Making that first step into an international market is one of the most exciting – and potentially terrifying – experiences for a growing SME. One of the primary challenges when opening the door to a new market is communicating in the language of that market. Even in a world where English functions as the lingua franca for many businesses, the vast majority of consumers still prefer to search, shop, and communicate in their native tongue.
To access that market of course, you need to start not just translating but also localizing your content – and, for that, you have to decide how and where to localize.
Localization, put simply, is the art of translating beyond word-for-word, but adapting the language to contexts familiar to the native audience. To take such an example, you might translate slightly differently depending on whether you’re speaking to a Spanish speaker from Argentina and one from Spain. Or just to take English, whilst you obviously don’t need to translate from British to American English, you do need to watch out for your ‘colors’ and ‘colours’, and swap your solicitor for an attorney. After all, a native speaker will be able to pick up immediately whether the translation feels organic or just copy/pasted over.
Knowing what and how to localize or translate is the other half of the battle. Here is where market research comes into play. What other players are involved in your target market? What information are competitors displaying?
Whilst your brand values will remain the same, how those values are communicated may be slightly different depending on the culture you are entering. For example, the symbolism associated with boutique, luxury brands is likely to be different in the UK compared to, say, China, and as such, your marketing imagery and language needs to be updated accordingly (that’s localization again!).
Once you’ve outlined your target audience and approach for your new market, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what needs translating. Your online presence will need to be updated to include the new market language, as well as basic company information. What gets translated next depends on your sector: e-commerce retailers will need product descriptions localized, while software companies will need their applications updated accordingly (imagine buying a software for your business – with the entire sales process taking place in Spanish – only to find out the software is only available in English!).
SMEs face particularly unique translation challenges. Smaller companies have fewer employees, and therefore fewer human resources. Of the SMEs surveyed in this article, 34% conducted all of their translation internally – which can be a painstakingly slow way of doing things. Additionally, only 14% used any form of machine translation to help speed up the process.
Machine translation is growing at an incredible rate, and represents the next step forward for many businesses, allowing you to balance volume, scalability and cost in one. ‘Gisting’ – the act of producing an early copy of translation to get the ‘gist’ of what your business does, is increasingly being done by machine translation processes.
Businesses of all sizes are enjoying the benefits of MTPE: machine translation plus post-editing by human linguists. This maintains the speed of the machine but adds that all-important human quality to your localized content. Working with a language service provider will help you decide which content should follow the MTPE approach, and which can be translated using just machine translation.
Translation and localization doesn’t have to be an expensive or daunting process anymore, thanks to machine-assisted translation. Be sure to undertake thorough market research before entering new, foreign markets, and identify the most important information to make available in that market’s local language. Then it’s over to the machines!
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