Write, translate, localize!

Your website’s written…you’ve picked out the pictures…you’ve mapped out your links…now it’s time to translate your copy. That’s great! But did you know you may need an additional step? In the translation world, we call it “localization.”

Who do you want to talk to?

Localization means adjusting your text for a specific audience—a specific language, culture, or geographic area, different social groups, a younger or older audience—and it pays huge dividends:

  • It enhances the customer experience
  • It boosts engagement
  • It optimizes search engine results
  • It provides a competitive edge
  • It polishes your brand image

And with the explosion in data, it’s easier to do than ever before.

In English, but which one?

Truth be known, Canadian businesses have been “localizing” for decades. They translate their documents into French to “localize” them for Quebec. But localization doesn’t even have to involve translation. For instance, have you ever noticed that Microsoft Word offers 18 different options for spellchecking your English? That’s 18 different audiences.

Make people feel at home

If you want visitors to feel at home, you have to talk to them as if they are, in fact, at home. If you’re talking to Canadians, it has to feel like Canada. Provinces, not states. Canadian dollars, not US dollars. Parliament, not Congress. Colour, not color. Depending on how important these distinctions are, you could wind up like Microsoft and have 18 different English websites! (Can’t decide? We can help at TRSB.)

The same holds true for other languages. For French, you may need two versions, one for Europe and one for Canada. Spanish is used in so many countries, you may have trouble deciding on a single style. And some people say the Portuguese spoken in Brazil is like a separate language from that of Portugal.

Bring on that website!

So getting back to that website, let’s see if there’s anything that needs special attention:

  • It has a video. Will you be doing French voiceover or subtitles? And what about your voice talent? What accent should they have?
  • It has a slogan. In fact, it’s so important to your concept, you spent weeks finalizing it. Does it translate easily?
  • One of your goals is growing your business in Vancouver. Have you thought about adding Chinese?
  • It’s to sell guitars. How much does the translator have to know about music?

A good translator will take care of some of the localizing

If you say it’s raining cats and dogs, your translator will not tell French speakers that actual cats and dogs are falling from the sky. They’ll say “il pleut des cordes” (the rain is falling in ropes) or “il pleut à verse” (it’s pouring out). A professional translator can avoid a lot of problems for you.

The translator will also seek to match your tone and style—which may sound easy, but is a rare and valued skill. It requires a clear grasp of your original text’s meaning and advanced writing skills in the target language. For slogans, websites, and other marketing materials that are a particular challenge, TRSB has an entire division of translators specialized in localizing that type of text.

Translators are also good at catching things like incorrect address, phone number, or date formats, or switching imperial measurements to metric if that’s what the target audience uses.

Sometimes you may need a rewrite

We once had a grocery store flyer to translate promoting ready-to-serve cheese platters for the holidays. The copy said they were perfect to serve “as the clock strikes twelve.” That’s because traditionally, the Christmas feast is served in Quebec late at night, after Christmas Mass—which happens to be exactly when anglophone consumers are tucked in bed, with definitely no visions of cheese platters dancing in their heads. Localization on aisle 4 please!

Sometimes the words are fine, but not the other stuff

Ever noticed how some languages appear to use more words than English? If you have space constraints, that can be a real problem. Our Desktop Publishing Department at TRSB pulls off miracles every day, making sure translations fit where they have to.

What about pictures and illustrations? Can your translator actually get into that graph to change the words? And was the computer set to the right language when you took those fifteen screenshots for your how-to guide?

Don’t let the layout trip you up

There can be a ton of layout issues—all the words are perfect, but a stray illustration is in the wrong language…the page design is for English word order, but Japanese reads top to bottom and Arabic right to left… You need an eagle eye.

Localization can even extend to the colours you use. Did you know that white, a symbol of purity in Western cultures, is associated with death and mourning in Eastern cultures? This can be an important consideration.

There could be legal issues too

Banking and health care are two examples of fields where regulatory requirements can have a big impact. You may need legal advice. In Canada, Quebec legislation regulates the language of contracts and stipulates that product descriptions must be in French if you’re selling to the general public. TRSB can be a great source of advice for navigating the requirements.

Localization just makes sense

But when all is said and done, localization just makes sense. Who wants to lose sales because they quote prices in only one currency, or lose market share because their website is in English only? Localization establishes goodwill and drives your business.

Need help sorting through your requirements? Give us a call. We localize into some 100 languages—and we’re the world’s biggest localizer of Canadian French. We’ll develop a plan that’s thorough, economical, and precisely tailored to your business needs. Contact us