Content CreationMarketing Strategy

How to Begin Translating Your Content for Global Audiences

By July 17, 2012 No Comments
German dictionaries from kaleissin on Flickr for The Content Marketeer

“Mini dictionaries of German dialects” by kaleissin on Flickr

Whether your company is looking to enter a foreign market or is already there, at some point you’ll likely be faced with overseeing the translation of your content marketing assets. While Google Translate may (awkwardly) get you through a few email conversations, professional jobs require a much more sophisticated solution.

Here are a handful of tips to get you started:

Approach Translation Strategically

Do you need to translate your entire website, or just one section targeting a particular audience? What about your blogs or newsletters? Before you seek quotes from translators, figure out the scope of your translation needs: For instance, if your clients are all in the United States, but you are seeking investment from Germany and China, you probably only need to translate your business plan and the web pages targeting investors. If you are serving clients in Central America, Canada, and the U.S., you may want to translate your whole site.

Use a Human, Not a Machine

Machines can’t interpret language nuances, idioms, or slang. And while some machine translations make sense, they often come across clunky and inelegant—not to mention unprofessional. Instead, invest in a real person who can translate tone and context—not just words.

Understand That Language Is Local

Spanish in Mexico and various parts of Latin America is very different from Spanish in Spain. Germans take pride in their unique regional dialects, which are different from the German spoken in Austria and especially Switzerland. When you begin a translation project, be sure your translator has experience with the particular countries and regions you are targeting, particularly if you want to establish a more casual and conversational tone.

Let Culture Play Its Role

An exact translation might not always be the right move. In one culture, saying “You deserve a vacation” might be a pleasant reminder and motivator. In another, the same phrase may be so obvious it appears silly. Hire a translator who understands the contemporary culture (or various cultures) of the places you’re targeting, and ask her to weigh in on your overall messaging, not just your sentence structure.

Contract With Future Jobs in Mind

Think you’ll need to translate more pages, posts, or newsletters in the future? Whenever possible, work out a contract retainer with your original translator for future translation projects. At minimum, allocate part of your budget to creating a style guide in your new language(s) in order to maintain consistency in the future, especially if there’s a chance you’ll be working with other translators down the road.

Any other tips and tricks for successfully managing translation? Leave them in the comments below!

Gigi Griffis

About Gigi Griffis

Gigi Griffis is a world-traveling entrepreneur and writer with a special love for inspiring stories, new places, and living in the moment. A former content strategist, she now spends her time writing books, blog posts, and articles about adventure, travel, and entrepreneurship. You can follow her at