We live in a truly global economy. The internet has strengthened the lines of communication between countries, and businesses are now looking to market to customers around the world. No matter how technology evolves through, the age-old problem remains: how do you speak someone’s language when you don’t actually speak their language?
If your answer to this question is to load up Google Translate, stick in whatever text you’ve written, and then copy and paste it onto your non-English sites, you’re doing it wrong. Developing content for different countries is much more complicated than that and requires an understanding not just of those countries’ languages, but their cultures too.
In this post, we run down what to do when you’re developing content for foreign territories, and why it’s important.
Hire a Translator
Translation tools are useful if you’re not pushing out the content to the public, but if you are, you’re in need of a human touch. Language is a complicated thing that’s changing all the time, and the best way to understand its intricacies and ensure nothing gets lost in translation is to get a human being to translate it.
This can be done through translation agencies, but freelancers who can come into your office and who you can build a relationship with can be an even better option. Quality and trust are imperative and that one-to-one bond will help build them.
Find SEO-friendly translators
SEO plays a part in all digital content, so it’s important to make sure you’re paying close attention to it when translating as well. The difference between a good translation and a perfect translation could be the difference between your site getting noticed and your site being ignored.
So it’s important to make sure that translators can not only translate your copy correctly but that they understand why it’s important to do so from an SEO angle. This will lead to better results and a richer relationship based on mutual learning.
Understand Cultural Differences
Content is one thing, but context is something different altogether. All your efforts ensure every word of what you’ve written is translated correctly will count for nothing if what you’ve written falls flat.
Let’s say you want to run a campaign around April Fool’s Day. That’ll work well in the UK and the US, but what about elsewhere? Do they celebrate April Fool’s Day in Spain, Italy, Mexico or any other country for that fact? If they do, do they celebrate it like they do in the UK and US?
Understanding cultural differences is key to working out the viability of your marketing. Doing so could be the difference between a campaign that soars and a campaign that plays like a joke without a punchline.
Be sensitive to other cultures
It could also be the thing that prevents your business from suffering a PR catastrophe. Understanding cultural difference allows you to work out what is and isn’t offensive, and avoid anything that falls into the former category.
This involves more than just avoiding swear words and stereotypes. Things that people in the UK would never consider offensive are seen as rude in other countries: in the Netherlands, you shouldn’t ask what people do for a living, while offering a hearty thumbs up in Russia and Greece is as crude as giving someone the middle finger.
So think twice the next time you’re considering putting that thumbs up emoji in an email subject line!
Don’t just localise for foreign languages
It’s easy to think that you don’t need local knowledge when writing content for English-speaking countries: they speak the same language, so why spend the budget getting that insight?
Again, it’s all about understanding the culture: what works and what doesn’t, what’s offensive and what isn’t.
It even goes down to the tiniest pieces of local knowledge. Know what a barn-burner is? It’s hardly used in the UK, but in the US it’s used to describe a particularly exciting sporting event.
Language is a tool and communication is a task. Like any situation, certain tasks require specific tools, so make sure you’re using the right ones to communicate clearly, smartly and effectively with your audience.
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