These days, it's a prerequisite for companies big and small to maintain a website. For a number of years, they have realized the importance of websites to reach out to more customers, current and potential. But if they want to compete in a global world, they need to invest in content localization.
Why? Content localization becomes necessary to talk to new markets in their own language, to facilitate learning about companies and products that are available in the market, locally and overseas. Translating website content (texts, images, assets) into other languages is called website localization.
In this article, we're going to look at textual localization, or content localization. This enables companies to reach target consumers in the language they completely understand, creating and adapting a message to conform to local preferences.
Websites that are originally intended for audiences who speak English need additional work when being localized, due to the colloquialisms, slang, jargon and grammar requirements that are common to the English language but may be not be translatable in other languages.
So, how to you pull off effective content localization? How do you write content that's easy to localize?
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Content Localization: What Should a Content Writer Do?
As a content writer, you need to ensure that every word you write counts. When you write content for a website, see to it that you write content that's easy to localize.
This means that you should prepare the content following guidelines so that it is easier to translate into any target language. With content localization in mind, your value as a translator will be more substantial.
It can be restrictive to your writing style, but writing content that's easy to localize will reduce the margin for errors, lower costs and optimize your workflow. Effective content localization can reduce costs and streamline the website localization process, while reducing room for error.
Why should you have content localization in mind when writing website content? It will save time during the writing and localization process. It will decrease the range of translation and speed up your work. It will help maintain clarity and create consistency to help preserve the brand in wherever market the client wants to expand.
When you write content that's easy to localize it can also improve the English version, as it will be easier to read and understand by native and non-native English speakers (as well as search engines).
Preparing for Content Localization
It is best if a company prepares for localization before they launch their venture into foreign markets, to ensure that all translatable content and other cultural references are carefully considered. Here are some guides for writing content that's easy to localize:
1. The Text Should be Fluent as well as Correct
Whatever type of content you write, whether it's for the web or for software, see to it that everything is well written. If the provided text was written by the software developer, it should be edited first by a Subject Matter Expert, if you are not one yourself.
There may be words and phrases that are too complex for ordinary readers to understand and this will make content localization harder.
Make sure that everything is clear and precise, so that misunderstanding among users is avoided. Keep in mind that if these misunderstandings are not corrected at the first instance, they will be repeated in all languages in content localization.
2. Use Simple Words
Content localization means using simpler sentences and the simplest verb forms. Instead of "utilize" write, "use," for example. Substitute single verbs to those with two or three words. The word "can" is better than using "be able to."
If you have a complex sentence that includes several clauses, nouns and verbs, break it into shorter sentences. You can also use a bulleted list.
However, if you are using a translation memory tool for content localization, it is easier for the tool to pick up bullet list items that are in complete sentences. They must also have the same structure as the other sentences.
In English, it is acceptable for some articles, pronouns and prepositions to be left out. However, leaving them out might cause problems when the content is translated into different languages.
Avoid colloquial or informal language in content localization. You can use many phrasal verbs in English such as "get over," "put on" and "pull up." Instead of creating confusion, use simpler verbs such as "recover," "place" and "lift."
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Other things to remember in content localization:
- Write "and" instead of using an ampersand
- Do not use a forward slash, such as in "and/or" as it is difficult to translate. Rewrite the sentence to indicate what you mean
- Write the plural form of nouns instead of adding ''(s)'' as in "flowers" rather than "flower(s)"
- Use "they" and "their" instead of gender-specific words
- Use words with few synonyms
3. Be Consistent with Terminology
Consistently use the terminology you choose all throughout the content. Make sure that every person writing content for the same subject knows them as well. If there are several concepts, use different terms. This will facilitate easier distinction between concepts especially if they are mentioned together.
Create a system for content localization so that terminology and concepts are manageable and accessible to all writers in your team. A glossary will help everyone in the localization development team to remain consistent.
4. Use a Translation Memory Tool
When you get repetitive in your writing, it gets boring. However, repetition is effective when you are writing texts for software. The same is true when creating support and help texts. This also applies to content localization.
You cannot help but repeat some words; however, they can be easier to manage by using a translation memory tool. The same goes for sentence structures. If they are consistent, they are easier to translate.
In order for you not to repeat writing those repetitive terms, identify the places where they appear and do not rewrite them anymore. You can automatically replace them with the translation tool you use. Translation costs will be lower if there are more similarities between old texts and new ones.
5. Be Brief
Unless necessary, use short texts rather than long texts in content localization. In fact, English is shorter than many other languages at times. If you translate English into German, it will generally be 30 percent longer.
So if a website is already prepared for content localization, you'll notice that spaces for texts could be bigger. That's to have enough space for texts translated into languages that are longer. Thus, you do not need to fill up the entire space. The web designer will adjust the text alignment to fill up the space.
One more thing; it is easier to read concise texts. It makes the website user friendly, as users will only take a short time to read the information and understand it quickly.
In the same vein, you should think of which salient features of the products should be highlighted. Consumers look for the product features that will give them the most benefits.
You do not have to enumerate all the benefits lengthily. It is best to be direct to the point. You also need to keep in mind that the original content will have to be translated into other languages that are longer than English such as French, Italian and German.
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6. Minimize Embedded Text in Graphics
Content localization is an investment and often, translation is charged per word. If you are employed by the company that is localizing the website, you understand that you have to watch your bottom line. When using graphics, it is favorable when localizing content to have as little text as possible embedded into graphics.
You add more cost to content localization each time you have texts as graphics because they have to be done manually. For every foreign language added to the website content, all the graphics have to be manually updated.
7. Consider Cultural Characteristics
Idiomatic expressions, metaphors, jargon and slang are a good addition to some content. However, these are difficult to localize and at times, to translate.
These types of texts typically apply to a specific locale, and may not be applicable and acceptable to other cultures. So, although they can spice up the content, it is better not to include them when you have to write website content for content localization.
Choose images with care. As much as possible limit the use of images, other than for the product and the company. Research is essential to find the type of images that fit a new target market's cultural sensitivities.
Moreover, it is costlier to replace images to suit each target market. Aside from buying costly images, they have to be replaced manually. This can hinder the localization process, which will raise the cost of localization considerably.
8. Include SEO Best Practices
Aside from the aforementioned, it is also important that you consider SEO (search engine optimization) in content localization. This means including the right keywords applicable to a target market (keywords vary from target to target).
SEO best practices ensure that you will be able to hook your audience to stay longer to read the message you want to convey. Ensuring great user experience and readability of the content will keep your users on the site longer.
Writing content that's easy to localize can save a company around 5-10 percent in project costs. The savings will exponentially increase with the number of new languages you add.
Having a writer create content with localization in mind helps make the content localization process smoother and faster. At the same time, the development team should focus on user experience and optimal readability.
Keeping the text simple by eliminating unnecessary and elaborate sentences and avoiding jargon, colloquialisms and slang will make the content easier to understand, locally and internationally.