English will not lose its position as the main language for business and news in Europe, even in the wake of Brexit talks starting. Non-native speakers speak and write to each other in English as the first choice common tongue and are forgiving of each other’s mistakes. When it comes to sales materials, website texts and presentations, however, investing in professional translation, proofreading and copywriting will make your products and services more persuasive.
The feeling that “it will do”
Over the last couple of years I have toured Poland talking to exporters on how to improve their marketing materials for the UK with the British Polish Chamber of Commerce. Some exporters had a better approach to foreign language marketing than others. One company had had their Russian website checked twice by two separate translation agencies. Unfortunately, some companies did all their translation via Google, which made a mockery of their offering. But the majority were companies who had entrusted their English version to fellow Poles, without a professional review. Managers admitted there were errors but couldn’t face correcting them before the next version of the website two years down the line. If the translation was technically accurate they left it the way it was. Entrusting the final edit to a native speaker who is not a specialist was also a common mistake.
Overcome your lethargy and take a look
You probably already have materials in English but are suspicious of the quality. Getting a quick language audit is the first step, by specialist a native speaker of each language you have on your site. It suffices to review a paragraph of each one to get an idea whether a lot of work is needed. You may well find that your whole website does not have to be reworked – a file of a corrected version can be uploaded by your IT people without any additional formatting.
What a reviewer might tell you: transcreate rather than translate!
You may need need transcreation (translation+creation) and localisation rather than plain translation of your texts. An international website needs to be more generalised, while a localised website needs to appeal to local tastes and convince clients you understand them and not just the consumers in your own back yard. Your special offer for Children’s Day on 1 June that sells out to Polish and Czech clients will fail in the UK, where it is not celebrated.
In-country review – “The Future is Orange!”
Once a foreign language website has been translated, make sure you carry out an in-country review of the website. This is the “make or break” of whether the website is right the local market. Detecting gaffes at this stage can save red faces. It is important to remember, when putting together the original version of the website several stages of review are required. The boss, the marketing people, the sales people all pencil in suggestions. We often forget that the foreign language version should also be reviewed and tested out on local audiences. “The Future is Bright, The Future is Orange”, said the slogan of the French telecoms giant, on entering the UK market, not considering how this might be viewed by Catholic customers in Northern Ireland.
So don’t leave it to the last minute, so that there is no time even for a second opinion. Start work early on the English version of you website to ensure there is time to produce a website that will win you clients.
Based in Poland for 23 years and a graduate in Slavonic and East European Studies from Glasgow University, David Kennedy has been responsible for sales to the UK market for internet-based news services like CEEMarketWatch and Intellinews. He advises several companies on their entry to the UK. He is a regular commentator on UK politics and society for Polish TV news networks and writes on the retail sector in Poland.