Don’t get ‘Lost in Translation’: Handling the translation process when moving into a new international market

To make the most of opportunities in an international marketplace, communicating with customers in their own language is crucial – Language and communication issues can cause a number of problems for your business! In our ‘Lost in Translation’ series, we explore how to ensure that the translation process goes as smoothly as possible.

Communication in other languages can feel like a daunting task. But with a carefully thought through plan in place, translation and localisation of both web and print material provides the necessary tools to effectively expand into a new international market and support rapid growth.

Getting started with the translation process

Sometimes the translation industry can feel like a minefield of jargon. Here’s our step by step guide to the first steps in the translation process and some of the lingo involved:

Understanding Translation and Localisation

Localisation is the cultural adaptation of a text, as opposed to simple translation. When localising a text, the aim is to find the equivalent of each phrase in the target language, rather than sticking purely to the denotative meaning of the words. The purpose of localised text is to stir the same emotions and generate the same feelings as the source text does for speakers of the source language.

Market Research

The localisation process is part of the overall international marketing strategy, the basis of which is solid market research. Understanding your target market and potential customers is vital in order to develop and effective communication strategy and to position your brand correctly for your target market.

Nothing beats actually spending time in the market and talking to potential customers. This is where the services of an OMIS (Overseas Market Introduction Service) can be very useful. They can organise events to bring together potential customers or arrange meetings with local agents where you can find out about the market and the competitors.

With a detailed understanding of the target market, the localisation process can begin.

Transcreation of product names/slogans

When expanding into new markets, many companies find that translating their company or product name or tagline is a difficult task.

This is where transcreation comes in. This is effectively the process of copywriting as opposed to localisation.

How would Cheeky Wipes, a baby wipe manufacturer, communicate internationally with its slogan ‘Making a bum job better’? A direct translation might well leave international consumers confused!

It’s essential to use a native speaker who’s based in your target country to transcreate your names and slogans. Your translation provider will provide a number of alternatives, back translations and commentaries to aid you in making the decision.

Effective transcreation is based on a very detailed brief, which can include:

  • product/service description
  • consumer/client profile
  • competitor information
  • key messages

Preparing content for translation

With the right brand name and slogans in place, it’s time to look at the marketing material. Before we look at the specific channels, let’s think about the actual content:

If you’re using the same content as for your English market, it’s critical to review this to establish whether it’s suitable for your overseas market: Are there different messages? Are the case studies relevant for your new market?

When providing content for localisation, it should:

  • Be written in clear, simple and concise English
  • Avoid abbreviations slang terms, idioms or colloquial expressions that can be difficult to translate
  • Avoid words with double-meanings
  • Be accurate, with no spelling or grammatical mistakes

Crucially, localisation should be undertaken by a native speaker.


You may also need to consider industry specific technical terminology in the localisation process. This is why it’s crucial to use a translator who has specialist knowledge of the technical terminology for your industry. It’s also useful to liaise with local markets to ensure that the terminology employed is 100% accurate.

This is where translation memory software comes into play.

Translation memory software is very important in managing content across all communication channels. We create a translation memory for our clients from day one. This is not machine translation – as translations are completed, they are stored in a memory which builds and builds as translation progresses. This memory is then accessed when translating all subsequent projects. It delivers a number of key benefits, including:

  • Consistency in content across all channels – websites, print and audio
  • Faster turnaround times – access the memory
  • Reduced costs

Look out soon for the next instalment in our ‘Lost in Translation’ series. In Part 2 we show you how to develop effective multilingual content across all platforms, including websites, print and audio-visual Medias and to promote your brand confidently overseas.

In the meantime, if you’d like to speak to a member of the Comtec Team about your upcoming translation requirements, please get in touch on +44 (0)1926 335681 or