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Term of the Week: Translation

What is it?

Conversion of content from one language to another.

Why is it important?

Makes content accessible to people who speak a different language.

Why does a content strategist need to know this?

Translation, sometimes abbreviated as t9n, is the window that opens up your content to a wider audience. Translation multiplies the impact of your content by allowing audiences to connect more deeply with it. As Nelson Mandela famously said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Connecting deeply with your audience by presenting content in their language is very effective when influencing behavior. A study by the Common Sense Advisory found that customers were six times more likely to buy a product or service when addressed in their own language.

There’s a myth that translation always needs to be of the highest quality to be effective. While translation must always accurately reflect the message, your content strategy will determine the quality needed. Two technologies in particular, translation memory and machine translation, help you reduce costs and leverage human effort.

For example, an eBook or your customer-facing website will require a publication-quality translation. On the other hand, a customer support site needs to effectively inform, and customers will willingly accept imperfect translation in exchange for useful information. A study by the Consortium for Service Innovation showed that when people need customer support for their product or service, what matters least is perfect spelling and complete sentences.

To open up your content to people who speak other languages, technology is your friend. What matters most is providing access to content in the consumer’s preferred language—his or her own.

About Lori Thicke

Photo of Lori Thicke

Lori Thicke founded the language services provider Lexcelera as well as the machine translation innovator, LexWorks. Lori also founded the world’s largest humanitarian translation organization, Translators without Borders. Lori, who holds an MFA, lives in Vancouver and Paris, and is a frequent speaker and blogger on bridging the language divide.




Twitter: @lorithicke