Meeting the Multilingual Content Challenge

Making sure your content connects to your global audience in the right way and enables you to build a trusting relationship with them can seem a big hill to climb, especially on top of assessing new hires, securing extra funding, adapting your products and everything else international expansion entails. But it’s important that addressing language and culture doesn’t become an afterthought.

Do you speak your customer’s language?

In 1900 the world’s population was just over 1 and a half billion. Today the number of people sharing our planet is creeping up towards a staggering 8 billion.

Between them all these people speak over 7,000 languages with 326 being spoken in the United States alone. Add to that the fact that well over half the world’s population has access to the internet, many billions of them using social media daily, and it’s not hard to see the significance of language diversity and communication in all our lives.

The amount of what we now call ‘content’ out there is also astounding; at the time of writing today more than 5 million blogs have been published, nearly half a billion tweets sent and over 5 billion Google searches made.

Is your brain in a spin yet?

This multiplicity of people and cultures and our constant exchanges are what makes us human – but make the task for any globally ambitious organization hoping to reach new customers in new markets, a challenging one.

What languages are used in the target market? Is the writing system different? What about counting and measurements? Do they prefer a formal or casual tone? Are there superstitions you should know about? What makes them laugh? Could specific cultural sensitivities have an influence?

Making sure your content connects to your global audience in the right way and enables you to build a trusting relationship with them can seem a big hill to climb, especially on top of assessing new hires, securing extra funding, adapting your products and everything else international expansion entails. But it’s important that addressing language and culture doesn’t become an afterthought.

It’s personal

In recent years successful global organizations have shifted the focus to the needs of their customers and their journey and experience. t’works’ customers Sennheiser, Swarovski and Verbund put particular emphasis on how their products and services enhance everyday lives, with Swarovski and Verbund developing visitor attractions to help reinforce connections with their buyers. It goes without saying that these multinational companies offer their customers a seamless, localized and multilingual experience.

Concentrating on what benefits your customer means your company works collectively towards delighting them and perhaps most importantly, towards securing their future loyalty and support. A customer-centric organization by definition will actively highlight user experience and the use of language figures prominently in this approach.

Rapidly advancing technology and recent dramatic changes forced by the pandemic mean that a company’s relationship with its customers is more personal than ever. Communication comes directly into our in-boxes, our social media accounts and our homes as we sit on our sofas working on our laptops or browsing the websites of our favourite brands. We feel that our relationship with these brands and organizations is a personal one and we’re happier interacting with them when they speak our language.

Consumers respond positively to companies that offer them a customer experience in their native language. A survey conducted in 2021 clearly illustrates this point and shows that another primary concern of the consumer today is diversity and inclusion, of which a multilingual experience figures prominently. If this company doesn’t speak my language, does it really care?

Going multilingual

It’s wise not to make any assumptions about your target audience before embarking on your multilingual journey. In-depth research and an assessment of your company’s needs and objectives are advisable beforehand, as well as investigating the expectations of your new audience. Scaling all the content on your website and elsewhere might be unrealistic so deciding where and when you want to opt for basic translation, localization, create original content – or perhaps do nothing at all, is key.

Content is by nature varied and the type of approach chosen to ‘translate’ it will therefore also vary.

Unfortunately, as we’ve hinted at above, providing your customers with a complete native language experience goes beyond simply translating the words on your website or elsewhere into another language.

Translation is a good starting point but it won’t always answer the questions we asked at the beginning of this blog. Cultural differences and customs have to be considered and that’s why we talk about making content resonate with consumers on a local level, or content localization.

Localization or transcreation?

Localization takes translation, the transfer of words and their meaning from one language to another and makes sure it fits the local context. The focus of localization is the adaptation of specific content to a local market and the breaking down of any cultural barriers. This can include reformatting graphics and layout, modifying purchase options, currencies and measurements, altering cultural references, changing images and so on.

A step further along the creative path from localization is transcreation (although the boundaries, we will admit, can be blurred). Transcreation uses the source text as the inspiration for creating a piece of content that aims to evoke the same response and emotions as the original. It’s suited to marketing output and more emotive or sentiment-driven formats like adverts, brochures, slogans and campaigns using story telling techniques.

If a lot of time and creative energy have been put into the original material it’s likely that the same will be required of the content in the target culture and this is where transcreation comes into its own.

When is original content needed?

It may even be preferable to forget the source material all together and go free style. Perhaps the target market culture differs so significantly from the source culture that a reimagining of the content from scratch is necessary. Companies with precise e-commerce and SEO objectives don’t just need their message in another language, they need their content to drive these objectives.

In such cases native language copywriters with expert domain-specific knowledge should be called upon. They will work to precise editorial guidelines in the desired target markets and produce highly adapted material designed with end results in mind. They will work from a detailed brief rather than source material.

And what about machine translation?

It seems that no translation blog today can fail to mention the impact of machine translation, such is it’s growing presence within the language industry.

Advances in artificial intelligence have enabled machines to digest and learn from enormous amounts of data which are then used to process human language, speak it, text it, translate it and, in some instances, create it independently with often (deceptively?) impressive results.

Machine translation (MT) is being increasingly adopted by language professionals and can be well suited to some translation tasks. These tasks are usually repetitive, large scale and involve straightforward language, enabling the human specialist or ‘human-in-the-loop’ to use their expertise where it is most valuable – in projects using creative, emotive or high priority communication. Post-editing by specialist human translators is also a common feature of a workflow involving machine translation.

The number of high-performance machine translation engines is increasing but selecting the most appropriate one is not always straightforward. t’works puts itself in a position of strength by remaining MT agnostic. Being able to access the right engine for the right language task is an advantage and means our customers benefit from the best time saving and cost-effective solution. t’works also forms part of the translate5 consortium which incorporates the power of MT in its open-source translation management system.

Technical content like digital manuals, specification sheets or operating instructions lend themselves to machine translation, as do internal communication and instances where getting the ‘gist’ is sufficient. As with other approaches to translation, establishing the needs of the end user and determining where the source material fits in the company’s overall objectives will dictate whether machine translation is a suitable option.

Your friendly language services provider

With the variety of approaches to translation on offer, it is your chosen language provider who is best placed to advise on the most appropriate solution for your organization. Their team of native language translators, editors, journalists, graphic designers and more, will be able to formulate an individualized and workable strategy, with your company’s goals at the top of the agenda.

t’works is perfectly positioned to provide this expertise. The experience we’ve acquired over many years as well as our progressive use of innovative technologies, means we can cover all bases where multilingual content is concerned.

For more information on how we can help you connect with a new audience through language

Christian Enssner

Your personal contact

Christian Enssner

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