From the high street to the online world, globalisation is undoubtedly upon us. Every day, more and more companies are going international, with eLearning, software, consumer goods and high tech industries among the fastest growing online markets. Even for an inherently global profession such as translation, the last few years have been huge in terms of its expansion into the worldwide marketplace. Indeed, a recent spike in Google searches and blog posts about international SEO translation shows that people are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of good language practice to the success of their business.
However, translators themselves would be mistaken to believe that an accurate SEO translation in itself is all that’s needed for their work to reach its full potential. While SEO translation is one of the latest and most efficient methods of optimising your online business results, it is not always enough if you want to speak to your potential clients in a language they truly understand.
Any of us who have spent any time in the translation field are aware of the basic practices to avoid. Relying on translators who are competent, but not native speakers of the target language comes with a considerable amount of risk. Furthermore, using automated translators such as Bing or Google Translate is even more perilous. As a Scot living in Europe, I’m always reminded of one particular translation of Robert Burns’ Address to a Haggis. The poem is customarily read before the cutting of the Haggis before a meal, and contains the line ‘Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!‘. It was once translated into German for a Burns event in Berlin, and then independently translated from the German back into English. This ended up with the rather curious description of our national dish as the ‘Mighty Führer of the Sausage People‘.
While perhaps an extreme example of why it’s a good idea to avoid using Google Translate for anything, it’s not the only way that a poor translation can lose an audience. One thing that SEO translations often fail to take into account is the importance, or even the existence of, a target culture – as well as a target language. In this case, what’s needed is a touch of Cultural Consulting.
The overall point here is that, even within the same language, there are a number of cultural factors that have to be taken into account. The same concept therefore applies to business translation. In terms of SEO translation, getting the site architecture, page titles and keywords correct is, of course, extremely important. However, if you neglect the cultural side of things, the translation will never reach its full potential.
In a world where translators have deadlines repeatedly thrust upon them at short notice, they often focus too much on just getting the SEO details right before sending their translations off again. As a result, what really makes a translation palatable for your clients can be easily overlooked. The world may be bigger and more anonymous now than it has ever been, but if you’re thinking about entering the global marketplace, it’s important to choose a language service company that understands what makes your target audience’s culture unique among the rest.