope to tell their brand stories to multiple audiences around the globe, nothing can replace the eyes and cultural sensitivities of people native to the target region. Don’t make the mistake of sacrificing quality to save some time. Invest in the right people who can help you scale your global marketing efforts.
As Direct Marketing News notes, an image of a businessman resting his feet on his desk might imply relaxation in America but comes across as tacky and offensive in many Asian countries. Such cultural nuances are lost on all machines, and many language students who do not have extensive backgrounds in the regions their language is spoken. A global vision for a campaign with relaxation as a central theme is not a bad idea; conveying it with the same words and images across the globe probably is, though.
Good “Tech”nique When it comes to translating technological content, it’s important to remember that there’s always more than meets the eye. Whether it’s a simple campaign based on themes like simplicity and victory or an elaborate set of white papers and manuals, rough translations always imply that a market is an afterthought and leave room for cultural insensitivity. By using machine translation to bring unwieldy amounts of text into the target language, editors can more efficiently and effectively make spot corrections instead of laboriously billing for hundreds of hours of word-for-word transcription. Just remember: whether it’s XSS or a simple app, languages are complicated. Enlist regional experts to avoid global headaches.
It’s like what that bumper sticker on your hippy friend’s car says: “Think globally, act locally.”
To learn more about how to translate website content in multicultural marketing, check out Skyword Global.
by John Montesi John Montesi is a content marketing specialist who has worked with major companies in Silicon Valley's B2B and SaaS sector. He has placed professional articles in major online industry publications and personal writing in literary journals. John is a technophilic Luddite who still giggles every time his Google Calendar syncs to his phone. He likes to explain complicated concepts with whimsy and ease and is an accidental SME on software, real estate, sports, art, music, cars, and lifestyle brands.
Lionbridge Technologies, has made the Lionbridge onDemand API available generally. This is the first translation API that provides support for a broad range of translation options, cost levels and content types. Technology platforms can write to a single API rather than managing separate integrations and custom development with numerous providers.
Agile software development is de facto standard for today’s software management (at least for web and mobile software). No matter which methodology you are using, a fast feedback loop and continuous releases are big factors for successful products.
The 10th Languages & The Media conference will bring together researchers, language practitioners, translators, interpreters, software developers and all those who produce, market, or distribute audiovisual materials for information, entertainment or educational purposes to discuss these pressing questions. Join us if you would like to voice your opinion and take part in the discussion
As the digital age continues to connect the global community, companies of all sizes are finding it easier than ever to expand their borders and do business internationally.
"With the most significant population growth and increases in purchasing power occurring in parts of the world where English is either not spoken or is not the preferred language, companies are increasingly doing business in regions outside of their home market," said Judd Marcello, vice president of marketing at Smartling, a translation management system.
But bringing your business into a foreign market isn't as simple as opening up a store there or advertising that you ship your products overseas. If you really want to develop a strong presence outside your home country, you have to make sure you are, quite literally, speaking your audience's language.
"Companies must be able to communicate with customers in their native language, not the default language of the company," Marcello said. "The results of a 2014 Common Sense Advisory Group survey make it clear — 75 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a product if the information is presented in their own language."
"Marketers want their campaigns to evoke emotion," added Caitlin Nicholson, business development specialist at LinguaLinx, a translation and global marketing service provider. "This is achieved through an understanding of the different types of consumers, their habits and their culture, [and] language is tied very closely to culture and identity."
With the right strategies, the right messages and the right technology, you can make the translation process faster and easier while saving money and getting ahead of your competition, Marcello said. Here are a few key do's and don'ts U.S. brands should follow when they're translating or adapting their marketing materials for global audiences. [15 Tech Tools to Help Take Your Business Global]
Choose a reputable translator
Even if you or some of your employee are fluent in the languages you want to translate materials into, this is a task that's best left to the professionals.
"Don't simply rely on bilingual employees for translation of your foreign language marketing materials," Nicholson said. "They may have good knowledge of the target language, but not the skill set of a professional linguist. In addition, they may not have a marketing background or familiarity with translating marketing materials and corporate communications."
Whether it's a freelancer or a full-scale translation service, the person or firm you hire should have a great reputation. Nicholson advised using in-country native speakers, if possible. They not only have knowledge of the language, but also live within your target market, so they'll know about cultural sensitivities, current events and other nuances that will make translations relevant and engaging, she said.
Marcello noted that the provider you choose should be based on a number of factors, including how specialized your content is, how many languages you need to translate your content into, and the overall scope of your translation project.
"If your project is limited, such as translating content for just one market, a freelance translator may be your best bet," he said.
Word-for-word translations don't always resonate the right way, so transcreation —translation plus creation — may be necessary so your materials don't lose their impact.
"[Transcreation] takes translation to the next level where you adapt marketing content so that the words and the meaning carry the same weight in different cultures," Nicholson said.
Marcello said that not all translation agencies and language service providers are adept at transcreation, so you may need to hire a specialist to handle this process.
Create a style guide
Your brand's English marketing materials likely have a distinct "voice," so you'll want to make sure your translated content has that same tone in any language. Marcello advised creating style and editorial guidelines for translators, marketers and content creators to follow in order to keep your branding consistent.
"In addition to setting the bar on content quality, developing guidelines will help your brand maintain a fluid and consistent tone, which is crucial to global marketing success," he said. "Keywords related to your brand and any commonly used industry jargon, including acronyms and abbreviations, should be included to ensure accuracy and avoid mistakes."
Nicholson agreed, and noted that you should provide reference materials like glossaries and previously translated content to help translators or content creators gauge the tone you're looking for.
Once your materials are translated, send them through one more round of reviews to make sure everything is error-free, and that they meet your established guidelines, Marcello said.
Use machine translation
It's tempting to want to use free services like Google Translate for quick tasks or short pieces of content, but Nicholson and Marcello both agreed that a human translator should be used for every professional project, big or small.
"Machine translation tools ... are often unnatural, inaccurate, error-prone, and lack needed context," Marcello said. "More importantly, they will not enable companies to localize their marketing content to reflect cultural nuances, which is critical to ensuring native brand experiences."
"If it is meant to be consumed by humans, then it should be translated by humans," Nicholson added.
Ignore regional dialects
Translation doesn't just encompass going from English to a foreign language. Because of the different regional dialects and colloquialisms, English-to-English materials sometimes need a bit of tweaking to make sense to a local audience.
"Many U.S. firms wisely target new markets still within the English language world as a first step to selling internationally, but this still requires research and localization of search terms and marketing assets," said Richard Stevenson, head of communications for global e-commerce software provider ePages.com. "Consumers in countries such as Canada, Great Britain, Ireland and Australia expect to see and hear local market terms, and your products [must be] explored in the right context for them to confidently buy from you. For instance, if you sell umbrellas, both British and Australian shoppers would be attracted to the local term 'brolly.'"
Stevenson added that dialects should be considered in non-English translations as well.
"In Spain, for example, there are four distinct dialects in use by region, and this could have an impact on your choice of campaign terms depending on your target audience, third-party resources, sources of your Web traffic, etc.," he told Business News Daily. "You may need to modify language in line with regional sales patterns."
Forget about cultural context
A multilingual campaign involves more than another language, Nicholson said. It involves another culture, another way of looking at and experiencing the world. This means that, even with a perfect translation, your campaign materials still may not make sense to your audience.
"Marketers often uses puns, slang, humor, metaphors and pop culture references [to] appeal to their audience," Nicholson said. "You are trying to say the right things in compelling ways, but the right thing to one culture might not be the right thing to another, and what's compelling to one culture might be confusing or offensive to other cultures."
Because of this, Nicholson said it's important to look at the premise of your campaign and make sure it's appropriate for the other culture. You might need to come up with a different angle and have the copy written in the target language by a translator, she said.
For more information on business translation, visit Business News Daily's guide.
More than half of US marketing executives are including at most one other language, in addition to English, to their multilingual content strategy. But to have greater global reach, much more is needed.
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