Almost everybody has heard about localization and about the difference between translation and localization etc. Roughly, localization is defined as “the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market”, but actually it goes beyond that: localization issues can also occur within a company, where different departments use different terminologies. So how can you avoid such problems in order to ensure a flawless sales process?
Discuss your plans with a local market specialist who will be able to explore and consider the cultural and language sensitive issues. Your product name may be as neutral as possible in your native language, but in the target language it may have unwanted or even negative connotations. There are many such marketing errors which surely had a negative impact:
- Chevrolet Nova. The American car manufacturer tried to get to the South-American market with their Nova model, but in Spanish, “No va” literally means “No go”, and the meaning was extrapolated to “it won’t go / it won’t function”.
- Electrolux campaign “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”. The Swedish vacuum cleaner manufacturer wanted to boost their sales in America, but their message, as innocent and grammatically correct as it was, had a terrible impact.
- Parker pens slogan “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”. When reaching the Spain market, it became “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.
- Pepsi slogan “Come alive with Pepsi generation”. This created serious problems in China, where the meaning ended up to “Bring Your Ancestors Back to Life”.
- Powergen Italia website. Initially, the website of the Italian maker of battery chargers was “www.powergenitalia.com”, as nobody in the company thought about how it would read in other languages… (they recognized their mistake and changed the name to www.batterychargerpowergen.it)
You don’t want to be in such situations, so you might want to consider some of the following aspects when going global:
- When creating your content, avoid slang terms or idioms that could have non-equivalents in different languages. If you cannot avoid them, be sure you hire the best localization team.
- Provide as much context as possible to avoid confusion / ambiguities. An experienced translator, when asked what a certain word means, will always ask: “In what context?”, as s/he knows same words / phrases may have different meanings depending on the context.
- Add comments and notes to your files. Sometimes, the documents can contain a very specific terminology, so explanations regarding the description or the way of operation of certain devices etc. may be very useful for translators.
- Add images. You know what they say: a picture is worth a thousand words, and this can apply to your documents too.
You can deal with all these issues by working closely with a translation agency and using their terminology management service. As fancy as it may sound, it is not rocket science, it just involves managing certain tools that make your life easier: translation memories and glossaries. Modern translation software ensures that every piece of translated information is stored in a database, called translation memory. This is very practical for recurring phrases, as identical terms are translated in exactly the same way, the software “searching” for the closest match in the memory.
It is useful, but not enough. Same phrases may have been translated in several ways, depending on the domain, so how can you pick up the most appropriate one? Here come the glossaries: they help ensure key terms are translated in certain ways based on particular contexts.
Take a look, for instance, at the example below where, in the Translation results pane on the right, the red hits indicate the translation memory matches, while the blue hits indicate the glossary matches:
In a glossary you can add as much explanatory information as you want, e.g. domain (engineering, marketing, social sciences etc.), source (it may be your website), examples of use (context in which the terms are used, departments of your company within which they are used etc.), parts of speech (a term such as “View” may be a verb for a button or a noun for a label) and so on.
A glossary can help you get out of trouble in case of abbreviations that can have several meanings. For instance, a company operating in the medical sector may use the “EMA” abbreviation. Depending on the context, this can mean either “Emergency Medical Assistant” or “European Medicines Agency” (the EU agency). Likewise, a company operating in the environment sector may use the “EEA” abbreviation, which can mean either “European Economic Area” or “European Environment Agency”. Simply clicking on either of such glossary entries will give you helpful information.
Things can get more complicated when you are an international company, with offices located in many countries across the world. In order to make sure everybody uses exactly the same terminology, you must have a glossary that all people in the company stick to. This is particularly useful in case of identical terms with different meanings specific to various departments. For instance, how will you handle the term “grease”, as it can be translated in several ways? A glossary will give you alternatives:
Now you’ve seen how easy and complex it can be at the same time. Just remember to explain to your language vendor what you want, who is your target client, what you want to acquire, what your product/service is designated for. Help them understand you and you will get a perfectly localized content.
About Bogdan Dusa
Bogdan is a language professional with a 20-year experience in the translation industry. He’s passionate about technical details of translation software and how they can be leveraged to improve quality. He’s been with Octopus Translations since 2014 as QA Manager, in charge of supervising the overall QA process, from quality planning to quality control and quality improvement, supervising the creation and maintenance of terminology resources (translation memories and glossaries) or performing final quality checks of the translated materials. He’s also our Tech Support both for our workmates and our vendors.