If your organisation has decided to undertake a localisation project, you’ve already taken an important step toward expanding your reach to a global audience.
But, as we all know, the best-laid plans can come undone in the execution. Taking a few steps ahead of time to prepare your content to be translated and localised can help you avoid frustrating delays or costly oversights.
Here are the seven mistakes we see most often:
1. Not allowing for text expansion
Whether you’re localising a website, another digital asset, or a paper document, it’s critical to leave enough space to fit the text of your target language. Having to cram your newly translated text into a tight space isn’t fun for anyone, and reading the tiny text without enough white space is a terrible experience for your readers.
Tip: Assume your English text will expand 20-30 percent when it’s translated. This is because some languages require more words or characters to convey the same message.
2. Choosing poor graphics
Don’t overlook graphics as you’re preparing your content for translation and localisation. Some graphics don’t translate well across cultures. Refrain from using graphics that could be confusing or misunderstood, and avoid text graphics that will need to be translated. Screenshots are an exception. If you are localizing software, you likely have a number of screenshots that will need to be regenerated once the software has been localised.
Tip: Save screenshots using a logical naming convention so it will be easy to recreate them.
3. Using fonts that are hard to read
Not every font is supported in every language. Although the underlying translation may be perfect, what prints on paper may be a mess. We suggest sticking with conventional serif fonts (such as Times) for body copy, and sans serif fonts (such as Helvetica) for headings.
Tip: If you do use a custom font, be sure to share it with your localisation provider. This will save time and money while also ensuring branding consistency.
4. Over complicating your content
When it comes to both font styles and content, it’s best to keep it simple. Your English teacher might have given you extra credit for finding new and creative ways to say the same thing, but when you’re undergoing a localisation project, those variations will cost you. Repeating common words and phrases often within your text will lower your per-word translation costs. It also increases clarity and understanding for your readers.
Tip: Take the time to simplify the language of your content before sharing it with your localisation provider.
5. Failing to consider cultural context
Your marketing materials may require special attention because they are not as easy to localise across cultures and languages. Some names and slogans may even need to be revisited.
A classic example of this is Braniff Airlines, which launched a marketing campaign in 1987 with the slogan, “Fly in leather.” The Spanish translation for this, “vuelo en cuero,” was misunderstood by many as “vuelo en cueros,” which means “Fly naked.”!
Tip: If possible, create your marketing materials with localisation in mind. Make sure your localisation provider uses translators who are native speakers, and work closely with them to understand the exact tone of the translated messaging. You may need to have them help you choose a new idiom in the culture you are targeting.
6. Forgetting to keep a glossary
Although your localisation provider is the expert in making your content accessible for your target audience, you are the expert in your industry and your organisation.
Common industry terms you take for granted may be difficult to understand when translated. Make sure your localisation provider is aware of these terms and what they mean.
Tip: Keep a glossary of key terms that are unique to your industry or organisation and share it with your localisation provider. Be sure to write out acronyms and define them on first reference.
7. Failing to define style guidelines
The style and tone of your content is a key part of your brand. Having clearly defined style guidelines will help you maintain brand integrity during localisation. These guidelines should address important elements, including:
- The desired tone of your brand (formal versus conversational)
- A list of terms that should not be translated
- Rules for capitalisation, punctuation, and grammar that are specific to your brand
- A list of acceptable fonts
- Cultural conventions, considerations, and taboos
Tip: Develop style guidelines with input from key stakeholders within your organisation. If you don’t have existing guidelines, work with your localisation provider to create them.
Read Our E-Book
Our new e-book, Preparing for Localisation, is designed to assist you in defining the scope of your localisation project. It will help you ask fundamental questions, avoid common mistakes, and save costs from the outset. It will also walk you through the steps to localising your content for diverse audiences while creating new revenue opportunities.