6 Mistakes Startups Make When Translating their Content to English

Have you ever read a website that was poorly translated into your language? How long did it capture your attention? At best, these sites are quickly forgotten. At worst, they become the subject of Internet ridicule for using antiquated or inappropriate language. Google may not dock your site for bad grammar, but a poorly translated site may come across as untrustworthy to users.

Marketing is an emotional game; it’s all about speaking directly to your audience in the language that suits them. All too often, translations are done hastily and without much thought. But when you are competing for the attention of an audience that is already overwhelmed with content, your copy has to be top-notch to stand out.

When translating your content to English, here are some common traps you need to avoid.

1. Translating everything literally.

Every language has its nuances and syntax. To any native speaker, a direct translation will sound like a robot and will immediately turn them off to your cause. You cannot just use the right words; you must use native phrasing, idiomatic expressions, and syntax. Otherwise your English-speaking audience will feel you did not write your copy for them.

2. Not running your copy by a native speaker.

Only a native speaker will be able to capture the intricacies of dialogue and culture in a way that attracts an English-speaking audience. Even if your translator is not native, always have a native speaker review the final version of your translation to make sure the phrasing sounds natural. A native speaker will also be able to speak to cultural references in their country that may be relevant to your marketing efforts.

3. Ignoring the diversity of the English-speaking world.

You should also pay attention to where your audience lives. An English speaker from the UK will have very different idiomatic expressions than a North American and these differences have a profound impact on the effectiveness of marketing. You would not hire an Argentine copywriter to speak authoritatively on slang and idioms in Mexico, so avoid making this mistake when translating your content into English.

4. Forgetting seasonal differences.

January may be the height of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, but North Americans will be fully bundled in winter jackets at that time. If you are preparing a seasonal ad campaign, consider tweaking your message when you translate your content for an English-speaking audience. You want your audience to feel your words were written just for them, not that you translated it as a second thought.

5. Using the same imagery across every country.

What you may think are universal symbols and images probably have a different meaning in the English-speaking world than they do in your home country. Conduct appropriate research, ideally with a native speaker, to ensure that the imagery you are using applies to your new audience. If your images include writing in your original language, remove the words from the illustration or add words in English. Once again, no audience wants to feel like they are your second-choice marketing effort.

6. Leaving out keywords and SEO efforts in translation.

You may be well-placed in your home market, but how do you stand up against the English-speaking competition? Make sure your translator pays attention to keywords, and does the appropriate research, as they translate your content to English. Finding these keywords, and including them in your content as you try to reach a new audience, is worth the extra work for the boost in SEO.

Translating your content to English requires much more than Google Translate. Cultural expressions, slang, and idioms are an essential part of speaking to your target audience. Make sure to have a native speaker review all your content before it is deployed in the English-speaking market so that it lands with the impact you want. Your startup can launch across borders as long as you research your new audience and speak to them directly in their language.

Sophia WoodComment