Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Multilingual communication on social media

Social media have become an important feature of business communication strategies – for some even highly essential. Communicators at many leading brands generally understand that content needs to be as customized as possible for (potential) clients, yet their communication on social media often exists in a single language only.

Multilingual communication on social media
Source: AdobeStock

There are, in fact, many good reasons why marketers and social media managers have opted not to localize social media content. However, times change. 
Here are a few myth-busters that might make you reassess the social media content strategy for your international markets.

1. English social media content is sufficient and machine translation will do the rest. 

WRONG. It's perfectly understandable that brands, mainly small or mid-sized, cannot always manage separate social media accounts for each individual key market in different languages. And while it is true that machine translation provides a certain extent of understanding to non-English speakers, the business potential of your messages drastically decreases. 
If you are serious about your international expansion, make sure you include social media content localization into your strategy, at least for 1 or 2 of your key markets. Then, you can either:
a) hire a social media copywriter to produce content that is subsequently localized by a professional translation services provider, or 
b) hire native sales reps with copywriting and social media skills for each key market.

2. Social media don't support professional content localization.

CORRECT. They only do it partially. The common practice for brands was to manage multiple accounts on social media platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), each account for each key market with different language, for a very prosaic reason: there used to be no way to communicate different language versions of a message via one single post. 
However, globalization is strong. So, it's been over a year already since Facebook introduced the option for multilingual posting on fan pages, or better said of adding non-machine translation to the original post content. Social media managers can actually publish the very same posts in various language versions, while users will see it in their preferred language settings of Facebook. As long as the language is not supported yet, the post will display in its original language. It is safe to assume that other social media platforms will follow Facebook and introduce better localization options for their business pages.

3. Translation services providers are not flexible enough to supply translations for social media content.

VERY WRONG. Translation service providers have been forced to amend their business models and translation techniques because of online environments and the increased volume and speed of content consumption on every level. By hiring social-media-savvy translators, using tweaks on social media platforms in combination with upgrading their translation tools and optimizing content channels, the translation providers are eager to upgrade your content to a truly international level.

So...what are you waiting for? :) 
Contact your translation services provider and begin a discussion on how to localize your social media content for your key international markets today and don't let opportunities slip by you again...

Monday, March 13, 2017

Language facts: The difference between French and Canadian French

French. The stereotype language for romantic souls and fancy chefs. And one of the few languages in the world with the richest vocabulary. It is also an umbrella name for a whole range of French language variants, e.g. Canadian French. The latter is spoken by around 12 million speakers, being a native tongue to 7 million, mainly in the Quebec province. This is due to historical reasons, as the Quebec city and settlements in its surroundings were established by French colonists in 16th and 17th century (originally, the French were up to find a new trade route to China, while they "stumbled" upon North America instead...). As new settlers poured to the "New France" from Europe, they naturally brought a piece of home with them – including European social customs and values, and the bubbly French language. 

Canadian French vs. Metropolitan French
Source: AdobeStock.com

However, as the mixture of arrivals originated from different regions with different accents (especially the Parisian French are worth mentioning here), the Canadian French language was created as a fusion of classical French and regional dialects of the first-comers. 
This development naturally caused the most visible difference of the classic vs. Canadian French as we know it today: the accent. Mainly vowels pronunciation is more "nasal" in Canada.
The difference is so obvious, that native Canadian French speakers who haven't come across the European (or Metropolitan) French before actually admit having trouble understanding the language and vice versa. Metropolitan French is "cleaner" in terms of pronunciation (maybe similar to standard British English and American English). There even is a term joual used to describe the working-class Canadian French, in a rather derogatory way. 

Another observable difference even to non-native speakers is the vocabulary used in Canada in comparison to France. Canadian French, mainly in the Quebec region, is heavily (and quite naturally) influenced by English – a phenomenon actively resisted in France (walkman, computer, and NATO could tell stories..). Maybe this inherited overprotectiveness of the language determines a tendency of Canadian French to balance the English influence by trying to preserve the "original French", often to the amusement of European French (e.g. the STOP sign that says simple "STOP" in France reads "ARRÊT" in Quebec...). Interestingly, this approach affected Canadian French swear words, some of which have a religious context and are only offensive in Quebec, while having a regular meaning in France (obviously, most swear words used in France apply in Quebec).

Indeed, in many aspects Canadian French is considered quite traditional, while the actual words used can be right out of its closeness to the United States.

Similar to British vs. American English, Canadian French goes easy on formality as well as grammar in comparison with Metropolitan French. The informality of the language is what mostly causes the misunderstandings by Metropolitan French speakers. It is also the reason why Canadian French don't like to consume European French shows and movies and prefer home production. 
Nevertheless Canadian French is not a standardized language in itself, the grammatically correct form is standard French. The fact of the world, however, is that Canadian French exists as a separate French version. When we translate to Canadian French, we use French Canadian speakers – and the result is truly different from standard, European French.

Go with the locals, and write as the locals do.

Monday, March 6, 2017

How to communicate at international exhibitions #2: Localize your channels

Attending international trade fairs or exhibitions is stressful, especially if you want to push a small or mid-sized company onto an international scene – not just for the staff involved, but also for your promotion as well as your localization budget (= how you tell people in another language want you are doing and want to do + how you want to bring them aboard).

We have already shared several tips concerning the right language choice for your international presentation, but the presentation channels and their right mix are no less important. 

What communication channels to localize when attending international exhibitions?
Source: AdobeStock.com

If your budget is tight, or you lack experience in communicating with international customers, here are a few tips to keep on your checklist when it comes to communication channels usage and localization priorities:

1. Know your communication mix. And mix well.

Before you even start thinking about localization of your message, think first of the communication channels you use, as well as the sales techniques you plan to implement on the exhibitions site (needless to say that all the channels as well as techniques should be tested for efficiency before you throw them into the communication mix). 
It is safe to assume that the days of having one nice catalog and talking it through with potential clients prior to handing them a v-card are over. Your approach needs to be multi-channel and integrated from offline to online. Basically, the channels are a thread and your message is the needle. Mix your offline channels (such as printed catalogs, flyers, etc.) with your online channels (social media, and mainly your website) and define a clear path to conversion for all channels involved. 

2. Localize everything that passes the road to conversion.

Even if you don't have resources to spend on fancy multilingual promotion material, if your product/promo message is clear and consistent through your chosen channels, and as long as those channels lead to ultimate conversions (and the path is not very long), you want the content involved to be localized. Mainly the entire path leading from initial recognition of your brand and products to the conversion goals you set for yourself should be localized for the target markets. As presumably your conversions mostly take place online, on your website (registrations, order placement, etc.), the funnel that leads to profit-making does have a top priority for localization – even if it would include only partial localization of the entire content you work with (e.g. not every single sub-menu or section of your website needs to be localized, if it's not directly involved in the conversion path, nor do you need to localize products you don't plan to push).

3.  The localization devil hides in forgotten content snippets.

Having printed material such as flyers or catalogs translated is not that problematic because the content involved is pretty much clear and visible in one place. The fun starts online, where the channels may include a number of notifications, additional information, automatically sent confirmation messages, or error calls. Such content snippets could be easily forgotten in the process, yet might interrupt the conversion path and consequently fail the acquisition (with the worst-case scenario of losing potential profit because of it), despite the rest of the content having been perfectly localized. 
A typical example: Your potential client successfully walked through almost the entire conversion path (that was nicely localized), but failed to fill in the order form correctly. The error message and instructions that pop-up are not translated. Such situation produces pointless drop-offs. You could, of course, be lucky if your potential clients are very motivated to buy from you. In such case, they would likely try to order again, and will almost certainly leave your business if they once again get the exact same unlocalized error message. So, keep your eye on the details.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Language facts: Malay

Malaysian (sometimes called also Malacca) is the official language of Malaysia and Singapore. The language is also known as Standard Malay and is closely related to Indonesian. It is the native language of some 10 million people but is spoken by many ethnic minorities and the overall number of speakers is now estimated to about 290 million, making it a major world language.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Source: AdobeStock.com

Language with mixed heritage

Malaysian was declared the official language of Malaysia in 1957 and is today officially known as Bahasa Melayu. While Malaysian is the sole official language of Malaysia, English is still widely used throughout the country, especially in professional and commercial fields, and also in superior courts. In fact, the language can be said to be a mixture of many languages as it has borrowed many words from Arabic, Indian dialects, Persian, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese dialects, and lately English in the colonial era. In the field of science and technology, many English terms have been adopted. It is then heavily influenced by the Indonesian language. Around the 15the century, Malay was even a lingua franca of the Malacca Sultanate during which time the language evolved fast, mainly thanks to the big influence of Islamic texts. Malaysia being bordered by seas on the east and west coasts as well as in the south, Malay has also been widely used also as a language of trade.


Malaysian uses the standard 26 letters in the Latin alphabet without any diacritics. 

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Monday, February 20, 2017

How to communicate on international exhibitions #1: Choosing the right language

It may be once in 5 years, annually, or twice a month, but no matter how often you promote your company and products on international events, such as trade fairs or industry exhibitions, presenting internationally and transferring your message from the company's native language to the languages of potential target markets is not an easy task to accomplish. Unless, of course, you are prepared. 
How to communicate on international exhibitions #1: Choose the right language
Source: AdobeStock.com

As translation and localization of your content are demanding both on time and resources, it's prudent to evaluate localization priorities and the languages to focus on. Here are few things to keep in mind in this area:

1. Have all your content prepared and maintained in English – even if it's not your native language.

English is the language business of present times, there is hardly any dispute about that. Because of the popularity and extensive use of English in basically all areas of modern communication, the best translation rates you can usually get on the market are for language combinations involving English. Eventually, when the need arises and you need to translate from your not-so-common native language to not-so-common languages of your target markets, you won't pay a fortune for a translation of an "exotic language pair", but a reasonable price of the english-external language pair.

2. English is international, but you want to be local.

No, it isn't contrary to the first point and, of course, this doesn't mean you absolutely must communicate in English, especially not if you've already done your homework regarding the first point. 
It's merely not safe to presume everyone of your potential clients understands English or the even more dangerous idea: that since they do understand, localization of your message to the languages of your target markets is just a waste of resources. Even if your company is relatively small and headquartered in a non-English speaking country, once you decide to step onto the international scene and wish to appeal to other non-English speakers, going the extra mile will pay off. Think of it this way: When you're in a foreign environment, it feels good to stumble upon somebody who speaks your language in the sea of the current lingua franca, doesn't it? 

3. Integrate localization into your marketing strategy.

As translation and localization are closely tied to the company content and overall message, these undertakings typically are handled by the company's marketing department (and/or the documentation department). After all, analyzing the opportunities and preparing for expansion into new markets is what marketers do. Your very presence at international exhibitions or trade events is a direct result of the company's decision to focus on certain markets and clientele. The marketing department should implement localization into all international development strategies and determine the level of localization and its priorities for key international markets. As a consequence, the company message and content should be customized and localized on all communication levels, from native sales reps through localized websites and sales material, even down to paid online advertising.

To learn more about the different forms of multilingual communication and the channels to employ for your next exhibition presence, read our following blog.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Language facts: Romanian

Romanian is a Romance language, primarily used in Romania and also Moldova, being an official language in both countries, as well as of the European union. It is closely related to other Latin languages, such as Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian, and evolved from Vulgar Latin. It is also related and very similar to Moldavian language, used in Moldavia. Romanian has around 24 million native speakers.

Bucharest - University Square
Source: AdobeStock.com

Romanian or Moldavian?

Romanian and its grammar rules were constituted in the second half of the 18th century. Interestingly, the first Romanian grammar was published outside Romania, in Vienna. As with most of the East European and Balkan languages, Romanian also got formed by wars, conflicts, and nationalistic brawls of Romanians and Moldovans and, obviously, the Russian and Ottoman influence in the region. In fact, Romanian and Moldovan are merely two names for the very same language (the only real difference is the script – Moldavian is written in Cyrillic, while Romanian in Latin). 
After the Russians annexed the Bessarabia region (the part of Moldova that used to be under the Ottoman rule) in 1812, "Moldovian" was established as an official language, while the area itself became de facto bilingual, with Russian being the language of the higher class. Romanian was, however, banned from official administrative use and was taught as a foreign language only. This subsequently led to the awakening of a Romanian national movement that asked for the Romanian language to be reinstated in schools as the main language of education.
During the Soviet era, the term "Moldovan" was forced through to describe the Romanian language, which was meant to destabilize the Romanian nationalist movement and try to marginalize Romanian as merely a dialect. 


In addition to the standard English alphabet, Romanian has specific sounds …Ă, Î, S, Ţ.
A Ă Â B C D E F G H I Î J K L M N O P Q R S Ş T Ţ U V W X Y Z a ă â b c d e f g h i î j k l m n o p q r s ş t ţ u v w x y z

Monday, February 6, 2017

Why innovative manufacturers should translate their sales material into Scandinavian languages

Scandinavia is well-known for its highly innovative and progressive approach to society and development as a whole, as well its industry. Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland) are leaders in what is called the green industry. In fact, out of the top 5 eco innovators in the European Union, three of them are Scandinavian countries – with Denmark's industry being by far the most eco innovative. According to 2016 Yale's Environmental Performance Index (EPI), the first 4 ranks in the list of top environmental-friendly countries are occupied by Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark.

Innovative manufacturers should translate their sales material into Scandinavian languages.
Source: AdobeStock.com

Scandinavians are willing to pay more for innovative products

Scandinavians simply prefer what's transparent and clean, and this notion transfers into the consumer behavior itself, which is demonstrated in an observable tendency to invest more into innovative, energy-efficient and nature-saving products. 
In other words, if you are a manufacturer that has invested a lot into innovative technologies and eco-friendly products in order to set you apart from the competition, Scandinavia represents a focus consumer market where the investment will pay off in a fast and straightforward way. Based on Euromonitor research, Nordic consumers tend to put high relevance to factors such as energy efficiency, durability, design and overall functionality in their decision-making, while the price becomes the significant determinant only if the above-mentioned factors are met. As a result, Scandinavian consumers are willing to pay extra, e.g. for appliances and consumer gadgets in the highest energy class.

Green is good but often off-scale

Even though the demand is there, the supply of eco-friendly products is sometimes limited for small local producers who are often unable to compete against the bigger players supported by multinational capital and economies of scale. For innovative manufacturers and multinational companies who are able to serve the market and speak its language, time for expansion couldn't be better. 
So, maybe it's time to start thinking about translating your catalogs, product information and sales material into Danish, Swedish, Finish, or Norwegian and then head north to try to boost sales?