Global Branding Initiatives: How to Avoid Translation-induced Headaches

new markets

You know what it takes to create the right brand for your company —the countless hours spent determining your positioning and defining your brand communication strategy. Creating engaging copy that epitomizes your brand and resonates with your target audience is hard work. But what happens when all this work is nullified when your content is translated into another language? What happens when a certain something is lost in the translation? Surely the translation is grammatically correct and accurate, but some of the most important aspects of your branding initiative seem to be lost.

The best way to avoid translation-induced headaches in global branding initiatives is to address any possible issues beforehand with a translation style guide, a reference that helps itemize your company’s brand in one manual. As you create that guide, here are some things to keep in mind:

Make sure others know your style
You know your brand. You know what type of company style you want to project. Are you a quirky, laid-back company or a more formal company? What is okay to say, what should be avoided? All of this should be covered in your style guide and in conversations with your translators. Everything that matters to your brand is included: the essence of your brand, the overall message, the tone and style, the feeling, your trademark and slogan. The more information, the better. Show your translator the way, the feeling, the strategy and the goal.

Let the linguist light the way
A good translation agency can be a strong partner in this process. Here at aiaTranslations, we can work with your brand team to answer all the questions and gather all of the important components to ensure translation does not diminish the power of the project.

Watch your tone
Tone and style is the foundation of your message, its heart, so it is imperative that your translator captures it perfectly. Make sure your message is consistent across each language. If you want to seem friendly and attentive, perhaps you can use more informal speech in your translation. Microsoft’s translation style guide is a good resource for localization guidelines on market-specific languages styles.

Watch your tongue
Of course, you want your company name spelled the same across all languages. You also want to be careful of using acronyms. The BFG by Roald Dghl, a beloved children’s book about a big, friendly giant became the GFG, or Guid Freendly Giant when translated into Scots. And innocuous example, for sure, but if your acronym is changed during translation, hopefully it will be as similar as this one is to its source! Also, pay attention to words that can have both negative and positive connotations. Just as important as providing the words that convey the right meaning, the words and feelings you never want to portray should be included as well.

Capitalization and punctuation matters
Foreign languages frequently have different capitalization and punctuation rules. Consider this when designing your marketing pieces. If you want to use capitals, we recommend using all caps because languages like German and Spanish, do not follow English rules. In German, all nouns are capitalized, for example.
Also, playing with punctuation is decidedly an American English trait; this is not always possible in other languages.

Structure your sentences
Your sentence structure impacts the tone and style of your message. Do you prefer longer or shorter sentences? Idioms and expressions should be limited or avoided, since they are very hard to translate. Also, visual word play should be developed with translation in mind. aiaTranslations has a team that evaluates English content prior to both the initiation and finalization of the translation.

Watch your numbers
Numbers vary across languages. Many cultures use commas instead of decimal points in their currency. In Europe, the month and day change places in dates. Indicate if you want to follow these rules.

Clarify
Add anything that will help your translator. Will an image help portray what you are trying to say? A drawing? A similar word in another language? aiaTranslations normally asks for narrative explanations for taglines as well. All of this helps clarify and aid the translation process.

So many languages, so many guides
Sometimes creating a style guide for each of the languages your content will be translated into makes sense considering the many different rules in other languages.
But even having just one style guide can still be effective in increasing your translation quality and keeping your brand just the way you want it.

Creating style guides that cover all the questions that may arise is key to making sure consistency is maintained across all of your translated content. To get the translation quality you expect, do a little work in the beginning, as you slave away at creating your brand. This way your voice will be heard consistently across the globe.

by Ilona Knudson

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