How to Appeal to an International Audience with Content Translation

If you’re looking to appeal to an international audience and widen your market reach, it’s absolutely essential that you understand and recognize the importance of content translation. In today’s globalized world, English speakers live in all corners of the world. Likewise, people speaking scores of different languages, live around the corner from you.

Bar graph from United States Census Bureau of the number of languages spoken in the 15 largest metro areas in the United States

Some 350 different languages are spoken in the U.S., and nearly 200 in the New York metro area alone, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the United States, 41 million people speak Spanish, 3.5 million speak Mandarin or Cantonese, and 1.7 million speak Tagalog. If you provide content translation for Vietnamese (1.5 million) and Arabic (1.2 million), in addition to those languages, you’ve got the top five languages in the country covered.

Breaking barriers with content translation

Put simply, breaking the language barrier entails writing content or blogs that are easily translatable across different languages and dialects. Multilingual sites may need to avoid jokes, jargon, and idioms, which often only make sense to a native speaker. For the same reason, Hollywood seldom exports comedies because of the cultural differences in humor.

The language in your copy should be somewhat generic to simplify the content translation. Location-specific elements or systems, such as currencies, should be explained whenever possible. Convert pounds to U.S. dollars to yen so that your readers don’t leave your site to look it up.

Avoid references to people, places, and things that only those who grew up in a particular area would understand. For example, a metaphor comparing shopping at Walmart to Saks Fifth Avenue could be alienating to people who live in countries where neither of those chains exists.

Enlisting professional assistance

To ensure accuracy, Thomas Hahn, senior editor at Enunce LLC, a Korean-language translation company, recommends using an agency that specializes in one language rather than one that works with dozens of languages.

“Agencies with a single language focus are often managed by people who speak the language and are more likely to provide reliable consulting on cultural and linguistic differences,” Hahn said.

Saurabh Jindal, CEO of Talk Travel, pays Tridindia, a translation agency in India, a retainer to translate a set number of articles each month, in addition to hiring advanced-level language students. His travel-planning app provides articles in both Spanish and English, and he hopes to expand to French and Hindi, as well. Humans are still far superior at ensuring political correctness across cultures compared to translation plugins, which mostly perform a word-for-word content translation.

“Something which is very casual in one language may be an offense in the other,” explained Jindal.

“For example, in the Spanish spoken in Argentina, using the word ‘negro’ is commonplace and is considered a reference to somebody you are very friendly with. Whereas, in most other languages, this would be very offensive.”

Boosting optimization

In a globalized world, content translation not only makes your information available to speakers of multiple languages in an array of places, but it also increases your chances of getting backlinks. Backlinks boost domain authority, which, in turn, lifts search engine optimization (SEO) rankings.

“This can result in a virtuous circle of higher visibility and higher link earning capability,” says Simon Ensor, managing director of Yellowball, an SEO agency.

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