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Hoi An, Vietnam

Translation and cultural considerations go hand-in-hand

Posted 08 May 2014

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It’s so easy to fall at the first hurdle…

There are a few hurdles that present themselves to companies as soon as they decide they want to sell to customers overseas.

The global marketing mix needs to be considered. In this mix, language and translation is a major element, but it’s not the only consideration. Many companies fail to address cultural differences and norms between countries. We’ve all heard of the cases of business deals ruined by a Western businessman scribbling on his Oriental counter-part’s business card – or, worse still, hurriedly stuffing it into the rear pocket of his trousers.

Other factors that have to be taken into consideration include the demographic of your target market, buyer behaviour patterns, use of various media, and government legislation. For example, in China, the Internet is one of the most controlled and censored in the world. And where we have become accustomed to a world where Google is the only player in town, in China, Google is used by a tiny minority of the searching public. Other countries may not have the same level of broadband access or the Internet may not be as easily accessible to potential customers as it is here in the UK.

Branding also has to be considered. It is essential to check that your branding has no implications for how your product or service is perceived in foreign markets. Local regulations need to be checked to ensure that your product can be marketed successfully in your target country.

Global communication may involve a lot of sensitivity. For example, humour does not always translate well between certain cultures. Therefore, it is important to be aware of this when writing marketing materials in your native language, which you plan to have translated.

The Language barrier

English may be considered to be the language of the business world, but it’s a fact that customers prefer to buy products and services in their own language. Let’s not kid ourselves, in the on-line world, less than 30% of searches are actually carried out in English and even those searching in English spend twice as long on site if it’s written in their own language. Language can pose many problems, especially in translations if they are not handled correctly. Issues include literal translations of idiomatic expressions and incorrect interpretation of the source text, leading to nonsensical text that just confuses the reader.

Ensure that you choose a professional translation company to deal with. A good agency will understand the pitfalls involved in the translation process and won’t just treat it is a money-making exercise – getting the job done at any cost!

ALM Translations has proven credentials when it comes to translating websites and other promotional material for companies that export their products overseas. Websites are one of our specialities and we are happy to provide references and give examples of the different types of web sites we have translated.

Cultural issues

As mentioned, each country has its own unique culture. Things to bear in mind when marketing products and services overseas include checking that your product name doesn’t have any inappropriate meaning or is less appealing to your target audience. For example, check symbols and colours to ensure they don’t have other connotations for other cultures.

Technical issues

It’s all very well getting your website translated, but how will the language display once it’s been translated and localised? We have a tool that can show you a dummy version of one or two pages of your site, so that you can see for yourself how it would appear to your customers. We think you’ll be impressed.

As websites have evolved into being much more that static HTML pages, so have the technical intricacies of website translation increased. A typical website internationalisation project revolves as much around the most cost-effective approach to extracting and re-inserting the text as translating the words from one language to another. With years of experience working with complex websites and our own in-house localisation experts, we can work with your web developer to streamline and automate the process, and flow the text through translation tools, which provide significant quality assurance and cost-reduction benefits to our customers.

Sounds daunting…?

Like anything in life, when you get the right support, almost anything is possible. ALM’s technical and linguistic teams are experts in the field of website translations. We have many satisfied clients who would be happy to endorse us. We also offer a free 1-hour, no obligation consultation to companies who are considering website localisation. Get in touch today and speak to the experts.


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