Translation Guy Blog
To train globally, you’ve got to think locally. The more you speak the audience's language, the more effective your training will be.Read more
Is your language hip enough to spread the word about itself on global TV? Now it is! Many people want to learn languages like English or Spanish in order to enjoy entertainment like Hollywood movies or Mexican soap operas. But pop culture as a language motivator does not stop there. Now Korean dramas are helping to save endangered languages like Udmurt, a language spoken by 350,000 people in Russia, and Maori, a language spoken by 60,000 people in New Zealand.Read more
We’ve all been there. Someone tells a joke to a group and everyone laughs. Except you. If you share the same language and culture with this group, you might not think anything of it. Maybe it was just a stupid joke. Perhaps you never got around to watching that TV show the joke was about. Whatever it was, you probably moved on fairly quickly.Read more
The Millenial Generation was born between 1980 and 2004. For better or for worse, a lot has been written about these Millenials (or should I say, us Millenials). How they’re confident and open-minded, as well as narcissistic and lazy. How they’re tech-savvy and obsessed with social media. How they’re team players and multi-taskers. How they seek work-life balance as well as work that matters. How they get along with their parents, are delaying marriage and have a hard time finding a good job. How they’re educated and ethnically and racially diverse. How they want to choose how and where they access movies and content. How they want to choose what language to consume in. If you’re in business, an important question is: Do you speak Millenial? (I’m not talking about Internet speak here.) A significant percentage of Millenials in English-speaking countries speak a language other than English at home: 1 out of 4 in the United States and 1 out of 3 in the UK and Australia. According to SDL, a bit less than half of those Millenials are more likely to buy if addressed in the other language. Millenials have money to spend and a number of them will spend it when businesses cater not just to their needs, but to their language preferences. Some ways that businesses can cater to Millienials’ language preferences are:
- Have your website available in multiple languages.
- Offer product and service information in a variety of languages.
- Provide customer service or after-care in multiple languages.
There is an enterprising chocolate shop a block away from my house. Every time I walk by it seems to be announcing a different celebration on their sidewalk sandwich board: “Happy Mother’s Day!” “Happy Teachers Day!” “Happy Entrepreneurs Day!” “Happy XYZ!” I didn’t know there were so many things to celebrate with a basket of chocolate. We’re quite a ways off from September 30, but that day I hope to find “Happy International Translation Day!” colorfully scrawled in chalk. In addition to celebrating mothers, teachers, entrepreneurs and others, translators are in need of celebration too. Their job is to bridge continents and bring people together; they are an important part of our globalized society. And when we celebrate translators, by extension we celebrate language, communication and the written word. That’s definitely something to celebrate! International Translation Day is promoted by the International Federation of Translators (or FIT from its acronym in French) and is recognized by UNESCO. September 30 was chosen as the annual date since it is the feast day of Saint Jerome, the patron saint of translators, but International Translation Day is most certainly not a religious holiday. In 2014, the theme of International Translation Day will be Language Rights. This refers to the role that translators, interpreters and other language professionals can, do and should play to help those who find themselves in a country whose language is not their own. That could mean a tourist who is charged with a crime, an asylum seeker who needs social services, a person working abroad who has a dispute with his employer or any number of situations where language (and culture) can present challenges – and consequences – if someone does not understand what is going on and how to protect himself. Of course, I’ll have to check in with the chocolate shop on September 19 too. International Talk Like a Pirate Day might require some rum truffles.Read more
Global marketers who stick to English only reach a global audience of illiterates.
I was a soda jerk at Friendly’s Ice Cream when I first confronted the challenge of selling to the illiterate. Some jocular old coot asked me to read him the names of the ice cream off the sign. At first I thought it was just a demonstration of customer authority thing, but by flavor 28 I finally realized that his bravado was a cover for his inability to read. Entrepreneurial lesson learned: Illiteracy complicates the sale.
I used to think of that guy when I first got to Japan and my own illiteracy blossomed. I'd be looking hungrily in the restaurant windows at all those yummy-looking food models, unable to read the signs identifying each dish. I always got a smile and a helping hand when I would confess to passersby, “Excuse me. I can’t read. Can you tell me what this says.” Much preferable to the obligation entailed when you bring out someone from the restaurant to point and gesture.
Nowadays it's just like that on the English-language Web too, because most people in the world are illiterate in English. And most English-language web sellers are equally clueless when it comes to reaching those audiences.
"There is a longstanding assumption that enough people on the web feel comfortable using English, especially when buying high-tech or expensive products. Our research in 2006 proved that 72.4% of consumers surveyed were more likely to buy products in their native language. Our 2014, larger-scale behavioral study of consumers again validates this preference and, in fact, concludes this demand is increasing, with a full 75% of respondents saying they want the products in their native language," says CSA chief strategy officer Don Depalma.
3000 consumers were surveyed in Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Spain and Turkey in the official language of each country. Researchers looked at online language preferences and their impact on purchase decisions. 55% of respondents, including English speakers, reported buying only at websites where information is presented in their language. And that’s the good news. Those with limited English proficiency buy only in their own language 80% of the time.
More Scary Facts for English-only Marketers:
30% of the 3,002 respondents never buy at English-language sites, and another 29% rarely do.
Across the 10-country sample, 56% either spend more time on sites in their own language than they do in English, or boycott English-language URLs altogether.
Automotive and financial services are the products that consumers are least likely to buy if the website is not in their native language.
Exactly half would prefer that at least the navigation elements and some content appear in their language, and another 17% strongly share that preference. This finding contradicts the conventional industry wisdom that you should localize everything or nothing.
Global brands can trump language, causing buyers to choose such products over those with information in their own language. Egyptians constitute the nationality that is most infatuated with global brands (83% agree or strongly agree with the statement). Those least won over are the Germans (56%).
- There is more to cross-border purchasing behaviors than language. Privacy, payment methods, delivery, and customs are major components of a localization strategy and can affect the global online experience. Egyptian and Turkish respondents were most concerned about sites asking for personal information. What does all this mean? Keep translating. That’s where the money is. Any questions? Call me at 1-800-Translate. That number again... 1-800-872-6752.
Okay. So they’re not exactly secrets. More of a best practice kind of thing. But the TranslationGuy Blog spell-checker automatically replaces “best practice” with “Shock!!” But that won’t do in this post, because “Shock!!” Is exactly what we’re trying to avoid when we translate localize videos and other audio for non-English speaking audiences. It’s a cheap trick when done right and a great low-cost way to reach all the non-English surfers on the Internet, the other 90% content to surf in their own language, which is not English, thank you very much. Reaching these guys is no secret, either. Internationalize it. “Internationalize” is what you do to your production to make it easier to localize and translate down the line. Handy checklist follows:
- Provide your localization team with original files used to build your video.
- Do you plan to Sub or Dub? Subtitles/captions or audio recording?
- Will you embed close captions or integrate with the video player for on/off capability?
- Spec your player software, how it exports the captions and preferred file format.
- Recording for UN-Style, lip-sync or voice-over narration?
- Start localization only after your script is finalized!
- Approved script and pronunciation guide prepared before each recording session.
“Swiss Hospitality for Chinese Guests,” a how-to-handle-Chinese guide by the Swiss Hotel Association, is offensive, says Rafit Ali, CEO of Skiff.com, “an early-stage travel intelligence media company.” The hospitality guide starts out “well-meaning at least,” according to Ali , but soon crosses the insult frontier into “borderline offensiveness." Talking about the differences between ethnic groups often requires “cultural shorthand,” says Ali. Shorthand invites cliché, which encourages stereotypical thinlomg. And Stereotypes are racist, unless you call them "personas" in which case they are good marketing. Below, I’ve excerpted Ali’s own cherry-pick list of alleged cultural faux pas. You can read the entire report right here, no Swiss required. See what you think. 1. Chinese eat quickly: try and serve the food all at the same time and please don’t take it as a mark of disrespect when the Chinese leave the table immediately – as soon as they have put down their cutlery or chopsticks. 2. Avoid using too many milk products (cream, cheese, butter) and be moderate in the use of salt. 3. The Chinese like foods which are liquid and soft. However, baked goods are not very common in China. 3. Soft-boiled eggs are not so much appreciated. So please boil them longer. 4. Hot drinks (and often simply hot water) are preferred to cold drinks. 5. A basic selection of Chinese food, such as rice, stewed or fried vegetables and sliced meat (chicken, beef, veal, pork) or fish should be available at all meals. 6. Reserve a big, if possible round, table for your Chinese guests: The group travelling together will, in principle, prefer to eat together. 7. Chinese like to combine different dishes and tastes: It is appreciated if all courses are served together. The soup will, in principle, be served at the end of the meal. 8. Together with the classical European cutlery, chop sticks – placed on the right side of the bowl or dish – should be provided for each person. Chop sticks should never be stuck into the food – this will be associated with bad luck or even death. Otherwise the usual European tableware and decoration will be appreciated by your Chinese guests. 9. Chinese eat early: Breakfast at 7 a.m., lunch at noon and dinner at 7 p.m. are quite standard eating hours for Chinese tourists. I’m no expert on Chinese eating habits, so I don’t know if these tips are true or false, except for the part about sticking your chopsticks in the rice, which you never want to do. The big problem with clichés is that the truer they are, the more likely they are to keep coming up. Like the Energizer Bunny, case in point. Another question, or maybe two. Is it racist or hospitable to give a Chinese guest a pair of chopsticks? Or is it both? That answer will be provided by the chopstick recipient, not us bloggers. Tourists vote with their wallet. My wife, who is of the Japanese persuasion, to this day will not enter a Benetton store, United Colors or no, because once 20 years ago, she felt she was being treated poorly on account of her ethnicity by a store clerk (also of Asian background, curiously.) Unforgivable and never forgotten. I’m sure this story dredges up searing memories of ethnic humiliation for some of my readers too. Fortunately and hopefully more often and not, travellers are treated extra nice, simply because we are foreigners bearing wallets. My wife envies the special treatment I always receive from friendly people curious about my hairy arms and long nose. So I guess racism is like many other gifts. It’s the thought that counts. I’d love to hear from readers with stories about the indignities of racist tourist treatment — getting kicked out of swimming pools and having doors slammed in your face and such — since your suffering will stir up traffic to promote our organic search ranking. Happy stories of special foreign guest-handling would be even nicer. Thank you for your participation.Read more
Global is local when it comes to localization. No country is an oasis in the vast sands of localization. The blazing, all-seeing digital eye of the web leaves no shadow for local tastes. Local mores are left in the dust when cross-border memes go viral. What happens in Saudi Arabia stays in Saudi Arabia no more. This was a problem that IKEA ran into when they adapted a catalog destined for Saudi Arabia by completely airbrushing every female form out of the catalog. This was done in anticipation of the conservative kingdom’s repressive notions of modesty. That was easy. The svelte swedish models in IKEA are not styled by Victoria's Secret, but any graven images of women, no matter how tastefully pajama-ed, are taboo in Saudi Arabia. Or so IKEA thought. But that’s a localization myth. "We're beyond that now in Saudi Arabia," said Eman Al Nafjan, a writer who tweets as @Saudiwoman and does a nice blog, too. "With Internet and satellite TV, there's really no such thing anymore as blacking out women or airbrushing out women. I would be upset if something like Google was doing it, but for IKEA to do it, that's just marketing — it's not such a big deal." True, except that marketing is a big deal, so the price of displeasing customers at home now has to be weighed against local concerns — imaginary or otherwise — farther afield. Sweden's free newspaper Metro reported on IKEA’s decision to erase the women of Saudi Arabia. They published before and after photos of the Swedish and Saudi versions of the catalog. The report raised questions in Sweden about IKEA's commitment to gender equality, and that's no place that a home furnishings marketer wants to be. Sweden’s Minister for Trade Ewe Boring said the retouched images are a sad example of the oppression of women. As she put it, “You cannot retouch women from reality." With a tagline like that, and global concern over the rights of women in the Mideast, you have a story that's bound to attract as much attention as a tall ice tea on the Erg. IKEA regrets the incident. It is interesting to note the decision to airbrush didn’t even get to Saudi Arabia, where the locals could have set Stockholm straight on local mores. The decision was made in Sweden. Never hurts to check, but.This un-researched kind of over-correction is not uncommon in localization circles. After all, you can't be too careful, can you? Well, as this case clearly demonstrates, you can, if your publication is being read around the world, and is instantly available to anyone with a casual interest in the subject of women's rights. IKEA was quick to apologize for such an egregious feminist faux pas. "As a producer of the catalog, we regret the current situation," they said. "We should have reacted to the exclusion of women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalog since it does not align with the IKEA Group values. We are now reviewing our routines to safeguard a correct content presentation from a values point of view in the different versions of the IKEA catalog worldwide.” IKEA wrote in their annual report for 2011 that they have been "very fortunate to share experiences and learn from people of many countries, cultures and backgrounds. We continue to grow and develop with coworkers, customers, suppliers and partners in 41 countries. And everyone can see our Swedish roots — but they can hear the accent of each of these countries, too." Great chance for IKEA to affirm values and promote its brand.Read more