Addressing Cross-Cultural Issues during Website Translation

August 24th, 2009
Company owners and their marketing departments should be aware that whenever they attempt to expand their businesses globally, they'll have to do so by conveying their product message, promotions, and overall corporate identity to the respective vernacular of their target markets. Furthermore, their audience will probably have a cultural background that's different from theirs—and it matters a lot. It's surprising to see how many people believe that creating a website in a foreign tongue merely entails translating the existing content into another dialect. That's a common blunder among most enterprises. If your company intends to globalize itself, then read the rest of this article carefully. Cross-Cultural Issue Awareness No translation service on earth—whether it's a solo flight one or a professional translation firm complete with machine and human translation features—could ever produce work that could beat actual market research on your company's part. There are many multilingual sites out there, but very few actually put their intended message in the context of a particular culture that's native to their new audience. You don't just need a professional translation; you need outright website localization, because translation services can only do so much with the content your website already has. In order to truly optimize your organization's global expansion, you need to think out of the box and address certain cross-cultural issues that are bound to appear. It's essential for you to adapt your website in terms of content, style, design, and overall presentation to the mentality of your audience: your prospective visitors. Website Localization
  • You Are Not Your Own Audience: You are not creating a personal website for yourself. You need to cater to your visitor, and you need a lot more than just a professional translation of your mostly English content for Asians, Latinos, or Europeans. Forget nitpicking about machine and human translation services—catering to the wants and needs of your consumers is your foremost priority. The credo, "The customer is always right!" has always worked before, so now you merely have to adapt it to another culture and socio-political backdrop in order to make it work once more.
  • Research and Learning: Self-education is important here. If you're part of your company's marketing or promotions department, this is a must. If you're one of the higher-ups, a bit of awareness on your part will do your company good, if only to understand what your marketing department is presently planning. Learning everything about your foreign consumers will save you a lot of money and bring you profit in the long run.
  • Catering to Your Audience: Take off your own shoes, forget about your red-blooded patriotism for a second, put on your consumer's shoes, and attempt to understand his situation. What's in it for him? What will he get out of visiting your website? How can you make your website appealing to him as a foreign demographic? This is a basic promotional tactic that you can apply on an international or global scale.
To be more specific, avoid sayings, proverbs, metaphors, similes, slang, colloquialisms, and jokes that, more likely than not, will offend or go over the heads of your international audience. On that note, learn the sayings, proverbs, metaphors, similes, slang, colloquialisms, and jokes in the country you're targeting. Get a culture guide if you can. Avoid committing any faux pas as much as possible. Finally, widen your horizons and understand the needs and wants of your would-be customers.

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