Selling globally used to mean following a labyrinth around twists and turns that seemingly were built to perplex you. These days, making an entrance into global selling (whether on Amazon’s numerous marketplaces, eBay’s shipping program, or via your own site) may take a good bit of knowledge, but the process is drastically easier than it ever has been. This has caused a swarm of eBay, e-commerce and Amazon sellers to begin shipping inventory overseas like a mass exodus. While this new venture is undoubtedly exciting, it is also resulting in some exceptionally sloppy product copy that is having the exact opposite of its desired effect.
Translating carefully crafted sales copy into another language is a delicate process. While free auto-translators can be an OK solution for minor projects, they are really not the tool of choice for professionals. That’s why I reached out to Jackie d’Empaire of JR Language.
I’ve known Jackie for years and have always been impressed with her company’s knowledge and skill when it comes to translating every type of document … even sales copy. Jackie was kind enough to answer a few questions about translating for global marketplaces. I know you’ll learn a lot from her.
KARON: Tell me about your experience with clients who used software translation programs before switching to a professional, live service. Were they having issues with accuracy or had they had particular problems with misunderstandings that made them switch to JR Language?
JACKIE: Some companies start their international journey by testing the waters of global marketing using machine translation like Google without revision or evaluation. Machine translation content is a direct-output, non-revised translation that can be good for some internal uses, but can be very bad for your brand.
Who trusts a company whose website is poorly written and has grammatical errors? Even Google is now beginning to demote the ranking of websites that have low-quality content. That is the risk of using raw machine translation.
Some companies who use free machine translation learn how their customers are reacting to their content and seek to improve the customer experience by either using human translation or appropriate machine translation engines that can be prepared, evaluated, and improved by linguists in order to produce output that is then post-edited for publishing.
Some of our customers have learned the hard way (by losing customers or hearing how bad their translation is from website visitors), so they change their approach and use professional translation companies. That allows them to provide a better customer experience, which is the objective of any website or online content.
Machine translation (which is edited by humans with firsthand knowledge of the local language afterward) can be a powerful tool for very high-volume and similar content, such as product listings for e-commerce where the cost of human translations can be unaffordable.
Even if someone uses a live translation service, they are not all the same. From my understanding, there are different dialects for various local regions in many countries, right? Many translation businesses don’t take localization into account when they translate. What can happen if the translator doesn’t take into account exactly who will be reading the copy s/he is translating?
Knowing your audience, its culture and its values is extremely important in translation, as it is in copywriting. You want to interact with your customers in a voice they identify with so they are attracted to your products and services. Trust is gained with respect, and we show that respect by communicating with buyers in their native language.
For example, English is one language, but it has many dialects. Broadly, there is UK English, U.S. English, Australian English, New Zealand English, Canadian English, and so on. Even within each country there are regional dialects that can vastly change the perception and understanding of your copy. Localization of the text is imperative to accurately communicating your sales message.
Some stats that support that idea:
- 65% of online visitors speak a native language other than English.
- Visitors are three times more likely to buy a product from a website translated into their native language.
- Users browse twice as long on websites translated into their native language.
Source: Nielsen online, Internetworldstatsccom, Common Sense Advisory
What are some of the funniest translation errors you’ve seen?
Last month, in a well-known hardware store, I found a huge sign in Spanish that read “Freedom of Cutting Services” in reference to free glass-cutting services. The machine translation translated “free” as “freedom” instead of “without cost” because it didn’t understand the context. I stared puzzled at that sign for a while until I understood the problem … machine translation! It should have read “Free Cutting Services.”
Another time I was at a store and I noticed a sweater that had washing instructions with terrible errors in Spanish and French in the tag. All the garments in the store had the same error. This was a famous brand not being serious about their translations … all the effort of developing the brand and products was wasted due to a bad translation.
If you use machine translation, revisions need to be made to ensure that the translated content is grammatically and contextually correct, and makes sense.
Why is it important to use a translation service that has experience with sales copy as opposed to one that only translates contracts, blog posts, etc.?
Translators have different types of specialization and skill sets, and experience comes after years of practice. We have found that translating sales copy is a creative process that requires knowledge of the appropriate uses of double meanings that don’t necessarily come naturally to all translators, especially to those who specialize in technical or legal translation.
Just because a person can write doesn’t mean that they will be able to create compelling and successful copy. In translation, the fact that a person speaks a language doesn’t make him/her a good translator.
Translation services require that a seller start with great, professionally written copy, right? If the original copy isn’t very good, the translation will be equally as weak, because translators don’t write … they just “convert” one language into another?
Yes! The source copy is the basic ingredient of a translation. You need to start with good raw material . Without a good source text, the translation will undoubtedly suffer. Translators do not add or eliminate content from the original to make it sound better. There is, however, another service that may be a good option for those who feel that their copy won’t translate well.
“Transcreation” is the process of taking the content of source text and, beyond just translating it into another language, adapting it to comply with a specific requirement. Often marketing copy needs transcreation to adapt to cultures and local preference. There is more creativity involved in the transcreation process. It also considers images, which are important elements of the creative message.
Transcreation can be performed between different languages or within the same language to modify the content for different target audiences.
And it’s also vital to have the search terms translated as well as the copy, right?
Yes, that is another basic principle. Search terms vary according to language and country or locale. Cultures and search habits are different around the world. For example, Spain and Latin America use different words for computer. In Spain it is “ordenador,” but in Latin America it is “computador.” The right translator is a native speaker of the dialect that the target audience uses.
International search engine optimization (SEO) requires that the search terms be selected based on the highest number of searches and localized to your target audience, and after selection these terms are used in the translation.
In e-commerce, for example we Americans use the word “cart,” but that term is foreign for the British, who use “basket” in online shopping sites. Using the right words is crucial in marketing copy.
Is there anything Amazon sellers or website owners need to do before they contact a translation company about their copy?
When clients decide to start the translation of their listing, we suggest that they:
- Have a finalized marketing copy.
- Are clear about their target audience and locale or country.
- Have a list of competitors in their space. This comes in handy when researching search terms.
- Have a complete and finalized list of search terms.
I believe Marketing Words provides most of this when they create Amazon product listings and other forms of SEO copy.
How is JR Language better for Amazon sellers than other translation services?
We have years of experience translating digital copy and international SEO projects. Using specialized teams and working with our clients to understand their needs and objectives, we make their translation successful.
We use the right resource to match their translation and localization need; and only use translators who understand the culture well and have firsthand experience with the country, locale, and language that the project requires.
We work as an extension of our clients’ companies to help them reach their international market and succeed in the ever-expanding global marketplace.
If you’re ready to progress into global selling, get a quote from JR Language today on your projects. They have the specialized knowledge to accurately translate Amazon listings and other forms of e-commerce copy as well as business documents and more.