Localization and Dialects: How to Avoid Missteps in Translation

August 4, 2014

Translation-Source_logo_wo_text_300dpiCareful localization of translation services is crucial to the success of an international product launch.  Companies like Nokia, Kraft, and Apple all learned this the hard way when their products hit the global market with a name was unintentionally vulgar in a specific dialect.  To help avoid embarrassing gaffes and ensure that your message is received as you intended, we’ve compiled a list of 6 important considerations for localization across dialects.

1. Go Beyond Translation
A well-known case of translation gone awry is that of Uzbekistan Airlines. Their English language marketing campaign translated their slogan as “Good Luck,” which is not exactly what you want to hear before boarding a plane. Localization is more than just translation to a certain dialect. Many factors need to be taken into account such as the local culture, history, religion, and social norms.

2. Get to Know the Market
Even when a common language and culture are shared, people within a given nation will speak differently depending on their age, gender, and geographic location. To best reach your target market it is essential to identify as many defining characteristics as possible. Understanding exactly how, when, where, and by whom your product is likely to be used is essential to a successful localization effort.

3. Respect Dialectical Differences
While speakers of Canadian and European French are certainly able to understand one another, important differences exist among the two dialects that should not be overlooked in localization. European French tends to be more formal while Canadian French favors a more direct style. There are also many vocabulary differences that could cause confusion or misinterpretation of a message. Most importantly, there are often prejudices attached to varieties of the language that speakers are quite sensitive to. Canadians may view European French as pompous. Canadian French is seen as outdated and overly traditional to European French speakers.

4. Connect to Consumers
Spanish is the official language of 21 countries, each with a unique history and culture. An assortment of indigenous languages in each region, as well as newer waves of immigration, has made Spanish a vibrant language with many distinct dialects. Most varieties of Spanish will be understood by speakers of other dialects. However, a message will be much better received by the target audience if it is presented in the version of the language that they identify with directly.  Localization for each specific variety of a target language will optimize your connection to consumers.

5. Build your Brand
Localization becomes extremely important when a product is branded internationally.  It would be a shame to spend time and energy on a huge global campaign only to discover that your product name signifies something offensive in one of your target regions. Imagine if this were to happen after the product had already hit the shelves or been publicized in local media! On the other hand, if localization is done carefully, your brand will enter each market seamlessly. A product that looks and feels like it was designed specifically for the local market will have a much greater relevance to local consumers which will boost your brand’s image and increase sales.

6. Leave it to the Pros
Embarrassing mistakes and confusing messages are best avoided by contracting professional localization services that work with native speakers of the language you plan to target. Choosing the right words for the right message while still remaining faithful to your core values is a delicate tight rope walk and as many high profile companies have learned, one misstep can be quite costly. Contracting professional localization services from the start will save you time and money in the long run.

If you would like additional information on this topic or have questions on planning and executing your next translation or multilingual initiative, contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation or call us at (800) 413-7838.

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