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English might often be thought of as a ‘universal language’, but the truth is, 75% of the world’s population speak no English at all – and only 6% are native English speakers. Unsurprisingly, 70% of people are more likely to buy online from websites in their native language.

So as a business, if you want to connect with a global audience, communicating in English-only means you are unlikely to get the job done. On the plus-side, while it may take approximately 36 languages to reach 95% of online users, it only takes 13 languages to reach 90% of the world’s online buying power, so it isn’t too late to start making an impact.

Top tips for localisation

Creating source content that will be translated into multiple languages presents a number of challenges, whether doing this in the written or audiovisual form. By spending a bit of time getting the source material right at the outset, brands will find it is much easier to adapt the content to different target markets, saving themselves both time and money in the process through the effective use of resources.

1. Consider your writing style

When you start writing a document, bear the target markets in mind. Short, simple and clear sentences are best – they make localisation cheaper too. Cultural references should be avoided, as they are unlikely to have a direct translation, while their importance will also be lost on a different audience. For example, ‘stepping up to the plate’ when describing a business decision could seem very odd in China.

2. Internationalise

Internationalising your content means the localisation process becomes much easier. Including illustrations in a user manual will reduce the amount of text to translate, although some images can be difficult to convey in other languages. Date, time and currency formats will differ all around the world, so factor this in.

3. Provisional version? No thanks!

Wait until you have the final version before having your documents and audiovisual content localised. Clients who keep sending new versions to the translation agency only cause unnecessary confusion and spiraling costs.

4. Be realistic when planning timings

A document that has taken three months to produce will definitely not be able to be translated in three days. Always schedule in sufficient time for a high-quality translation.

5. For audio and video localisation projects, choose a provider that understands foreign languages as well as the audio process itself

Audio localisation requires unique attention to detail and consistency in voice talent casting, script formatting, recording methods, linguistic quality assurance, and audio post-production. Leaving your foreign language recording to a studio that records mainly English is the best way to find yourself with Korean audio instead of Chinese, retakes left in the final audio, or a word cut off by an editor who thought the end of a word was a mouth noise.

6. Prepare pronunciation guidelines

If you read a document out loud, you soon realise that some words can be pronounced in several different ways. Foreign languages add a layer of complication. One of the most common issues encountered is whether letters in an acronym or an abbreviation should be read in English or in the target language. For instance, in France, “IBM” is said with French letters, while “GE” is said with English letters!

7. Save costs – but in the right way

By all means save money, but not when it comes to the quality of the translation. In general, you should only appoint mother-tongue translators with the relevant technical qualifications and convincing references. If you want to restrict costs, there are other ways in which to do so. For example, you could cut down your text before translation to leave only those parts which are really essential. However, when it comes to texts for publication or audiovisual material intended for your customers, on no account should you sacrifice quality for budget reasons.