Shopping for Translations

The other day while I was at the airport waiting for my plane I sort of asked myself how I would go about shopping for translations services, assuming that I knew very little or nothing about the industry or services. How easy would it be to contact with a company who not only support me with my translation needs, but also to give me advice on how to best proceed, what content to translate? Going global can be very expensive and ROI is a major factor in any business, so it needs to be done right. With my budget in hand, my Director would probably ask me to arrange our AW15 Catalogue to be translated into the 6 languages.

A Google search for ‘translation agencies’ brought up ‘approximately 4,110,000 results’ (in 0.56 seconds). A good start would be setting a list of requirements and needs, checking with industry associations and getting some names, searching and looking them up, start a selection process. I realised that this was going to take a while and that is as far as my exercise got.

With literally millions of translation agencies on the internet, most of which seem to have the same offering, making the selection process even harder, shopping for translations may be a daunting experience.

A relationship with a Language Partner that fully understands the time, effort and skill involved in developing a distinct brand identity, which customers over the world will recognise and identify with, is the objective. A partner that helps you become a true global brand by capturing the elements which make your brand unique and successful in your domestic market, and transmitting the same message consistently to a larger global audience.

Websites – what to translate and what not to translate

We know that managers, website owners and globalization teams need to justify constantly their budgets to their directors. More often than not, we hear arguments against translating websites or product information, such as “A lot of people understand English, so we don’t really need to translate that.” A survey by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. estimated that a billion people around the world are studying English and a few hundred million speak it natively. The survey also indicated that over half do not comprehend English well enough to navigate successfully through a website.

Time and budget constrains are the typical reasons why many companies do not localize their websites into local languages. From the survey, it was also evident substantial drop-offs in browsing, consideration, and purchasing that tracked directly to respondents’ ability to read English. Their desire to buy correlates directly to that ability.

When considering translating or not your website, I think a key aspect is to visualise your potential customer experience and go through the motions. Your site in English will probably turn off people who don’t read the language. Some may feel disrespected and leave on principle. People want to products or services with information on specifications that they can read; without it, they wouldn’t be able to assess the inherent value or functionality of your product. And post-sales support is just as important. Imagine your customers trying to deal with your technical support in a language not their own. Not that you need to have call centers for each target markets, but translating some portion of your online help, frequently asked questions, and knowledge bases can help.

The right Language Partner will work with you to identify and establish the priorities and scope of your translation needs.

The best thing about face-to-face meetings

As I board my plane back to Barcelona after visiting TJX’s Distribution Centre in Wroclaw, Poland, I can’t stop thinking how useful and beneficial this experience has been. It was great to finally meet everyone in person. We’ve been working together for several years and exchanged hundreds of emails and calls over the course of the relationship. It felt as if we’ve known each other for ages, but nothing really beats a true face-to-face meeting.

The objective of this visit was for us to have a better understanding of the processes within the centre, and how our translations supported the training programmes that are given to the new associates at the centre. Part of the objective was also to better understand TJX’s internal language and jargon, which needs to be applied consistently across the board.

Together with Tomasz Fortuna, one of our TJX Polish team leaders, we were received by Marta Dyjach, TJX’s QMS Specialist who gave us a 4-hour tour of the distribution centre facilities that covered many key areas and stations. Marta was incredibly helpful and explained to us how it all works behind the scenes at the distribution process. It was incredibly powerful to see first-hand how their products are processed once at the centre, which allowed us to have a much better understanding of the challenges being faced from a language perspective.

Next we will continue with the improvement process by capturing all of the knowledge gained during our visit and updating and adapting our style guides and terminology databases, so that the Polish teams working on TJX projects going forward will be able to maintain the same level of consistency, both terminological and stylistic. I really can’t wait to hear TJX’s feedback once we complete the first series of training materials under this new approach.


Oh Spanish…

As a Latin American living in Spain I am often asked many questions about my accent and the words I use when I speak Spanish. A good friend of mine makes fun of me because even the tone of my voice changes when I jump between English and Spanish. The truth is that while there are differences between the varieties of Spanish, we Spanish speakers can all understand each other; the differences in vocabulary are no greater than those between British and American English.

The differences in pronunciation fascinate me. Down in the south the ‘S’ is not always pronounced, some syllables go missing, the classic double-l in Argentina usually pronounced like the y in yellow or the s in measure. Some say Colombian Spanish is the most beautiful one, other say Spanish spoken in Madrid is the most important, some say that Argentinian Spanish is the sexiest. The difference that strikes me the most is perhaps the “lisp” that is common in Madrid and some other parts of Spain. Legend has it that it all started with King Ferdinand’s lisp that was copied by the Spanish nobility. Blows my mind! A speech impediment changing the way a language is pronounced.

However, it is not all that clear-cut when it comes to translating, say for instance, sales training materials for 10 Latin American countries. Let us not mention Mexico here, which is a complete different world, positively speaking, of course. I have seen the same translation being used for several countries, say for instance, Peru, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay, I guess the criteria used was that they were all located in the south tip of the continent? Not sure about that, but if you ask me, I would say you should aim to go as specific as possible, your target audience will thank you for it.

In Latin America Spanish has many different variants or dialects depending on the zones where it is spoken, mainly because of the vastness of the territory and different history. I have seen Latin American being broken down into geographical areas: Amazonian, Bolivian, Caribbean, Central American, Andean, Chilean, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Mexican, Northern Mexican, Paraguayan, Peruvian, Puerto Rican and Argentinian Spanish.

Food for thought…

The Ceiling

Monday morning: Hey, how was your weekend?

My German speaking colleage asks. Well, not much going on, all quiet – and I now write in English just for the sake of it: the ceiling was falling on my head. If you are English you probably look a bit puzzled now. If you are German and speak some English you may have a good laugh. Because it is a German saying so literally translated into English that it HURTS. What it actually means is that you were bored stiff. This is not what translation should be. It should reflect the feeling, the message, not the word. The translators have to be familiar enough with the message behind the word and be talented enough in their native language to get this message across.

With the same meaning but probably different words. But what if this “ceiling” was part of a marketing campaign with its marketing collateral all based on this picture. Then we’d have a problem now and it would have been good to be involved in an earlier stage.

When 5 words are not 5 words

We had a conference call today with one of our customers whose website we just translated into French. A dating portal. Thousands of words, but what we eventually discussed on the call with the translation team for half an hour broke down to 5. Well, no, let’s count precisely. Education level question: 3 words. Claim: 5. 8 words in total.

But these 8 words were crucial.

3 words: Within the dating website you had to tick your level of education. What if the German system hasn’t got anything to do with the UK, the French, Spanish or US system? It doesn’t, I can assure you. Will we leave the lonely hearts out there because they don’t know what to tick in this section? No. We need to make a decision.

Similar but not the same for the claim which appears on the landing page. It has to be catchy, respresent the target audience, they have to feel at home here.

We provided 5 examples with the back translation and one of our options convinced the customer. As it was targerted to the right generation, wasn’t a direct translation but conveyed a romatic feeling of the past. That was it. 5 words.

5 words of transcreation. According to the reasearch done by CSA, 15 years ago, only 3% of the translation buyer had heard of this concept. Today, about 43% are aware and embrace the idea of transcreation as a service. © CSA – Reaching Markets Through Transcreation

Local or International SEO?

If you have reached this blog post then you are probably already aware that SEO is a really important part of keeping a website high in the Google search rankings and ultimately increasing your business sales. However, what you may not be aware of is that there is a difference between local and international SEO.

The difference between international and local SEO

The fundamental elements of SEO remain within each of these types, in that you aim to improve your website’s content by using keywords to target a specific market. So really, the difference in the definitions between the two is very much what it says on the tin; local is aimed at the local markets while international is for the global ones.

The Specifics of Each Type

International SEO is for companies who want to offer their goods and services on a global scale. We have found that that this is most common in retail and ecommerce businesses. The principles are the same as SEO on a local scale – key words are hugely important but the intricacy arises in the detail , knowledge and understanding of a variety of cultures and languages –the content needs to appeal to multiple audiences.

Local SEO is usually used in smaller businesses or in businesses that want to appeal to very specific local markets. In this instance the SEO specialist will understand the SEO complexities of the local market that they are targeting – the keywords are very specific to the local language. This approach creates a very targeted campaign for a business but it does limit the exposure of that particular website.

What some people also don’t know is that different countries favour different search engines, so it is important to engage with an SEO consultant who understands what a respective country’s preferences are.

Undoubtedly there are pros and cons with local and international SEO, the most important thing is that from the start you engage with an international SEO expert who can help you choose the right option for your business.