Translating For A Specific Market: Local Differences To Consider |

Translating For A Specific Market: Local Differences To Consider

Translating For A Specific Market: Local Differences To Consider


Venturing into overseas markets can be an exciting, and potentially profitable, experience. The success of your business, however, greatly depends on how effective your marketing translation is and how well it meets the expectations of the audience you are targeting.



Recently, despite the worldwide Covid pandemic and a sector-wide economic uncertainty, more and more UK business owners realise the true importance which lies in accurate translation services and the direct effect a translation can have on their company’s international ventures. Even so, many people still don’t fully understand that there is a dramatic difference between machine, or even literal translation, which is often used within the legal environment, and creative marketing translations, which are used within the business world and marketing materials, and additionally take into consideration several cultural aspects.

In other words, free machine translation tools available on the internet will not be sufficient enough to translate your business material accurately and reliably, taking into account all of the social, contextual and cultural aspects which may affect the translation. Documents and materials which are intended for an international audience, and your potential commercial partners and customers, require an expert linguist with years of practice and first-hand experience in your specific business industry.

Often, translating corporate materials addressed at foreign markets includes websites, offline marketing materials, social media, and product information, all of which can be extremely important to ensure a professional image of your company is upheld and your potential customers trust your brand.

If you are expanding to the country physically as well as digitally and intend to employ local staff, you may also want to consider translating training documents and contracts for the benefit of your sales and customer service teams.

When translating marketing materials for a foreign audience, you must understand the needs of the local market and the requirements of your audience, as well as any probable aspects which might directly or indirectly affect the suitability of your translation, and these usually include cultural, social, political and even religious preferences. Consequently, for your marketing campaigns to be effective abroad, you need to understand the culture and demographic of the target market, not just linguistics, something only experienced human translators are capable of.


Use Native Linguists

Marketing translation is a very specialist and specific area within the translation industry. Often, a translation which had been translated literally and isn’t suitable for the target audience may unintentionally offend or confuse them, discouraging them from investing in your products/services.

One of the key issues when translating for an overseas audience is the use of words, phrases and terminology the locals relate to. For example, not all South American countries have the same cultural references. Although they speak an almost identical language. As a result, learning a language as a foreign speaker often isn’t enough and so linguists generally only translate directly into their native languages.

Because specialist knowledge of your target audience is required, translation agencies typically use native speakers who are familiar with the area you are specifically targeting.

The reason for this is that native translators understand the mindset of the target market – after all, they are consumers as well. And marketing goes beyond language. You have to reach out to your audience on an emotional level.

Local linguists also understand the culture, and whether the local audience will understand idioms or jokes. You may need some flexibility in your approach to accommodate the differences between the buyer’s mindset of your target market in comparison to your home crowd.

Localise, localise, localise…

Translating for an international market is more challenging than an ordinary run-of-the-mill translation. To overcome these challenges, language translation agencies have developed a service known as ‘localisation.’

When translations are conducted in a literal word-for-word style, the context of the material can often be lost. Marketing copy requires intent and clarity. Localisation services seek to address linguistic, cultural and technical nuances that will resonate with the target audience.

Localisation requires the skills of a highly qualified linguist that is native to the area you intend to sell your products and services. After all, they are best placed to adapt marketing materials that best meet the needs of the end-user.

Consider Transcreation

Often, language experts may suggest you consider working with a transcreation agency. Transcreation differs slightly from localisation in that much of the wording is changed – but without losing the context of your original message. Transcreation, therefore, requires linguists to be creative.

A good example of transcreation is changing a slogan. And you can see from these international marketing mishaps how easily it is to mistranslate a slogan.

The underlying objective of transcreation services is to preserve the core message of your marketing message, but at the same time communicate it in a way the locale will respect.

The important aspect of transcreation is to retain the identity and personality of the brand as a global entity, but also ensure the brand is appealing to local consumers.

Transcreation services, therefore, require the linguistic and cultural knowledge of your target audience, together with a professional translator that also has copywriting skills.

Identify local references

Before you hand over marketing material to a translator, you should have some idea about what sales approach will work for the audience you are targeting.

Before venturing into international markets, conduct some research and identify relevant sources for the products you intend to sell. You need to determine whether the market needs your product or whether it is already saturated.

There is no harm in assessing your competitors and taking inspiration from the terminology and style they use. Conducting prior research will give you a better idea of how you should approach your target market from the outset and help you in understanding what works and what doesn’t work within the chosen market.

However, a native linguist will be able to offer guidance on this once you hand over the material for translation.

Localise images and colour

As we mentioned above, translating marketing materials for an international audience goes beyond language. You also have to understand the culture, and that may require adapting the colours and imagery you ordinarily use to meet the tastes of an international audience.

Cultural references have a particular sway with consumers because they are comfortable with images which are culturally and socially appropriate.

It is also important to note that colours evoke different emotions across different cultures. For example, white is traditionally associated with purity and brides in Europe, but in many Asian countries, white is typically worn at funerals, which makes it a colour you may want to avoid in your marketing campaigns. Unless you run a funeral home…

If you make a cultural mistake, it can damage your reputation in a foreign territory. An exciting adventure can then quickly become a very expensive nightmare rather than a profitable dream. Engaging the services of a language translation professional is imperative for brands which intend to venture into foreign markets.