Getting ahead of the competition with online sales for your e-commerce venture is always a moving target. SEO tips, email lists, A/B testing, loyalty programs- the list goes on! But one frequently overlooked tool to help expand your target audience is e-commerce translation. Sure, there’s numerous plug-ins that can help automatically translate your website into other languages, but the results are far from optimal, and sometimes laughable in their attempt. The benefit of using an e-commerce translation agency like TSI is we have actual native speaking translators who understand the intricacies of online sales.
Here’s a short list of 5 tips on how to increase product sales internationally.
Find International Target Markets
There’s many great ways find a market beyond the United States. You can use government resources to help suss out overseas trends. Websites like www.export.gov are a wonderful resource. Using keyword searches like www.kwfinder.com and setting search parameters to other countries is also an excellent method of finding untapped buyers.
Translate Your Current Website
When clients come to us for translation help, very few think to offer multiple language options on their website for international customers, but after discussing the benefits, most opt-in for this service. A frequent question we get is “why not just use the google translate website option?” The problem is google translate is far from accurate. Thousands of words have numerous definitions which can completely change the meaning of your sentences if not translated properly- this is the main issue with computer and machine translations.
When we are asked to translate an e-commerce website, we only use native language speakers who understand the target country’s terminology so that there is no confusion for potential consumers.
Create Custom Websites and URLS for New Markets
In addition to translating your e-commerce website, you can give your online presence an extra international boost by creating standalone websites in other languages. To take it even one step further, customize the website with your target country’s URL.
For example, if your company website is www.bestproduct.com, consider purchasing www.bestproduct.it if you plan on selling in Italy. This way, in addition to translating your website copy, you can also optimize your keywords and SEO for the italian market as well.
In addition to custom websites, consider joining already established online marketplaces that have decent traffic. Amazon has recently made a large push into numerous countries across the globe through their Amazon Global Selling (AGS) program. At TSI, we have experience translating for Amazon Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA) and AGS.
Add Additional International Payment Methods
Offering numerous currency options for payment can help entice international customers to purchase your product. You can take it a step further and even add some of the more popular cryptocurrency options as payment as well.
When adding new currencies, it’s important to understand localization of these numbers as well as your payment portal- another portion of e-commerce website translation. For example, the US and other countries list dates and times differently: month/day/year versus day/month/year. Little details like this left unfixed will give your potential buyer the impression that your company does not take them seriously.
Localize Your Marketing Materials
In addition to your website, there’s a plethora of additional platforms and methods of reaching consumers. Social media is a huge one, as are banner ads. We love helping our customers with punching up their ad copy into other languages through the use of transcreation. This form of localization can also be targeted to specific demographics or locations, therefore it’s essential to hire translators who know the lingo of your particular customer.
What are you waiting for? Contact us for a free quote on how we can help your business expand abroad and reach customers across the pond. With our extensive experience and deep portfolio, we are here to offer your business all the translation services you require.
At TSI, many of our long term clients come from the advertising industry. For decades, we’ve worked closely with both third party as well as internal ad agencies and firms to ensure their campaign’s message isn’t lost in translation. From our experience, the most difficult part of translating for the advertising and marketing industry is transcreation.
We touched on the concept of transcreation in a previous article, but to recap, transcreation deals primarily with copy written for the advertising industry. It is used to create an understanding of the meaning of the message and not simply a translation of the individual words.
Let’s look at some common business slogans that word for word have little meaning in a foreign language, without being transcreated into a slogan that would reflect the meaning in that other language.
Heinz – “Beanz Meanz Heinz”
Due to the clever and unusual spelling, this works only in English. If one were to try and find a translation using any of the well-known online translation programs the answer would come back as “Beanz Meanz Heinz”. I asked different translators to ‘transcreate’ this slogan into Spanish and received the following results.
Frijoles favoritos Heinz --- Heinz beans are favorites
Cuándo quiera frijoles pida Heinz --- When you want beans ask for Heinz
Frijoles significan Heinz --- Beans mean Heinz
This last one is not quite as clever as the English, but you get the picture.
Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes – “They’re GR-R-R-reat”
This slogan is difficult to translate. It’s based on the fictitious character Tony the Tiger. Why Kellogg’s featured a tiger eating Frosted Flakes is anybody’s guess, but apparently it works. Frosted Flakes have been around for a long time and are still a popular breakfast cereal. I imagine it’s due to the crunchy feeling and the sugar rush associated with the sweetened cereal. The reason this is difficult to translate or to come close with transcreation is due to the GR-R-R-reat that emulates a tiger’s growl. I sent this to to different translators and received the following.
Un rugido de energía – A roar of energy
¡GR-R-R-andiosos! – GR-R-R-reat! (my favorite)
Ten un día salvaje - Have a wild day
Son lo MÁS de lo MÁS - They are the MOST of the MOST
Simplemente geniales - Simply great
Skittles – “Taste the Rainbow”
I really like this slogan, although I’ve never eaten a Skittle. The word sounds a little too much like spittle to pique my appetite. But apparently it has been successful throughout the years. After all, rainbows are beautiful and somewhat mysterious the way they appear during a rain shower. Here are the translations to this happy slogan.
Un arco iris de sabor – A rainbow of flavor
El gusto multicolor – The multicolored taste
Saborea el arcoíris - Taste the rainbow
Disfruta con el Arco Iris - Enjoy the Rainbow
Dejate llevar por el Arco Iris - Get carried away by the Rainbow
Despega con el Arco Iris - Take off with the Rainbow
It’s not often that we get requests for such popular slogans as the foregoing examples, but we do come close with companies wanting a special slant on their branding. When these requests come in, we choose translators who work in advertising or who are creative writing specialists. We want them to let their imaginations soar and create solutions that are unique and effective.
Using non-native speakers for translations that rely on transcreation is a risky bet. Much like idioms presenting difficult issues when crossing languages, transcreation has the same potential pitfalls. Our translators at TSI are native speakers and specialize in the industry for which they are translating.
Do you have a product or a campaign that is being expanded overseas? Do you want to freshen up previously translated advertising collateral? Reach out to us for a consultation or a quote. We are more than happy to get you the help you need: TSI - We're GR-R-R-owing your business internationally.
Of the five following languages, which one has the most native speakers?
Chinese (Mandarin) has 1.2 billion native speakers
Spanish comes in second with 400 million native speakers
English comes in third with 360 million native speakers
Hindi ranks number 4 with about 330 million native speakers, but it’s complicated
Arabic comes in last, but like Hindi, it’s also complicated
The above figures are estimates and the numbers while close, are always changing. To add to the confusion, languages such as Hindi and Arabic can have such dramatic variations, that people who speak what they consider to be the same language are often not able to fully understand each other. Here we are talking about “native” speakers. If we consider people who speak an additional language, the numbers change significantly. For example, the total number of people who speak English fluently (not necessarily native) increases to more than half a billion, thanks to English being at the forefront of global business relationships.
Which language has the most words?
Most scholars would agree that English has the most words. However this can be quite tricky to calculate. English comes out on top because it borrows many of its words from the Germanic and Latin languages. It is also constantly creating new words with its emphasis on science, medical and technical inventions. The problem we encounter is, what constitutes a word? And if a single word has more than one meaning should this be considered two words or more? Let’s take the word ‘bear’ for example. Here are a few of its possible meanings.
*I couldn’t bear to see that movie again.
*She will get married and bear a child.
*A bear was spotted behind my neighbor’s house.
*The walls were not strong enough to bear the weight of the roof.
*Next year that tree will bear fruit.
*His excuse doesn’t bear close examination.
*I’m not going to bear the blame.
*That statement doesn’t bear repeating.
*Bear to the left or the boat will hit the buoy.
So what happens in the translation process when there is a word in English with no corresponding word in the target language? This takes us to the topic of: “transcreation”.
As currently understood and used, transcreation deals primarily with articles and copy written for the advertising industry. It is used to create an understanding of the meaning of the message and not simply a translation of the individual words. Let’s look at some common business slogans that word for word have little meaning in a foreign language, without being transcreated into a slogan that would reflect the meaning in that other language. I will give examples of “transcreation” in the world of advertising in the forthcoming blog.
Case Study – A Word is Born
Well, it wasn’t actually born the way puppies or fish or birds are born, but rather invented, or just plain made up.
In 1947 John Robinson Pierce, while working for Bell Telephone Laboratories, invented an electronic device he named a “transistor”. It replaced many of the functions of vacuum tubes, which back in the day were commonly used in radios. The device transfers an electrical current across a resistor, hence the term transfer + resistor, shortened to transistor. When you go to a global translation website today to find out what this word is called in different languages you’ll find that the following languages adopted the word without changing the spelling:
Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, Turkish, Catalan, Czech, Romanian, Estonian, Filipino, Hawaiian, Hmong, Malay, Norwegian, Scots Gaelic, Somali, Sudanese and Welsh.
Other countries have incorporated the same word, but changed the spelling slightly to conform to their specific pronunciation.
Croatian = transistor
Slovak = tranzistor
Finnish = transistori
Hungarian = tranzisztor
Polish = tranzystor
Romanian = transistor
I didn’t include the character-based languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. because they use phonetic symbols to express the sound of the spoken word.
Since the beginning of human time, families, tribes, villages and countries have created words to define their world, express their feelings, thoughts and ideas. With the advent of the internet, jet travel and international business, the interchange of languages is growing and changing at a rate faster than any other time in history.
So what does this matter to us as translation industry professionals? There’s a couple key takeaways from the concept of transcreation and how it relates to our business. First and foremost, transcreation renders computer translations unusable. This is why here at TSI, we never use computer translation applications in the process of our work. Second, it shows the importance of hiring the right translator for the job. For example, when dealing with transcreated words relating to a specific industry, it’s essential to match that project with a native translator well versed in the lingo or jargon pertaining to said industry.
Because of our close to 30 years of experience working with very niche markets, our team of translators is ready to handle language subtleties with ease. If you have a need for translation of documents that are unique, don’t worry- we can handle them at TSI. There’s numerous ways to contact us for an estimate.
If you don’t work in medicine, you probably don’t know the exact term to use when describing the specific instrument needed to perform a certain step of a complicated procedure. There are more than ten thousand tools and instruments in the medical field, and hundreds more are being created and introduced every year. Consider the following short list of medical tool terms:
If all of this isn’t already making your head spin, let’s ask the real question: How do we deal with these extremely complicated and technical terms in foreign languages? More often than not, in many languages there are no official translations for a large majority of these instruments.
So, how do you deal with this language barrier?
When in doubt, an inexperienced translator or one who isn’t familiar with the industry might consult a medical dictionary in his or her native language, only to find that there is no suitable word. Without a grasp of exactly what he or she is translating, it may be impossible to accurately convey the meaning and purpose of the word at hand.
In an even worse scenario, he or she might use a translation that is just plain wrong. For example, there is a dental tool called a “burnisher” that’s used for smoothing amalgam, and looks like a small metal pick.
However, if a translator looks for the same word in a basic dictionary, a “burnisher” might look like a huge vaccum cleaner. Try fitting that into somebody’s mouth!
Enter the term “transcreation,” whereby translators take it upon themselves to invent a word that adapts meaning and intent when no other source is available. This approach might work in marketing or advertising, but not necessarily in medical or technical situations where precision is crucial.
The only suitable solution to translating these complex and particular terms is to utilize the skills of a translator who is a tried-and-true expert in the topic at hand. When the language is this complex, and the stakes involve discerning the correct tool for an important procedure on a patient, it’s simply too high of a risk to go to someone who relies on a dictionary. In critical situations like these, it is imperative to trust your source.
At TSI, we work with reliable, expert translators with deep knowledge of, and background in, specific industries. We work closely with our clients to understand the unique needs, concerns, and scope of a job, and then go through a meticulous vetting process to identify the best translator for it. We pride ourselves in delivering perfection to our clients, and we have done so for significant companies in many specialized industries, including healthcare, finance, heavy machinery, hospitality, petroleum, and beyond, for over 28 years.
Who is doing your translations? Contact us to discuss your next translation project. Trust TSI.
The absolute need to use only native speakers as translators
There are many translation agencies that use recently graduated language students with a proficiency in a foreign language in order to keep their operating costs to a minimum. Generally speaking, these students, with fluency in a second language, have something to offer in the translation business, but not necessarily working in a target language that is different from their native speech. The nuances and subtleties in all languages can create hurdles for anyone trying to learn a new form of speech. When someone tries to translate into a language that is not native to them, the result can be anything from humorous to devastating. It’s a common error to think that a word that sounds the same in two different languages means the same thing. However, “it’s not necessarily so”. I found out the hard way.
Shortly after graduating from college I joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to a public health program in La Paz, Bolivia. I had taken 4 years of Spanish in college and had additional language training before arriving in South America. I earned a Spanish language competency score of 4.5, which at the time was considered fluent, but not native. A week after arrival, our group of volunteers was invited to a local university to meet the students and tell them about our backgrounds and the programs we were involved with. The school auditorium was packed with over 500 students. One by one volunteers walked onto the stage, were handed a microphone and addressed the audience in Spanish. When it came my turn, I walked up the rickety wooden stairs, reached for the microphone and inadvertently dropped it on the floor. As I picked it up, red faced and all (I wanted to say, excuse me; I’m embarrassed), I said in my best Spanish possible, “Discúlpame, estoy embarazado.” The entire audience erupted in laughter. Now I was really embarrassed, not knowing what I had said to create such an uproar. The Peace Corps Director leaned over and whispered in my ear. “You just told them that you’re pregnant.”
Such are the perils of knowing a language, but not quite enough to avoid potentially embarrassing situations. There are many similar sound alike words called homophones in many languages. For example, ropa in Spanish means clothing and sopa means soup. In French pain means bread and pin means pine.
In my case, the error was harmless, but when translating a document or a website, a seemingly simple mistake can cause equipment to malfunction, personal injury if operating instructions are misunderstood or a company website to look amateurish casting a bad light on the company’s image. Avoid these potential problems by using a professional agency with a long history of successful translations. At TSI, we take pride in using native speakers as our translators. It helps avoid simple mistakes and saves money for our clients down the road.
Contact us if you’re in the market for document translation. We can help guide you through the process step-by-step and explain what makes our business model and team unique in the translation industry.
The debate regarding the origin of language has been going on for several millennia. Within the past few years however, linguists have spread out across the globe looking for evidence of primitive languages. One of the more compelling areas of discussion is the continuing prevalence of languages based on whistling, perhaps whose origins sprang from the imitation of bird songs. Below is a link to an BBC Future article called “The beautiful languages of the people who talk like birds”.
What can we learn from this and how does it apply to our contemporary world? Like the people who talk like birds, we as modern day humans tend to alter our speech patterns, vocabulary, and accent based on our neighbors and local community. This explains the evolution of the American accent versus British, Scottish, Kiwi, etc.
But accents usually don’t alter how we translate the written word. Just like speech, there have been slight adjustments in sentence structure and spelling throughout the course of the english language. For example, the word “color” as we would spell it in America is different that what the folks on the other side of the pond write which is “colour”. Now how did this come to be? With this one- it’s political.
Noah Webster (yes, of dictionary fame) was a famous lexicographer who, when America was establishing herself as an independent entity from England, developed updated spellings of certain words to make them more unique. Color is one of these. Grammarly.com dives in even deeper here.
As the owner of a translation company, it’s subtleties like this that are extremely important when understanding where your client’s final product will land in the world. Spanish in Spain is drastically different than Mexico or Puerto Rico. It’s these little subtleties that make a translated document read “native” as opposed to “foreign” and one of the reasons we strive to use translators whose native tongue best fits our client’s needs. Good luck doing that with a computer!
Considering the popularity of emoticons, emojis and animojis, who knows- perhaps someday we will be translating those as well.
Learn more about Translation Services International and the services we offer.
Francis Semmens is the founder of TSI and author of all blog posts with a focus on translation for clients and translators alike.