The world is getting smaller but language barriers still slow international growth. Localizing your corporate message to additional national and linguistic markets is the most cost-effective way to expand your company’s reach and global impact. There are many options to globalize corporate messaging: working with localization and translation services, hiring translators, and leveraging the increasing availability of high quality machine translations. We’ll examine best practices, tips, and tricks for implementing a coherent multilingual globalization strategy for corporate communicators seeking a road map to avoid getting lost in translation.
Translation and Localization Services: Terms and Conditions
In this article, we focus on the scenario of a PR/media/communications agency creating a global campaign for a corporate client. Unless budgets are extremely constricted, the natural partners in either case are service providers which specialize in translation or localization. But first, let’s consider the terms we are throwing around. To begin with, we should provide a translation and localization services definition.
Translation services are a subset of localization services. What is a translation company? Translation, strictly speaking, just refers to the conversion of one language to another. What is a good translation company? It’s one that goes beyond just words and knows how to localize all content assets. Localization includes all that but also covers converting number and date formats, currency and measurement units. More importantly, it includes deep understanding of cultural tastes and preferences so that communication and persuasion is effective.
So what is the best translation company? It’s one which has embraced localization as an overarching strategy, knowing well that in our connected digital world, clients with global potential need the know-how and the deliverables to build truly global websites, apps, and marketing campaigns. In many respects, the best translation company combines aspects of web development, webmastering, social media mastery and digital marketing applied to multiple languages and localities. In this, it is a natural partner for a PR of marcom company with similar ambitions. When looking for one, it can understandably get confusing as there’s plenty of translation companies out there that offer similar services. Nevertheless, invest time in detailed research and get to know the right factors you should be basing your decision on when finding the right translation company.
How do PR/media agencies work with a translation/localization service provider?
Typically a PR agency will engage an agency to provide translation and localization services as a partner to globalize a client’s content assets or to conduct social media campaigns in foreign countries. What is a localization agency? A localization company knows well how communication agencies operate, providing the specific expertise in linguistic and cultural conversions.
What are localization services? A localization agency may have a more technical orientation than an old-school translation shop. But most translation agencies these days have as a core competence the ability to translate website and social media content assets. It would be rare to find a translation agency unprepared to perform website localization services. A language translator these days is not enough. There needs to be an “internationalizer” who knows how to code a site or prepare a campaign that is ready for localization and thus, after several or more local versions of the site have been created, to enable activation of a globalized website or global marketing campaign.
Hola and Hello! Going Both Ways in Translation and Localization Services
For example, an American company targeting Central or South America will certainly need to engage a Spanish translator to convert all English to Spanish. But it also would require a more technical expert to ensure currencies and measurement are all correct in each Latin American market, and perhaps Spain as well. And it would also need to have someone on the team who knows in and out the cultural nuances of each target market.
The same holds true in the other direction. It’s not rocket science to translate to Spanish generally, but it’s more challenge to know the subtle and not-so-subtle distinctions between marketing to Quito, Mexico City and Madrid. The same holds true for a Hispanic company seeking to translate Spanish into English: it needs to understand and distinguish the language, messages and standards in American, British, South African, Australian, and New Zealand markets.
Interacting with the Translation and Localization Services Company
If you are a PR or marketing communications agency, you engage with a localization company not as a customer but as a partner. That means you can negotiate preferred rates so it’s easier to sell profitable services to your clients. Of course there will be liaison work on your side, but it should be fairly painless, since an agency will typically have just one or two liaisons in your localization counterpart: in larger companies there may be a senior and junior account manager.
You can choose whether to introduce your client to the localization service partner, or conduct all communications through your own staff. In either case, the localization partner will have its own linguistic teams (one per language) and likely a technical team as well. The agency will likely use specialized translation management software and also localization software. Essentially they will catalog every bit of content into a database, and then convert each sentence, date, number, price, and measurement into the local equivalent. There’s a lot of testing and interactions with design people and developers. There are also interactions on the marketing and content level.
Once a local version of a website or set of documents has been created, there’s also the task of pulling together all the local versions to create a unified globalized site or campaign. But here, too, there are apps and plugins for that. There are also online machine translation services available, Google Translate and Microsoft Translator among the biggies. Use these for research and internal or support communications, but avoid them for a public documents or pages. They’re good but they don’t match humans and you expose yourself to embarrassing errors if you rely too much on them.
If you want to get to know the top localization service providers, you can read more here.
Final Words of Wisdom to Keep in Mind for your Globalization Partnership
- Consider hiring a freelance editor or translator for each important target location or language. These can be had cheaply in freelance marketplaces, and it’s worth engaging them either to help in liaison with the localization agency or just to inspect the delivered product. They serve as auditors and proofers for the localization work.
- Always check a translation or localization work against the machine: it’s not unknown that less than reputable or careful translator will get lazy and rely on free translations from Mr. Google instead of doing the hard work for which you’re paying them.
Good luck going global!