There is no doubt that language services are big business, more so today because of globalization. Businesses must explore new markets outside their home country to remain competitive. Because global consumers speak different languages and have their own set of customs, habits and beliefs, the demand for translation services continues to rise.
Statistics included in the Common Sense Advisory (CSA) 12th annual global industry report revealed demand for language services and other related technologies continues to grow. According to the report, the annual growth rate is 5.52 percent, while the global market for technology and language services in 2016 would be more than US$40 billion. Their prediction is that by 2020, the market will reach US$45 billion. Through 2018, the projected growth rate annually is 6.5-7.5 percent.
Translation is the commuting of the text of a source language into its equivalent in a target language. Although translation services have been ongoing for many years, this is a type of service that usually works away from the spotlight. People who know about the business are mostly those that require document translation.
When Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeastern United States in October 2012, it brought focus on an otherwise hidden industry – language services, which include translation, interpreting and localization. People realized the value of this type of service, as Lynda Callis, a sign language interpreter, stood beside NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg to dramatically explain what the mayor was announcing regarding the severity of the natural calamity. More people realized how vital language services are during emergency.
The translation industry is very active. Statista did a research to study the industry revenue from 2008 to 2015 and projected the revenue up to 2020. In 2008, the total revenue of the translation and interpreting industry was 2.2 billion. In 2016, it reached 3.61B and the projection for 2020 is that will go down slightly to 3.5 billion.
Localization, or L10n, a numeronym given by the industry, is a more specialized process. It is not just about word translation. It is about contextual adaptation of texts. Exploring, developing and competing in the world market means presenting your company, brands, products and other things in relation to dealing with consumers in their own language. This is what globalization encompasses. Globalization comprises two components, internationalization and localization.
You have to carefully plan for localization because this is part of your investment. First you have to go through internationalization. This is the preparation and planning stage to support the product that you have designed for the global market. This is more product-centric because you focus on the product for global consumption. All the language- or country-specific content and cultural assumptions are separated from the product, so that information can be easily adapted to target audiences.
After internationalization comes localization. This is the phase where the product is adapted to the target market. It covers four main issues: linguistic, cultural and business, physical and technical.
Testing and quality assurance should be done after each phase, to ensure that the product performs properly and the quality expectations of the clients are met.
Value of language services in business
Businesses going global realize that penetrating new markets require more than just advertising and promotions. Because most of the new and emerging markets speak a language different from yours, acceptance could be difficult if you do not speak to them using their language. The premise is simple: you cannot sell in English if your consumers are non-English speakers. This is where localization comes in.
For B2B, communication becomes faster and understanding among parties becomes efficient with translation. But for global marketing, translation is not enough. You have to apply a holistic approach. You have to think about how different cultures will receive your marketing messages.
Why is this so?
It’s because people make their own purchase decisions and in the international market, non-English speakers opt to buy products that speak their language. The majority of online purchasers also prefer to shop from multi-lingual sites instead of sites that are only available in English. English may be the language of business internationally, but the playing field is different when it comes to purchases.
You gain a competitive edge when you have your website localized and all brand/product-related paraphernalia transcreated into the target languages. If your direct competitors are translating, you have to make your brand standout. Translation and localization will help you improve your relationship with your target market, as you will be tailor fitting your business to them.
Keep in mind that you need professional language services when you opt to translate and localize your brand. This is to ensure that your translation is of the highest quality, and the translation will remain consistent for your brand’s persona and your global content.
Understand that translation and localization are not similar and you have to learn the difference to be successful in your global marketing. Business translation is important because this helps make foreign partners and other companies at ease with your brand. Localization on the other hand goes further than translation.
Localization means completely understanding the values, nuances and behaviors of each target culture. In doing so, you adapt all your digital content and marketing efforts to the community. This could mean changes in payment options, in the selection of colors and fonts, and even the use of images. Because you are dealing with international consumers, you have to make sure that your products appeal to them and provide answers to their needs in their own language.
What do you gain from localization?
Localizing your website, and your brand’s information, including its marketing and promotional materials is an important investment for businesses that want to penetrate the international market. It’s an investment that will provide you with several benefits.
- You will realize more sales as your website talks to your target audiences in their own languages. You also develop brand loyalty as localization shows your consumers that you care. Your product and your company also gain additional value as you show respect to your new markets, as you consider the peculiarities of their language, their history, traditions and culture.
- Localization and translation boost your business expansion. Localization allows you to be competitive in the local market. Local consumers appreciate your efforts you to reach out to them.
- Moreover, your company reduces the risk of creating faux pas in cultural and functional content. Cultural content include shapes, sizes, styles and colors, graphics, icons and images; societal values such as relationships, power and values, as well as societal codes, which include symbols, myths, rituals, etiquette and humor.
In China for example, red is a favorite color but they avoid the No. 4 because of their superstitious beliefs. Most Westerners prefer text-based and simple web layouts while Indonesians prefer website with various interactive features and graphics. You cannot use images of females wearing sleeveless shirts if your target is the Middle East.
- When you localize, you also have to consider functional content, so you can make the changes based on what your consumers are used to. This includes contact information, phone numbers, and time and date formats. You also have to change geographical references, measurements and weight, as well as language, product descriptions, product reviews and linguistic content.
Translation versus localization
When you have your website translated, you only change the original or source language or your web content, including apps, eBooks, multimedia and text into a target language. Technically, website translation is making your content available in another language.
When you do localization, you go down to a more personal level to connect with your target consumers. You adapt your Web content and everything else for local or regional use. The content of your website is modified to conform to the cultural preferences of your target market in their native tongue.
Thus, it can be surmised that your website’s effectiveness and quality to reach your global consumer target cannot depend only on translation. You provide your customer with a quality online experience that’s specific to their needs. You bridge the language barrier with translation and you refine your message and supplement the language, functional and cultural expectations of your global market with website localization.
Things to keep in mind
You’ve learned the importance of translation and localization for global business. You also learned the difference between translation and localization. But there are still more to keep in mind. Localization takes careful and detailed planning. Aside from your web content, you have to transcreate (recreate) your marketing and advertising campaign messages to maximize their cultural appeal. Transcreation preserves the emotions of your creative marketing content in the local context.
Other things that you have to decide on include how best to handle the content of user-generated forum, your technical and legal information and your marketing copy. Ultimately your decision should focus on what will fit your target market the best.
It is crucial that you work with a professional language services provider (LSP) that offers various services and has subject matter experts knowledgeable in your industry. They should be involved in the planning stage of the localization process. You must come up with a localization strategy together with your LSP. This approach streamlines the localization process for seamless integration. The LSP knows the industry’s best practices, therefore, you’ll be able to control costs, plan the delivery and reduce the production complexity and ensure that you’ll have quality content tailored to your target markets.
If you are just starting and want to go global in the future, keep in mind that brand images, like your company name, logo, imagery and taglines may not translate well in another language. Some changes might be necessary.
Translation and localization for business require understanding all the concepts involved in turning your website for local consumption. The efforts you put into it should keep your core messages intact, Localization and translation mean the capability to market your brand to a wider audience in their own language and earning the respect and loyalty of your target markets in return.
Bernadine Racoma is a senior content writer at Day Translations, a human translation services company. She has notable fondness for things related to technology, travel, lifestyle, and current affairs. She is also an advocate and mother to seven successful children.