Lost in translation

Are you speaking your customers’ language? If you’re not, you may be missing out on an opportunity to connect with them.

For example, we have been creating more Spanish-language marketing materials for clients because they are finding more of their customers speak Spanish. Rather than forcing a customer to read and comprehend a foreign language, they are choosing to provide them information in a way they are comfortable with and understand.

Translations extend beyond different languages. When you are creating materials, they should cater to the audience instead of the creator. A press release to general media about a lesser-known industry is going to need more plain language, examples and definitions than a press release about something more common, like oranges or baseball. A speech introducing a new technology will need focus on the benefits rather than the specifics to get the general public excited about it. Having captions on a video or setting up your website for screen reading capabilities will help audiences with hearing or visual impairments.

And sometimes, it’s even more granular. I was recently showing a coworker the process to set up a new client and saw their eyes widen as they tried to follow all the steps. That was a sign to me that while the process was necessary, it needed to be translated into simpler language.

Here are a few steps you can take to make sure your message isn’t getting lost in translation:

  1. Hire a professional. Whether it’s a language translator, an industry expert or a public relations firm, a professional is going to be well-versed in the language and understand the nuances associated with it.
  2. Share with others. If you are having content translated to Spanish, share it with native speakers and use their feedback to make adjustments. If you are creating a new process, ask someone to follow the steps and learn what made sense and what didn’t.
  3. Have an open mind. There is more than one way to get your message across, and we all can’t assume that if we understand it, others will too. One thing I have learned over the years is that the moment something needs to be explained is the moment it needs to be changed.

A final thought on translations — they are a way to make your content accessible. You may not be able to cover all the bases when translating but starting somewhere can be the difference between you and your competitors.

Director of Account Services Nadia Zerka has lots of experience with translation, between speaking three languages and explaining what a hi-res image is to a client and why using their Facebook profile picture won’t work as their head shot.

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