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4 things to do before translation

So you have great copy, a beautiful website and a well-designed product. Now you want to attract more customers from foreign markets or you want to export your product to those markets.

Did you know that 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language? And that 72.4% of consumers would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language?

If you’re thinking about getting your website and products translated, you’re on the right track. Before you jump into translation, take some time to consider the below 4 tips. Translation will be a smooth and successful process if you do.


1. Review content with the target audience in mind

I don’t mean proofreading and I don’t mean editing. I mean review for translation purposes. You probably have content editors, copywriters, and proofreaders within your organisation. Has any of them edited the content having the target audience in mind? Is your copy appropriate for the market it is addressing?

Let me give you an example. A while ago, I was translating a test that sorts people into two teams: green and blue on a scale from 1 to 20. The test’s instructions said anything above 10 means you’re in the green team and anything below ten means you’re in the blue team. It also mentioned that if you get an 11, this doesn’t mean you’re any less green than the person who got a 20. And if you got a 9 you’re not any less blue than the person who got a 3.

To explain this better, the instructions made reference to the English Channel. If you’re in Dover, you’re still in England. If you’re in Calais, you’re in France. Now, I can translate that into Greek, but will it serve its purpose as effectively as it does for UK English speakers? Maybe not everyone in Greece is aware of the English Channel, Dover, and Calais.

In this case, the instructions needed to be re-written replacing the geographical example with one that Greek people were more familiar with. Or, it can be deleted altogether and replaced by a more generic illustration. That is something you can do before you send your copy for translation.

The same goes for contact details, prices, product availability, and opening hours.

Localise these before translation. Your translators will not necessarily know, for example, that you sell that t-shirt in France, but not in the red colour. It’d be a shame to get the red t-shirt product description translated into French when you don’t need it, right?

Top tip:

If you cannot review your content yourself because you don’t feel that you have the cultural insight, perhaps you can ask someone with cultural insight to review your content before you send it for translation. Usually, multilingual professionals who have lived and worked abroad will be able to get in the mindset of people located in a different geographical area, and they will be able to read your content through the eyes and minds of your targeted audience.


2. Terminology

Every organisation needs a database or glossary of terms listing its products and services. This does not have to be anything sophisticated or multilingual. I can be a monolingual list of terms and their definitions in a spreadsheet.

For example, if you are an organisation providing training and you refer to your training programs as workshops, courses, events or seminars, you might want to explain what each of these words means and why you use all these synonyms. For example, if your workshops are 1 day long, your courses span from 2 weeks to 3 months, your events are shorter workshops, and your seminars do not provide attendees with a certificate, then explain those details in the definitions.

It is important to do this because other languages may not have all these different synonyms. If there is zero difference in the meaning between the above words, then be consistent and use one and the same word throughout your copy. You will not be boring. You will be concise, accurate and consistent.

Top tip: share your glossaries, lists of terms and their definitions with your translators. Even if they don’t provide them with the equivalents in their languages, this kind of reference material will help your translators understand the intended meaning. This way, translators will then be able to find the closest equivalent.


3. Style guide

If you have one, share it with your translators. If you don’t have one, create one! It’ll save you from having to reply to questions about capitalisation, bullet points, font styles, font sizes, full stops or no full stops etc.

Top tip:

Make a style guide for each language you publish in. Stylistic conventions differ between languages. Your English style guide might act as a point of reference but will not solve all translators’ queries. For example, a question for English might be whether it’ll be American or British English. A French-specific stylistic issue might be whether words in all caps take accents. A Greek-specific stylistic question might be whether you translate proper names using the Greek alphabet (transliteration) or whether you leave them as they are in roman letters.


4. Calls to Action (CTAs)

Everyone knows a good marketing copy includes CTAs. Otherwise, what’s the point? What do you want your customers to do? Do you want them to read something, buy something or click on something? Whatever it is, you need to tell them. Most of CTAs contain links. Before you send your content for translation you need to think about those links. Where are they taking your customers?

For example, is a French customer going to be taken to an English online shop?

Is an Italian customer going to see that the eBook, for instance, is available only in English?

You get what I mean.

Top tip:

An idea might be to generate customer journeys for your different customer personas (Italian, French, German etc.). You can then follow them through to reproduce your customers’ experiences. If your shop is not available in French yet, that’s OK. Maybe mention that in your copy, warning your customer before they are taken to an English shop.


There is a lot more you can do to ensure a smooth translation process.

Use these 4 tips to mark the beginning of a better translation process for your business today.

Keep coming back for similar posts as this year I will be publishing more on this topic.

Do you have any questions? Leave me a comment!👇


Vasiliki is a translator, interpreter, transcreator, blogger, consultant and director of Greek to Me Translations Ltd. She works with English and Greek and specialises in legal, creative, and psychometrics. She is a Chartered Linguist, member of CIoL, ITI and PEM and she is registered with the Greek Consulate as a certified translator and interpreter. She holds a BA in English and Masters in Business Translation and Interpreting. She is a Steering Group Member of the CIOL Translating Division and CIOL Business, Professions and Government Division. She is an Associate Lecturer in Legal Translation at London Metropolitan University, a public speaker and writer for industry magazines. Her mission is to help you achieve your goals through the power of words. You can follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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