multilingual translations

How to prepare content intended for many markets for translation

multilingual translations

If your company or organisation is looking further afield than the UK to expand and reach new markets, you’ll need to start thinking about how you’ll communicate in those markets. If you plan to grow your business and build a multinational brand, then it’s important to ensure that the content is developed for varying markets.

Multilingual translation projects can become very complex indeed. If you don’t prepare your content beforehand costs can escalate and deadlines get missed if issues arise that haven’t been planned for.

In my experience the best way to manage multilingual translations is to centralise and globalise the process. That doesn’t mean ‘internationalising’ content so that it removes any local cultural relevance. Instead it means preparing your content so it becomes straightforward to translate – and localise – for each market, while preserving the brand identity in a culturally sensitive way.

Here’s how to do it.

Preparing content for multilingual translation

Review your source content

The aim is to review your source content to identify any specific challenges that might slow down the translation process or result in increased costs. Many of these can be resolved now before the content is passed to your translation team. Look for:

  • Use of idioms, puns or humour which may be specific to UK audiences – these can be rewritten in clear language, retaining the meaning but ensuring that it can be translated easily. Also watch out for any cultural references as these can sometimes complicate translations. Where possible, remove or rewrite these so that your translation team won’t need to find cultural equivalents in multiple languages, which may result in straying from the original message conveyed and slow down the translation process.
  • Imagery – if the content includes photos, graphics, illustrations etc. are these relevant in your target markets? Look out for location specific imagery, symbols, numerals and text (e.g. £ signs, dates, time, English words etc.). You may wish to replace some imagery with more generic ‘global’ versions, or plan to localise this content for each market with a culturally relevant image instead.
  • Type of content / message – some text requires straightforward translations, such as instructions or factual content. Whereas other content may be more conceptual and emotive, in the case of marketing and advertising copy. Where will your content be used? Does it require transcreation or copywriting? Ask these questions to identify whether you can reword content to make it easy to translate into any language, or highlight content that needs ‘careful’ handling!
  • Tone of voice – no doubt your brand style guidelines will already be reflected in your content, and therefore the tone of voice will be consistent across all content. However, it is worth reviewing this to ensure your tone of voice works in different markets too. Some UK brands adopt quite distinctive characteristics in their tone of voice that don’t necessarily translate in other markets. While I wouldn’t suggest removing the qualities that the brand is built upon, it may be necessary to dial up or down certain characteristics and develop a global voice for the brand.

Develop global brand guidelines

It is useful at this stage to develop global brand guidelines that can be referenced by your translation team, and also any content creators in the future. The guidelines will ensure that key brand messages, style and tone of voice are retained across different assets and different markets, helping you build a truly international brand identity. They will also help to avoid any future translation headaches by ensuring that content is written for a global audience from the start.

I would also recommend completing a brand name analysis for each of your target markets. This reviews your brand name or product names to ensure they work in each market; that they’re appropriate, that there are no negative connotations or issues with copyright, or anything else that might impact your brand and global strategies. You may like to read my blog post on this subject for more information, click here.

Write a localisation brief

It is really important that content is localised for each target market. While globalising your source content, where possible, will help streamline the translation process; to successfully engage with each market you need to do more than simply translating content word for word.

Reviewing each target market will help you get an understanding of how to ensure your content is culturally appropriate and relevant to the people you want to engage with. Then you can spot opportunities to align your content even more with your target market, and make it more successful.

For example, you may have identified imagery that needs to be localised, or a strapline or call to action that requires transcreation or original copywriting. With in depth market knowledge you will be in the best position to maximise these opportunities to really engage your audience, without overcomplicating the entire multilingual translation project. Colleagues in your target markets may be able to help with this.

Create translation glossaries

Developing glossaries for each target market is also important. These ensure consistency across all your translated content, using your approved translations for specific words and phrases (especially company-specific and technical terminology). Your translation team can help develop these as your content is translated. Every time a particular term or phrase is translated and approved, it can be added to the glossary.

If all this sounds a bit daunting, don’t worry – help is at hand! Your translation partner can help guide you through the process, offer advice and support for your in-house team, as well as various services if you don’t have the internal capacity or knowhow.

Let me know if you have any questions about this and I will point you in the right direction! I can be contacted at Comtec (contact details here) or leave a comment below and I will get back to you asap.

For more information about preparing content for multilingual translation, download our Translation Guide: Languages in International Business, click on the link below.

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