Writing texts for an international audience is not a simple task and it poses a challenge for those responsible for managing the distribution of multilingual content. The first challenge is that the management team of the company must understand the value and return on investment of multilingual content and of translating into several languages. The second is that the brand itself (or the staff, from production to accounting) knows that it is working for international markets. They have to be confident in knowing that their salaries and the company income derive from people who speak other languages and whose only rapport with them is the brand. Thirdly, traditional distribution channels of quality translations must be complemented (or substituted) by the company website as a centre of multilingual knowledge, social media, etc.
But we could call those three points the fundamental ones. They are pre-requisites. I also wanted to touch upon other points that brands often overlook, particularly when writing content for international audiences. This is a brief guide with the aim of helping marketing and sales staff, as well as webmasters, in order for them to ensure that they don’t make mistakes when having to translate a website into various languages and distribute brand content across the world.
Preparing and planning content
The original content is aimed towards a specific audience, usually the ‘local’ audience. By spending a bit of time on adapting the source material from the start, the brand will save time, money and translation resources. A direct translation only works in the case of instruction manuals. The content has to be adapted to different target markets, from place names to titles, from genuinely relevant content to expressions, currencies, measurements, or even content that does not require translation, as it simply has no importance.
Consolidate a writing style
Avoid sentences with over 25 words: shorter and more concise sentences are always better to read. This does not mean that they have to be simple. A wide vocabulary will improve SEO ranking as variety seems more natural to the human eye than search engine algorithms. This will also be reflected in the translation. Brevity is your ally too, as it will save on translation and localization services or cultural adaptation.
Use editable files
This will help to save time for all involved when it comes to exporting and importing the document. If you cannot provide editable files, or vector graphics have been used, the localization process will take more time and it will also burn a hole in your pocket. It is just the same when working with PDF files that cannot be edited. It is always necessary to resolve these problems and create another source file, but it requires time and money. Surely someone involved in the process of creating content must have some editable source files. This also forms part of the previously mentioned requirement of planning carefully. The creation of a company or brand repository can avoid serious future headaches.
Handle graphics with caution
Graphics and images may contain text. If there isn’t any text, then obviously they will not need to be edited for translation. If they do contain text, they may or may not need to be translated. They must be classified in order to speed up the edition and localization process. The text inside an image must be kept to a minimum. A large amount of text means having a new source file in layers and the restored translated text as a separate layer, which means more DTP and more hours spent working.
Lastly, a tip for decreasing the workload: images must never be embedded in a publication. Linking is a much better option in order to create smaller files.
Terminology is important – Ignore it at your own risk
Translating large volumes of content into several languages means managing groups of translators. Availability can be a significant issue and translating content is an ongoing process. Brands need to keep consistency through their multiple channels, month after month. This can only be achieved if the translation or management team of the brand work with a glossary of terms or official database. Even a simple Excel file would suffice: it is the responsibility of the professional translation company to use tools in order to make use of these assets centrally with their translators. This will also ensure a quick delivery of each translation project and will reduce the time that proofreaders and reviewers need in order to validate the final version before approving it.
Changes and additions are inevitable – there’s no need to micromanage
This ties in with preparing new content. A final document is a translation job, whilst several changes and modifications mean stopping and starting the process of translating into various languages. The translation company needs to have a track changes system, but in the industry of languages, this means human intervention. It means multiple emails and calls, even for the sake of just one word. The changes must be requested in batches or stages in order to avoid working with various versions of the document.
Some translation and localization costs actually cost much more than they should due to excessive repetitions.