Contentoo’s approach to translation and localisation

30 April 2024
4 minutes


Content marketers devote most of their time and attention to producing high-quality content in their own language. But what happens when your company needs to reach audiences in a new language market? In order to resonate with your new audience, speaking their language and understanding their culture is a must.

Suppose you’re targeting audiences in four different countries, each with their own language and cultural norms. Chances are, you spend most of your time and budget perfecting the content aimed at your home market.

By the time you’re ready to localise that content, you may be near the limit of your budget. That means you’re likely to look for a low-cost translation solution.

As with so many areas of business, when it comes to translation, you get what you pay for. Despite the importance of translation and localisation, business history is filled with examples of companies that tried to cut corners and wound up making a huge mistake.

Take the French telecom giant Orange for example. When they launched in Northern Ireland with the slogan ‘The future’s bright… the future’s Orange,’ they obviously hadn’t considered that for many Irish people, the term ‘orange’ carries strong associations with the Protestant Orange Order. Given the history of religious conflicts in the region, the choice of slogan was deemed insensitive and potentially offensive to a significant portion of the population.

As Siew Lai Wong, a marketing leader based in Malaysia, says: “Perhaps the most immediate risk is the brand image and reputation. Poor translations can make a brand seem insensitive to cultural nuances, leading to a loss of trust among target audiences or backlash. This kind of damage can be costly to repair.”

In order to resonate with your new audience, speaking their language and understanding their culture is a must.

Translating and localising content on a budget

At the same time, content marketers are under constant pressure to lower costs. Machine translation has been on the rise for the past 10 years, offering a cheap option for producing fast translations…

The only problem is that machine translation is still not capable of producing native-level, high-quality content that captures the full range of human cultural experience. This leaves many marketers looking for solutions that can deliver the cost-effectiveness along with the quality they need.

There are two main options for localising your content today. Each of these solutions is suited for different marketing purposes. To get it right, it’s important to make sure you use the right solution for the right purpose.

Let’s look at the two options in detail.

1. Machine translation plus post-edit

Machine translation post editing (MTPE) is the most cost-effective way to localise your content, and it’s suitable for translating lower-creativity, factual content like product text, terms and conditions or FAQs. It’s also the method used at most mid-market translation agencies.

Here you can find out more about how machine translation works.

The five most widely used translation tools are:

  1. DeepL
  2. Google Translate
  3. Bing
  4. Amazon Translate

Machine translation offers many benefits, especially in terms of speed. The main downside, however, is that it’s prone to creating highly literal translations which sound stiff and lack nuance. In the worst cases, it can even contain embarrassing errors.

That’s why a human post-edit is always necessary. Most translation agencies offer MTPE as a standard service. That means they first feed your text into a machine translation tool, then pass the rough translation on to a professional translator who optimises it. The result is a faster, more cost-effective process for achieving a high level of quality in your translations.

2. Localisation (transcreation) by a human linguist

Language is the foundation of all human culture. If you really want to connect with your target audience, you have to speak their language.

That’s why many marketers rely on localisation and transcreation – especially for highly creative content that contains lots of cultural nuance, like blog content, advertising and social media posts.

Transcreation blends elements of translation, creation and original copywriting. It involves reworking the message from the source text to make sure it resonates with your audience’s cultural context. In essence, it’s crafting a fresh piece of content that maintains the original message while integrating culturally relevant references for the target market.

Machine translation is still not capable of producing native-level high-quality content that captures the full range of human cultural experience. Therefore human translation and localisation remains important.

Make quality your top localisation priority

If you need to localise creative content on a budget, it can be tempting to use MTPE for everything. But remember: MTPE is not the solution for truly elevating your content in multiple languages. For that, you need transcreation and localisation.

To give you a simple example of how machine translation can get things wrong: if you put the Spanish word sobremesa into DeepL, you get the translation tabletop. This might be the literal meaning (although ‘over the table’ would be more correct) but, it completely misses the cultural nuance of a powerful word like this.

Sobremesa is a concept that is at the core of Spanish lifestyle. It refers to the valuable, relaxed time people spend after the meal, around the table, talking with friends and family. While a machine translation too wouldn’t have a clue about what a word like this means, a creative human translator would know exactly how to find the right words to express this concept in their own language.

High-quality localisation is worth the investment

While MTPE offers a quick, cheap solution that’s suitable for some use cases, it poses potential risks. In the worst case, it may make your brand appear insensitive or unaware of cultural norms and traditions that are important to your target audience.

High-quality translation is so much more than just substituting words from one language for another. It involves an in-depth, insider knowledge of human culture. That’s why the most successful brands know that localisation and transcreation are the only options for making a strong impact in their target market.

Check out our latest report!

Read the 2024 localisation report here.

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