The previous issue of this e-newsletter covered “seven reasons to go multilingual”. Let’s now look at how global companies can create effective multilingual communication materials through their brochures, newsletters, press releases, websites and fact sheets. At MTM LinguaSoft, we help you with the challenges of making these marketing and technical materials understood around the world as if they were originally written in the language of the reader.

First, the marketing communications department along with your graphic design provider should follow a few key guidelines to create what will become multilingual content.

Implement a glossary and a style guide

Corporate communication, both business and technical, needs to be concise and clear so that your prospects, customers and partners understand your offering without ambiguity. The starting point for a successful translation project is a well-crafted and unambiguous source text.

  • List all acronyms, abbreviations, technical terms, product terms, industry terms, corporate terms and other words not to be translated.
  • Avoid using clichés, cultural references, jokes or jargon.

Design with multilingual content in mind

Choosing an adequate desktop publishing application is critical to being able to handle the world’s major languages. Producing all your multilingual documents and electronic files from the same application will simplify your projects. As such, your desktop publishing application should work with non-Latin fonts and bidirectional fonts and support the Unicode encoding system for all characters of all languages. (More information about Unicode available at www.unicode.org ) . Other good practices include:

  • Use templates whenever possible.
  • Plan the format and layout so that it works for different paper sizes and cultural preferences.
  • Leave a lot of “white space” when creating the source in English. Once translated, the text can expand by as much as 30%.

Build Graphics Designed for Localization

Graphics can convey powerful message and help build a brand. Because of their importance, graphics destined for worldwide markets should be carefully thought out and designed. During the localization process, it is recommended that you provide editable graphics to your language supplier. For example, hand over the native PhotoShop™ files that your designers used to create the GIFs and JPEGs. Designers and translators will work together to rebuild the PhotoShop™ layers containing text and merge them with the background layers to make target language GIFs and JPEGs for publication, always respecting your color palettes, transparencies, and so on.

  • Avoid graphics with human figures, body parts, hand gestures and animals.
  • Check that maps are appropriate and not biased for your markets.
  • Verify that symbols have worldwide meaning.
  • Research the appropriate colors for all markets (see side article).
  • Avoid placing text within your graphics.
  • Have all the icons and graphics reviewed by users located in the target country.

Above and beyond these guidelines, the key to high quality multilingual content is the participation of the client during the translation and localization process.

Whenever available, you should supply the translator with company literature in the source and target language(s) and a bilingual glossary of industry-specific terms. A translator cannot be expected to know your product names or the terminology used by your company (as opposed to your competitors) in a given market. In addition to a well-written source text, reference materials, the glossary and the style guide developed for your marketing and communications team should also be shared so that your language provider can imitate the style and the terminology.

Regarding the graphics, if your own designer is doing the graphics, be sure that you receive clear documentation that list the translation for each image, based on the assumption that your designer doesn’t speak the target language. Practice has shown that it is best to have the designer and the translator work together so that word choices can be optimized for the space available, spelling errors found and corrected, and so on.

Writing and designing content with the awareness that it can become multilingual content are the first steps towards a global marketing communication strategy. Working closely with the translation and localization provider and being an active participant during the project will ensure your project’s success. As you complete your first iteration of localization, a second version of the source content may be in the works. In a future issue of this newsletter, we will address how terminology management and translation memories can help you to avoid the versioning nightmare.

Download our Localization Quick Guides on writing and designing for translation »

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