Conquering the complexity of localization

Conquering the complexity of localization

Having the mindset that potential buyers or clients will “probably speak English” drives inadequate localization. But research shows that people are less likely to buy products that don’t appeal to them or use services that they don’t understand. In fact, the same research reveals that 56% of consumers believe that the ability to obtain product information in their own language is more important than price.

Understanding your customers and adapting your content and products to meet their needs is the essence of localization. Many businesses fail to localize their marketing content, website and product brochures because of the time, effort and money involved. But this needn’t be the case. Partnering with a translation and language service provider (LSP) takes the complexity out of localization.

Here’s how the right LSP can make the process an absolute breeze:


Product planning

When launching a new service or product, planning how to appeal to an international customer base and how to best handle the multicultural aspects of your product should be done right from the start. During the product design phase, developers should be aware of any cultural allusions and regional colloquialisms that could be tricky to localize. Everyone involved in the conceptualization, marketing and design of the product must be informed that what they are producing will be sold to a diverse audience. Making necessary changes at this stage is far easier than attempting to resolve internationalization issues after the product has been debuted.  It’s also important to ensure that your LSP has the tools you need to get the job done. At Rubric, we offer a holistic localization strategy – from conceptualization to launch. And our translation automation tools can be customized to meet your unique needs.


Designated project manager

An in-house person who is tasked with overseeing the entire localization process is essential. The reality is that localization is a rather complex undertaking. It shouldn’t be assigned to a staff member as an additional responsibility – it’s a full time commitment; especially in cases when you have a complex product or service and you need content translated into several languages. When we worked with Amway, our project managers ensured that there was effective communication between all stakeholders and that content was localized by the stipulated deadline for each market.


Monitoring changes

Often, there are various iterations of web copy or a product brochure, meaning that the content has to be changed several times. To make things easier, content updates should be scheduled in advance so that the localization process happens smoothly and all changes are executed properly. Timing is everything, so clearly brief your LSP about when the product is being launched. Again, this is where an effective project manager is key. When we partnered with AccuWeather, we knew we had to provide them with around the clock and localization services. Being made aware of these tight deadlines from the start of the project made it easier for us to meet their needs.

Understanding the complexity of localization helps you make the process quick and easy. It’s important to partner up with an LSP who will ensure that you introduce international customers to your offerings in the best way possible. Take a look at this Amway Case Study, to see how we helped them take the complexity out of their international expansion.

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Small translation errors turned big

Small translation errors turned big

There’s a difference between describing a meal as ‘good’ and describing a meal as ‘delicious’. There’s a difference between recounting a sunset as ‘nice’ and calling it ‘magnificent’. And finally, there is a difference between dubbing a hike ‘hard’ and characterizing it as ‘formidable’.

In each of these instances, the words technically mean the same thing but the intensity varies quite a bit. Was the meal acceptable or was it really tasty? Choosing the right words to accurately convey exactly what you are trying to say is important in all aspects of life. In business, when it comes to translating a slogan, website or product brochure from one language to another, understanding the different nuances and subtleties of what the words really mean is essential.

Just because someone can speak multiple languages doesn’t mean they’re qualified to offer language translation services. We’ve compiled a list of translation faux pas to illustrate why translations should be left to the professionals.

Anyone for a naked flight?

When American Airlines wanted to advertize the leather seats available to first class passengers, they opted for the very literal slogan: “Fly Leather”. Fair enough. But when they translated this tagline into Spanish, the language got a little muddled up and the slogan was translated into: “Fly naked”.

Peaches delivering babies

Sometimes, it isn’t the actual words that are the problem. Analogies and common phrases that are popular in one country can be misunderstood in another. For example, Japanese folklore sees babies being delivered to their parents on a giant floating peach. Which explains why Proctor & Gamble’s Japanese Pampers campaign fell flat. Their packaging featured a stork delivering a baby to happy parents, which Japanese consumers had never been exposed to.

A pen that makes you pregnant

Did you know that the Spanish word “embarazar” means “impregnate”, not embarrass? When Parker Pen entered Latin America, they didn’t know this and a rather awkward translation error ensued. Their adverts were meant to read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”, but the confusion around “embarazar” meant that the tagline actually read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”

Your lusts for the future

Even presidents can find themselves on the wrong side of a translation mix up. When Jimmy Carter traveled to Poland in 1977, a Russian interpreter who wasn’t professionally trained in Polish was hired. Through this interpreter, the president ended up saying things like “when I abandoned the United States” (when he meant to say “when I left the United States”) and “your lusts for the future” (instead of “your desires for the future”). The mistakes were picked up and much enjoyed by the media and general public in both countries.

Bring back the dead with Pepsi

When translating their marketing copy into Chinese, Pepsi made some rather bold claims about what their drink could do. They unwittingly translated their “Come alive with the Pepsi generation” slogan as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”.

Global expansion needn’t be intimidating. Especially if you partner with a localization company that offers all the translation services you need to become a worldwide success. Download our Global Expansion Checklist to find out exactly what you need to do to ensure you don’t make any silly translation mistakes during your international expansion efforts.

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From Homer to hieroglyphs – the importance of reviewing your translations

From Homer to hieroglyphs – the importance of reviewing your translations

A sailor and his family are shipwrecked on a magical island ruled by a giant snake. In fact, there are many snakes on this island. One day a star falls from the sky and all of the snakes are consumed in flames. “If you are brave and your heart is strong, you will embrace your children, you will kiss your wife and you will see your house,” the text reads.

This tale of a shipwrecked sailor is one of many ancient Egyptian stories that have recently been translated into English by a Cambridge academic. Toby Wilkinson is bringing ancient Egyptian writing back to life by translating these largely pictorial texts into modern English. Many of us associate hieroglyphics with art and decoration, rather than language, but Wilkinson is looking to shift these perceptions.

“It has been my aim in this book to convey the wit, wisdom, humanity, and sophistication of the ancient Egyptians, as reflected in their writings,” Wilkinson told Quartz. “Too many of the old translations treat the texts as examples of dead scholarship, rather than as texts penned by living, breathing, laughing, and crying men and women.”

According to Wilkinson, because many of ancient stories are only understood by a small group of expert academics, our understanding of ancient Egypt is incomplete. And given the fact that Egypt’s written tradition spans close to 3 500 years, there are a lot of insights about life in ancient Egypt that the world has no clue about.

“What will surprise people are the insights behind the well-known facade of ancient Egypt, behind the image that everyone has of the pharaohs, Tutankhamun’s mask and the pyramids,” said Wilkinson. His anthology is titled: Writings from Ancient Egypt and unpacks tales of natural disasters, battles, satire and songs. The book offers a glimpse into how the Egyptians described themselves, their gods, and their history.

Losing languages

Did you know that languages can be considered critically endangered? As the world gets ‘smaller’ due to globalization and international commerce, the languages spoken in remote territories are being overtaken by those that are more frequently used. This makes Wilkinson’s work ever more important. His translations help us to better understand the intricacies of an ancient civilization and in doing so preserve these languages and the nuances of these ancient societies. In 2012, National Geographic reported that one language dies every fortnight and roughly half of the 7 000 languages spoken on Earth will have disappeared by the next century.

According to the article, there may be 7 000 languages but this doesn’t mean that the languages are equally divided among the seven billion people around the world. In fact:

  • 78% of the global population speak just 85 languages.

  • The 3 500 smallest languages in the world are spoken by a mere 8.25 million people.

  • English has 328 million first-language speakers.

  • Mandarin has 845 million first-language speakers.

  • A language called Tuvan, which is spoken in the Republic of Tuva in south-central Siberia, is spoken by just 235 000 people.

For Wilkinson, it was essential to pick the most appropriate words to convey the emotions and sentiment of the hieroglyphic stories. Similarly, if you’re planning to localize or translate your product brochures, training manuals or web content, your need to partner with the right translation company to get your message across. At Rubric, we’ll ensure that your translation accurately conveys what you’re trying to say. Contact us to find out more about translation services.

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Our 4 top competitor analysis tips for product expansion [Slideshare]

Our 4 top competitor analysis tips for product expansion [Slideshare]

Any business looking to expand will have their sights set on international shores. But global expansion isn’t a simple endeavor. The more established your competition is in their respective markets, the harder it is for you to break into those markets and make your mark. But before you make your big move, it’s important to take some preparatory steps to ensure your products or services are a good fit in these new locations. Click through to find out our four essential components of competitor analysis for product expansion.

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Plotting a global expansion? Here’s what you should consider

Plotting a global expansion? Here’s what you should consider

It’s a Sunday evening and you’re winding down with your family ahead of the new week when you suddenly realize that you’re out of milk. Rather than having to explain to your kids that they can’t have their favorite breakfast cereal before school, you hop in the car and head to the grocery store. When you arrive, you realize that you are almost out of bread, so you pick up a loaf and quickly load your basket with a few other things. Might as well get everything else you need while you’re there. With our basket now full, you head to the till. It’s only on your journey home that you realize you’ve forgotten the one thing you wanted to buy in the first place – the milk.  

If you’ve ever been in this situation, you’ll understand the value of a list.

While forgetting to buy a carton of milk may mean you have to endure some tough morning negotiations with your children, forgetting to do something in a business environment could be the difference between success and failure.

If you’re eyeing global expansion, it’s important to make a list of all the areas you need to consider to meet the needs of your global consumer base. At Rubric, we believe you can break your global expansion checklist into three groups.

Target market – know thy customer, know thy staff

Whether or not you think you could sell ice to an Eskimo, opening up an ice store in Alaska or Greenland is probably not the best business move. If you opted to establish your ice offering in a notoriously toasty country like Libya, you’d probably have better luck.

If this was the case, you’d need to do your homework about Libya. And when you did this homework you’d want to find out things like the native language, cultural nuances, lifestyle and buying habits of the people living in this country. If you didn’t do your research you wouldn’t know that it’s a no-no to schedule any business at midday on a Friday because most companies close for prayers. Or that it’s considered respectful to arrive at business meetings early, but expect to be kept waiting.

Localizing your sales and marketing mix

When looking to take your offerings offshore, it’s important to tailor your marketing and sales strategies to best target people from different regions. From a sales perspective, you’ll need to train both in-country and foreign staff so that they understand the brand’s identity and always exhibit culturally appropriate sales tactics and customer services practices. In line with this, your marketing and advertising strategy should comply with the regulations, strategies and rules of the region. Going back to the Libyan example, in a country where alcohol is prohibited, you’d be ill advised to create ad campaigns featuring people socializing over a glass of wine or a few beers in a bar.

Similarly, your brand and marketing media should be translated and localized appropriately. Given the fact that the majority of Libyans are on Facebook, using this social network as part of your marketing efforts is probably your best bet. Corporate communication material, product manuals and packaging and labeling, for example, should be translated into the country’s dominant language – in this case, Arabic.

Keeping your logistics and operations logical

When moving your operations into a new region, there are various logistical and infrastructural considerations. Who are the most affordable and reliable power or telecoms providers in Libya? Requests for proposals need to be compiled and translated. Health and safety should also be a consideration – this entails conducting risk assessments, identifying relevant permits and conducting the necessary staff training.

If you’re on the lookout for a localization company to make your global expansion efforts simpler, we may be able to help. We’ve compiled a Global Expansion Checklist to ensure that you have all your ducks in a row before making that international move. Click below to download our checklist:

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