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The best way to translate your copy

Chanin Ballance
The best way to translate your copy Chanin Ballance

Organizations today realize the importance of aligning translation level to the content value, type, budget, and overall quality requirement. Marketing content is perhaps the most challenging of content to align to the right translation level. The category itself is a catch-all for various types of content, ranging from campaign slogans and banner ads to user guides, FAQs, data sheets, press releases, and web. Generally speaking, there are four service approaches to marketing copy -- Level 1, requiring the least amount of marketing skill, to Level 4, requiring the most.

Determining which treatment to apply can be challenging in any organization where brand positioning permeates much of the content. As a general rule, the more unique and message-driven the copy, the greater marketing skill required to treat the copy. For example, user guides and FAQ materials tend to require level one -- translation only. This content will not benefit from the added cost and time of specific "marketing translation" or a higher level treatment. At the other end of the spectrum, a print advertising campaign responsible for selling millions of dollars of product, for example, may require sophisticated, native copywriting to capture the heart and mind of the buyer. A lesser approach would not be adequate for such sensitive content with high visibility and influence.

So with the complexity laid out, this guide will help you navigate your options. The remainder of the brief will focus on how to decide when to apply the translation versus marketing translation service.

Level 1: When translation fits best

Level 1, translation, fits best when the main purpose of the content is to provide direction or instruction. It is not appropriate for content in which brand experience is important. A common example of a document that would benefit from traditional translation can be seen below. Unique terms and phrases can be conveyed effectively through either a marketing style guide or the team's long-term experience with the product.

While consistency in brand is important, instructionally focused content does not typically require or benefit from additional creativity or marketing skill. And applying it may increase time, cost, or decrease clarity of the content.

Term consistency and re-use help ensure instructions are clear and concise and that these authoring concepts drive the value of the translated version. For example, phrases or terms like "full featured conference station" and "online customizing of conference station and services" are best handled through the use of style guides, glossaries, or term lists that focus on consistent re-use and exact matching -- these ensure that the instructional value of the content is not lost in favor of more creative style.

Level 2: When marketing translation fits best

Marketing or creative translation fits best when the content contains headlines and key messages responsible for brand impression. In the example below, "All kinds of clouds. One kind of network," is a headline that creates a strong brand impression to new visitors. An exact or more literal translation of "clouds" may not convey the essence or intent of the message. If a traditionally trained linguist translates this, it might come out as "Many different clouds. One specific network," or even "Many styles of cloud. One style of network." While neither is a technically incorrect translation, neither conveys the sense, the emotion, the tightness, or the message that is impacting the English-speaking audience.

The same is true for many areas of the content above: "Together we are the human network," or "Experiment, Collaborate, Learn." The value of marketing translation clearly goes beyond consistency, accuracy, and efficiency, and now includes emotion, intelligence, and creativity. This process is slower and more expensive, but the value of an effectively conveyed marketing message in the right area can have a clear and definitive impact when communicating to a global audience. If your content's value is built on its brand or emotional influence to the customer, then specialized marketing translation is the right resource to apply to your in-country content. For highly messaged copy or particularly creative headlines and style, transcreation may also be appropriate. Transcreation is a native copyediting service over the translation itself, to ensure unique messages and brand attributes render with matched emotion and creativity.

While traditional translation used in the previous example does not risk losing the specific meaning of the term (the instructions would be conveyed), it does risk losing the essence, emotion, and intent of the content.

Marketing copy matrix -- at a glance

Chanin Ballance is CEO of viaLanguage.

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