This insightful blog is written by Tom Rowsell a copywriter employed by EmpowerLingua Translation Services.
Overseas expansion may sound costly, but failure to account for developing markets in a global economy could cost you even more. Even if you are struggling in the domestic market, that doesn’t mean you should shy away from foreign markets. World trade is pushing ever closer to a borderless global system and even the smallest business owners should consider which foreign markets they can move into. If your website and social media content is monolingual then you are missing out on valuable traffic and potential sales. It doesn’t take long to achieve ROI on localisation investments if you plan them properly.
No one knows your business like you do, so ask yourself which markets are appropriate? How much profit do you stand to make from them? You need to find out where your product can be sold, in which countries there is a gap in the market and what the local competition looks like. Then you can tailor your digital marketing material to the necessary cultural perspective.
Once you’ve figured out which languages you want to translate your website/social media/marketing material into, get a professional to do it. Some business owners misguidedly believe that Google Translate can solve all their localisation problems. This is a big mistake, as experts like Professor Nigel Vincent, president at The British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences, will tell you. He laments the lack of polygots emerging from British universities and argues that our monolingual workforce may find it hard to compete globally.
“It would be self-defeating to think they (Machine Translations) remove the problems we face if we become a nation of monolinguals in a world of polyglots.” He comments, adding “I don’t see any evidence that the Chinese or the Germans are standing down their language teachers, and I think it would be foolish for us to imagine we can do so.”
In other words, machine translation just doesn’t meet the professional standards that the market demands. Another benefit to using a language professional is that they are culturally informed and can make relevant recommendations. Localisation isn’t just a case of translating, it’s also about understanding cultural differences and how they affect sales. There are major cultural variations between countries which speak the same language. Some localisation services are devoted exclusively to translating between British and United States English -“two nations divided by a common language” etc.
When Coca Cola was first introduced into China they named it Ke-Kou-Ke-La without knowing that this means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect. By the time they realised the mistake, it was already plastered across thousands of signs in China. This kind of cultural knowledge can mean the difference between success and embarrassing failure.
In terms of digital marketing, localisation is a means to access overseas markets without leaving your home country. Non-English speaking internet users are on the rise but online content does not adequately reflect this at present. Arabic is one of the fastest growing online languages and recently we’ve seen a major increase of Arabic language use on social networking sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, yet Arabic online content remains at only 3% of the total.
Just relying on your English language SEO writes off huge sections of the global market. Even when you’re top of the Google rankings you’re still missing out. Google isn’t the top search engine in every country; in Russia it’s Yandex, in China it’s Baidu. Potential customers from overseas might be turned off after unsuccessfully using translation software to try and decipher your sales material. If you translate the question, “Hey, are you busy tonight?” into German, Google Translate gives you “bist du damit beschäftigt heute abend?” Which translated literally means, “Hey, are you busy with this tonight?” it just adds random words in. Imagine what it does to your marketing copy.
Localisation is the only way you can access non-English speaking customers at home and abroad. It’s not simply a case of translating websites word for word; it requires thorough consideration of cultural differences and the intended meaning of the source language text. Professional translators aren’t just bilingual; they also need to be familiar with the cultures from which the languages came so that they are able to optimise your website or promotional material to a standard that no software can come close to.
Author Credit: Tom Rowsell is a copywriter employed by EmpowerLingua Translation Services
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