With customers speaking multiple languages across geographic borders, global businesses must ensure that they are not only translating customer communications, but doing it well. According to Pew Research, as of June 2015 English is used by 26% of internet users, with Chinese following closely at 21.5%. More than 20% is taken up by an indeterminate number of "other" languages. By doing some quick math, it becomes clear that by speaking just one language, organizations are only reaching about a quarter of online users. To expand reach and engage with a wider audience, global businesses must adopt multilingual communications. Otherwise, they risk abandoning potential customers who will instead turn to competitors who communicate with them on a local level.
Common Sense Advisory reports that over two-thirds of global consumers visit English-language sites monthly or more frequently, but just a quarter regularly purchase goods or services at those properties. Even with information available in the local language, the inability to use their own credit cards or currency frustrates many international buyers. Converting those international browsers to buyers requires translation of content plus improved site performance and commercial enablers such as credit card and country-specific transaction support.
In today's day and age, the value of translation is more important than ever. To set the scene, all companies with a website are now global by default. Truly succeeding in international markets means being able to engage with the audience in a language that they prefer, while delivering an experience that resonates locally, but also reflects the company's global brand. Personalization is the current battleground for most content creators - and nothing is more personal than language.
Ensuring translation is both accurate and considerate of cultural nuances is of utmost importance to global businesses. Poor quality translations can do major harm to a business' image and its customer relationships. Take for example a few cultural nuances between British English and American English:
- Trolley: In British English, a trolley means a shopping cart, while in American English a tolley means a trolley car or trolley bus.
- Braces: In British English, braces mean suspenders while in American English, braces are something that holds parts together or in place, like those used on teeth for corrective purposes.
- To spend a penny: In British English, "to spend a penny," means to use the restroom, while in American English "to spend a penny" literally means to spend a penny.
Transcreation can also help businesses address the challenges of global marketing. Many organizations underestimate the difficulty of localizing marketing content for global audiences. Each market has its own cultural and social differences and it's important to adapt the tone and language that you use for each market accordingly. Transcreation goes beyond pure translation: rather than simply translating the words from one language to another, it translates the meaning and tone of a message. From a linguistic perspective, the intent and impact of the message remains the same. When marketing content is released into global markets, it is important that the message is relevant for the local audience, maintains a consistent global brand and provides a powerful marketing message in every language. For example, sports analogies are often not relevant everywhere. Take American football's term "first down," which would not be clear across a global audience.
Another example would be if a consumer visits a website where the information is poorly written or translated and hard to understand. Because of this, the consumer would not feel comfortable making a purchase. Imagine going to a website and it says "Hello, we is proprietors of software for financial counting in many small countries" instead of "Hi, we are Acme Corp. We provide accounting software for leading small businesses around the world." Which of these businesses would you trust and buy from?
While translating to the right language for each audience is an important first step, it's not the only step to take. Businesses need to think about the broader implications: can their infrastructure and existing information systems support all of this global content? With these challenges in mind, here are a few best practices to consider for successful communications on a global and local level:
- Think "Global-First" when creating content - whenever possible, ensure you don't use colloquial sayings when creating content.
- Leave time for translation in your publishing calendar.
- Brief your translation partners on tone of voice and have style guides created in every language.
- Work with translators who are based in the country that you are addressing and make sure your language provider owns the quality of the content and doesn't just farm work out to third parties.
- Adopt a single content ecosystem that integrates content management, translation, publishing, and personalization into a single solution rather than throwing things over the wall from one step to the next.
In the digital world, like the human world, consumers only have one first impression - in fact, brands have just eight seconds to capture someone's attention before losing them. With this in mind, that first impression needs to be the best it can be and accurately reflect the business. As organizations expand to new markets and their customers become increasingly diverse, the ability to communicate across languages will continue to be paramount.
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