Writing for Marketing Translation

Why Well Written Copy Results in the Best Marketing Translation

marketing translation servicesToday we begin a multi-part blog series focused on tips, tricks and best practices for marketing translation services. In the series we will walk you through some of the steps, and will give guidance as to how to always receive the best translation of your marketing materials. Whether you need your website, advertising materials, product manuals, instructions, product packaging, branding messages, brochures, catalogs, presentations or any other marketing materials translated, you need to make sure your message is correct and consistent in EVERY language and across ALL materials.  The first step in making sure your translations are the best they can be is to make sure that the English copy is the best it can be. The copy needs to be concise, clear, written in proper English and finalized before it goes to your professional translation company.

Clear and Concise

The best marketing translation typically comes from copy with very precise language. It’s important that the English documents you submit to your professional translation service be clearly written in proper English to reduce the number of questions from the translator. If the copy is ambiguous, or could have more than one meaning, the translator will not know which meaning is correct and will need to seek clarification, which costs time.  For example, the phrase “hospital payor” isn’t precise, it could mean the patient, an insurance company, or a hospital benefactor. Phrases and words that have more than one meaning can lead to bad translations and inconsistent messaging.  Even the best translation company can’t fix bad writing. Bad writing always equals bad translation.

Avoid Tricky Language, Humor and Slang

Do not use slang, colloquialisms, idioms, or improper grammar. Catchy marketing phrases do not work across cultures and languages – sometimes they don’t even work in the same country in different locales, or in different countries with the same language.  Consider the word “wicked” – it has a positive connotation in the Northeastern part of the U. S., but it means bad in other parts of the United States. There was also the example of years ago when Electrolux was thrilled with the response to their slogan “It sucks” in the UK. You can imagine how well that slogan went in the United States!

Avoid humor and tricky grammar.  Even within the United States, what New Englanders find humorous may hit a flat note in southern California. This applies when translating humor to a new language and culture. The same holds true when using tricky grammar, clever taglines, as well as commonly accepted categorizations.  A tagline or marketing slogan that is improperly received can irreparably harm a company’s chances at success in a new market.  For example, when Kentucky Fried Chicken tried to use its American slogan “Finger-Lickin’ Good” in China, the tagline translated into “Eat Your Fingers Off”.

Plan for Expansion

Remember that translating from one language into another is not as simple as changing each word in a document to the new language.  Translation expands the written copy, and it can be 20 – 30% longer depending on the language. Often marketing materials have quite a bit of descriptive, elaborate language which often doesn’t translate well into a new language. This expansion can result in a confusing translation, or in one that is overly long and won’t fit into the allotted space on a product package, a presentation, a graphic, or an advertisement. To get the highest quality marketing translation it is best for the copy to be as precise and non-verbose as possible.  A favorite example of expansion in translation is the word “Fahrvergnugen” used by Volkswagen. This is one German word, but when translated it becomes four words in English – “the pleasure of driving” – that’s 4 times the number of words and 80% more type-space.

Use Repeat Copy Across Materials

Another important practice is to use repeat copy across all your materials.  This will provide consistency of message in English as well as in the other languages you translate your materials into. Plus, if you use an experienced marketing translation agency, they will probably be using a translation memory tool which will help reduce costs on repeated copy.  What a translation memory tool, or TM tool, does is it stores “segments” (phrases, words, or short sentences) that have been translated previously for your company. When a new document is submitted for translation it is added to the TM tool which then matches the segments to previously translated copy and provides the previous translation to the linguist. This not only helps keep your translations consistent but it helps reduce the number of words that need to be manually translated each time – thus reducing cost.

Only Submit Finalized Copy

Finally, the materials given to the marketing translation service should not only be well written, concise, and void of local humor and expressions, they should be the FINAL copy. If words are removed or changed from the original copy after the marketing translation is complete, it is not just a matter of removing or changing the same words in the translation. Last minute changes complicate the translation process and make keeping a clear message and accurate version control very difficult. To avoid this, always wait till the copy is final before sending it to a marketing translation service.

A reputable marketing translation agency like Rapport International will catch these types of potential issues, and help you translate appropriately for your target market, BEFORE a mistake happens. Here at Rapport International we get to know each client’s needs and wants, and will deliver your translations on-time and how you want them EVERY TIME.

Please come back in 2 weeks for the next installment of our marketing translation series, Culturally Appropriate Marketing Translation.