Translating For Your Customers - 5 Things to Consider


When planning a translation strategy for your company there are several factors to consider before retaining a translation service provider. Planning ahead will save you time, maximize your resources and better help you to leverage your relationship with the translation company of your choice.


1) In which countries do you need translations?

This may seem obvious, but with over 1000 languages and dialects spoken worldwide, it is essential to be selective and to match your translation strategy with an overall plan for your business.

Which regions outside your home country are going to be the most receptive to your product or service?

If you are a video game company you will want to make your games available to areas with a high technology penetration. If you manufacture parts to create wells for clean drinking water, you want to focus on areas with the greatest need and/or that match your plans for a particular project.

Now that you know what type of audience fits with your products, where do they live?

2) Specific translations for customers in specific countries

In the first example, we know that we want tech-savvy areas of the world with a high enough income to afford personal electronics. Europe and Asia come to mind. Let’s take it a bit deeper. Does the company provide video games for all platforms (PC, game consoles, phones and tablets) or a selection (iPhone and Android)?

If the company develops games for console use only it does not make sense to translate their products for areas of the world where those consoles are not sold.

Alternately, if the product is available for phones there may be lower barriers to entry in general; however, there may be legal and social roadblocks may exist that the company would need to consider before moving into a particular market. For example, some countries block particular content and applications.

Narrow the focus of your strategy to particular countries and regions that are not only receptive to your product but which have few barriers to entry. Got your list of countries and regions? Next, let’s consider what product types you will be translating.

3) What do you need to translate?

The next thing to consider is the group of products and adjacent materials needing translation. In the second example let us assume that a Canadian charitable organization is creating 100 clean water kits to send to villages in Kenya.   They are doing this via an International relief organization based out of Finland.

What languages do you think they’ll need? Well, let’s start from the top with our organization in Canada. To gain traction among the international community in Canada they may need to translate their proposal into French to make it an easy read for French Canadians. Once the proposal is accepted, the organization will present it to the relief organization in Finland, in Finnish.

The Finnish organization has accepted and now we are ready to start distribution and direct service. The relief organization routinely partners with other European countries that travel to Africa for such missions. On this particular trip, the partner organization is out of Italy. Cover letters, instructions, maps and other information will need to be translated to Italian.

Finally, the Italians need to liaise with their local contacts in Kenya. Kenya’s official languages are English and Kiswahili, however, there are 69 languages spoken in Kenya plus a number of local dialects.

Distribution lists, instructions and other documents need to be written in English and Kiswahili. The local contacts will then travel to individual villages to set up the clean water stations and verbally instruct the villagers in the care and use of their new well.

The proposal, cover letters, instructions, distribution lists and maps needed to complete this project each have their own translation needs.

What types of content will you be translating? Remember that it is not just the product itself that may need a translation. Letters, instructions, proposals and legal language may also need to be translated as well.

4) Translations in the appropriate style for your customers

Let’s take a deeper look at your audience. The demographics of your end-user are important when considering what type of translation service you need. If you are a comic book publisher sending American books to Japan you will need to look at the age and gender of the primary target reader. Does the book need to be flowery and poetic or harsh and gritty? Should it be full of slang or more formal?

Asian languages are full of nuance that can offend a particular audience if not translated properly. Know your audience.

This also applies to customer care. Your strategy must include a solid plan as to how you will translate customer service tickets. It may be possible to support some countries with a dedicated resource but having a way to serve a wider customer base in their own language opens up even more possibilities for you.

You can’t simply send your products to a country and wave them goodbye, there is always a need for a support function. Luckily, Transfluent has an integrated translation app for Zendesk that allows you to read and reply to messages in the language of your customers.

5) High-quality translations for products, documentation and customer service

This brings us to the final point which ties together all the others. What type of translation do you need?

Most of us are familiar with the horribly and sometimes humorously translated instructions that come with some products. You may also be familiar with International branding gaffes such as Coca-Cola and their initial attempts to translate their brand into Chinese, which transliterated meant “bite the wax tadpole.”1   You can avoid these issues by matching the right level of translation to your needs.

If you’re working on marketing materials, your website, in-game text or documentation you may wish to work with human translators. All the translations we provide are of quality; however, some translators are experts in particular fields, some are familiar with particular audiences and writing styles while others offer straightforward translation with little inflection.

Returning to the example of a video game publisher let us say that the game they wish to distribute is a tile-matching game with lots of sound effects and graphics but very few words. They may only need a handful of things translated such as the words play, start, retry, high score and so on. An economy level translation may work just fine in this instance.

If on the other hand, the game is a complex adventure game with quests and dialogue it may require an expert translator to ensure that the hero says what you actually want him to say and not, “Princess Star, please to be slapping my camel?” or something equally nonsensical.

A strategy that considers audience, demographics, tone and style will help you get the most out of your translation experience and ultimately provide the best service to your customers.

However, if you’re considering customer service translations then machine translations are an effective way to serve multiple markets, quickly to a high standard and at a predictable cost. Transfluent has been developing our solution for over a decade and we’re really rather pleased with it.

Is it better than Google Translate? Well, we believe so since it’s a dedicated system specialised in translating customer service tickets and integrated directly into Zendesk. It even uses AI to learn better translations the more you use it.

Whatever your company’s translation needs, having a clear strategy and considering all the options open to you is a wise process. Selecting the right translation solution and partner are crucial to your success and will help you deliver better outcomes for your customers.

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Image – “A Key Globe” by Todor Petkov is licensed under CC by SA2.0


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Jenni Ahlapuro

Jenni Ahlapuro

Jenni is a home yogi, unicorn lover and the Marketing & Communications Director at Transfluent.