Creative agencies add value for their clients through strategic partnerships with complementary service providers. When a client needs translation and localization for multilingual audiences, a language service partner can help a lot.

How and when does translation and localization fit into the content creation workflow? The most efficient projects have taken localization into account from the very start. Following localization best practices saves time and effort on the back end. In the real world, more often than not, translation and localization services are requested after content has already been created.

Either way, an agency wants to deliver a seamless experience as well as exceptional content. A good LSP can get quickly up to speed with what’s needed for your client in order to select linguistic talents whose expertise and writing style match the client’s needs. And even if you haven’t established a relationship with a language service partner, it’s good to arm yourself with the knowledge you’ll need to navigate the localization process.

Glossaries, termbases, and style guides

An integrated marketing campaign requires content for multiple platforms. Your client may or may not be heading in this direction, but if they are, building a termbase or glossary is important to ensure consistency, especially in technical fields. Many of the important terms will be also used as keywords for online advertising and international SEO.

Ideally, a termbase should be developed and translated as a first step. If the client already has international distributors and/or sales reps, it’s likely they’ll want the content reviewed by them.  Having these people sign off on the bilingual glossary before deploying it secures some buy-in before the final content review cycle. Internal client review is the localization stage most likely to face delays and bottlenecks, so even though termbase review will take some time up front, it can save time later.

Also, if a style guide exists in English, it should be shared with the translation team. Some conventions might not apply in the target language, but those that do will preserve the overall feel of the brand.

Creative multilingual copy

Language service partners maintain networks of linguists who specialize in all styles of writing, including creative copywriting. You wouldn’t hire a technical writer to create a series of tag lines, and the same principle applies in localization. But just how creative does the copy need to be?  Language service partners will use the term “transcreation” to describe creative multilingual copywriting. But just because marketing copy needs to well-written doesn’t mean it needs transcreation. Regardless of the content’s subject domain, it’s always the translator’s job to accurately capture the meaning and the tone of the source text.

What distinguishes transcreation from regular translation?

Ideally, the workflow for localizing marketing and advertising copy should mirror the process that was used to create the English-language source material. Headlines and slogans generally start with a creative brief, then go through several cycles of review to ensure they capture the goals of the brief. For transcreation, the process is similar. Using a creative brief and the source content as guidance, a linguist is tasked with capturing the mood and concept of the source in a way that resonates with the target audience. The literal meaning of the source may need to be changed completely, for example when the copy draws its emotional power from a very specific cultural catchphrase, reference, or idiom.

On the other hand, when the literal meaning of the source will be understandable and relevant without a total or even partial rewrite, we follow a standard publication quality translation workflow. This involves translation by one linguist followed by independent review and editing by a second linguist and a final in-house quality assurance review. The translation team needs to be specialized in marketing in order to write prose that captures the emotional tone of the source, but the literal meaning does not change significantly, if at all, and the transcreation process should not be necessary.

For target languages like Japanese, Korean, and other languages with multiple modes of formal and informal address, translating marketing materials can be more complex. Because marketing copy often requires a persuasive or emotional tone, capturing the tone is trickier when there multiple formal registers for addressing the audience.  Providing clear descriptions of audience personas can help, as will carefully choosing your internal reviewers.

And, importantly, make sure your client has specified not only the target language, but the target region as well. Spanish is spoken differently in Madrid and Mexico City, German is spoken differently in Berlin and Vienna, and Parisian and Quebecois French differs significantly. Your language partner will need to know the region to choose the right linguists for the project.

Designate key contacts in development and production

When translating content for certain digital media, put your language partner in touch with the correct personnel. The project manager on the agency side might act as the contact point with the language services partner, but the more complex the content, the more important it is to designate a contact person in development or production to coordinate the transfer and translation of software strings, meta-data, and audio-visual materials.

Managing external review

Your clients may plan to submit the translated (or transcreated) content to their own native-language reviewers such as employees or stakeholders in sales and distribution channels. To avoid uncertainty and delay, ask whether the reviewers are qualified and make sure that they understand their roles.

Friction can occur when the client chooses a person who is fluent in the language but unfamiliar with the audience and the content. These may be unqualified to really judge the quality of the translation. Another problem arises when a person speaks the language, but hails from a different country. For example, a fluent Mandarin speaker from Hong Kong or Singapore will have different expectations for Chinese copy than someone from Mainland China. If a person is a second generation speaker or has been away from the country for a long time, they may not be in a good position to judge either.

An additional question is whether the reviewers have the time in their schedule to do a thorough review, and whether the overall timeframe of the project has taken this into account.

For a deeper discussion of these issues, see our guidelines for in-country review.

In conclusion

An investment in multilingual marketing can bring significant ROI for your clients, especially if they are already operating in a particular region. One of our direct clients saw a 30% increase in foreign sales after localizing their product and website.  For more information on working with a language service partner, give us a call.