Have you ever tried translating a phrase or joke into another language? It’s hard, right? Due to the natural and inherent differences in languages, what makes perfect sense in one dialect makes absolutely no sense at all in another.
Editing your content before you translate it solves this problem and protects your business from losing potential leads in international markets when you publish content online.
Here are several ways you can edit and ensure your content retains its ability to convert no matter what language it’s in and avoid your message from getting lost in translation.
How Content Converts
Your splash pages and blog posts may convert visitors who speak the same language as you, but does your content hold the same meaning in a different language?
If you watch a dubbed version of an international show, you can see why editing your content is so important. You may hear a laugh track or the characters may laugh, but you don’t find the scene funny because you culturally don’t understand the joke.
There are many quirks when it comes to any language. A phrase that makes sense in one language isn’t necessarily going to make sense or hold the same meaning in another language.
Editing your content for clarity so it makes sense across many languages is the key to convincing potential customers around the world to sign up, purchase from you, contact you or whatever your goals may be.
But before you jump in and start editing your content for translation, it’s important to understand how content can convert. That way, you can keep all the qualities that work even though a major part of your content is changing.
For a maximum possible conversion rate, your content should follow the key principles below, which are commonly referred to as the acronym AIDA:
- Attention – Your title and heading should grab attention and entice visitors to continue reading.
- Interest – Grab the reader’s interest by describing something intriguing that you refer to again at the end of the page or article such as in the call to action (CTA).
- Desire – Build desire for your product or service by proving it’s necessary such as with examples and testimonials.
- Action – Provide a clear and enticing CTA for the visitor to complete your desired action.
For more details, check out How To Use The AIDA Formula To Boost Your Content Marketing Strategy.
When you put your content together, it’s also helpful to add components that break up the wall of text so the page is easier to read through and understand.
For example, using the following in your content can help keep visitors interest intact:
- Bulleted lists – Using lists similar to the one you’re currently reading helps draw the eye to the most valuable text on the page.
- Images – They help break up the page in a visually pleasing way and can be used to further illustrate an important point.
- Shorter sections – Splitting a page into shorter segments with compelling headings is another way you can make the page visually compelling and easier to read.
- Infographics – Using statistic-filled images can help bring forth visual appeal while also making your content easier and more compelling to consume.
For details, check out The Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Scannable Content.
Your content also needs to be captivating and you can do this by being creative with your word choice. When you intend to translate your content, there are a few ways your creativity could work against you and make your message difficult to understand in a different language.
Here are 10 tips on what to look out for in your written content so you can edit it for clarity in any language.
1. Choose the Right Level of Language
When editing, keep the above in mind since you need to be mindful of your word choice while being able to accomplish your content goals.
It can be helpful to keep your use of language to the lowest level you can without alienating your target audience. For example, you can try to aim for high school-level language or lower unless you’re in an industry where you know that wouldn’t be appropriate such as the medical field.
This decreases the chances of your content being misunderstood after it’s translated.
If you can adhere to this one suggestion, you’re well on your way to content that can be seamlessly translated.
2. Don’t Use Expressions
An expression or idiom is a phrase that’s commonly used to convey an idea. Its literal meaning is usually entirely different from the actual intended definition.
Well-known examples of idioms include:
- Cheers! – An exclamation of good wishes before drinking a beverage. It’s commonly done with at least one other person and it’s also customary to clink your glasses while saying this expression, then take a drink from your glass.
- Kick the bucket – It means death.
- Under the weather – If you say this, it means you’re feeling ill, but it’s not too serious.
- Happy Birthday – You’re celebrating someone’s anniversary of their birth.
When an expression is translated, it’s done literally and in other countries it may not necessarily hold the same meaning.
For example, in English-speaking countries, the word “cheers” literally means to celebrate loudly such as spectators cheering their favorite team at a sport’s game.
However, in other countries, a different expression is used instead of “Cheers” when drinking, but the intended meaning is the same.
According to the television program Chug, season one, episode one, “Kuala Lumpur”, in Malaysia, the expression is “Hirup!” The literal translation means “breath,” but it’s used the same way as “Cheers!”
You could also say “BanThai” to mean “Cheers” and its literal translation is “whack.”
In Cantonese, “Yamseng” is a common way to say “Cheers,” especially at weddings. Its literal translation is “drink success” and you’re meant to say it loudly and for as long as possible before drinking the entire contents of your glass.
Replacing idioms on your site can help reduce confusion when it’s read in a different language.
3. Ditch the Clichés
A cliché is an expression that has been so overused that the original meaning has been lost or has become stale and boring.
Some examples of clichés in English include:
- In the nick of time
- Only time will tell
- A diamond in the rough
- Haste makes waste
- All’s well that ends well
- Every cloud has a silver lining
- They all lived happily ever after
- The quiet before the storm
Like idioms, they aren’t translated well and should be avoided.
4. It’s Not Time to Rhyme
Rhyming can be fun and whimsical, but since it relies on two or more words with endings that sound the same, translating rhymes doesn’t work since the same words are going to be spelled and sounded out differently in another language.
While the words themselves can be translated, the overall effect that a rhyme brings will be lost.
5. Avoid Alliteration, Assonance and Consonance
You know you’re using alliteration in your writing when two or more words start with the same letter or sound. An example is in the heading above.
Consonance is similar in that it’s the repetition of the same sounds created by consonants in quick succession. The difference is it applies to the middle or end of a string of words instead of the beginning.
For example: “You might get stuck” since the letter “t” is repeated.
Assonance is similar to consonance, except it’s a repetition of vowels instead of consonants. The sentence, “She hounds down more morsels of chocolate,” is an example of assonance with the continuation of the vowel and sound of “o” in most of the words in the sentence.
Translating the words shouldn’t be a problem, but like rhyming, you aren’t going to be able to achieve the same result.
6. Don’t be “Punny” with Puns
While puns and wordplay can be
cringe-worthy funny, they may not always translate well enough to keep the joke intact.
Puns include words that aren’t necessarily associated with each other but rely on the spelling or similar sound of the words to complete the joke. Since these factors don’t stay the same when the pun is translated, the joke no longer makes sense.
7. Don’t Use David Copperfield’s Allusions
If you ignore the fact that the heading directly above is a pun, you may also notice an example of an allusion.
Allusions are an indirect reference to something such as a person, event, book, character and other references that could be from the past and present.
What makes a reference ambiguous is often determined by the lack of explanation in the reference. The reader needs to already know the person, event or thing being referenced in order to understand the intended meaning of the sentence.
Sometimes they can’t be translated, but that’s beside the point. Many countries don’t share the same cultural significance to many subjects you could reference.
For example, there are many candy bars and desserts in the United States that are incredibly commonplace, but they can’t be purchased in other countries such as Twinkies, Lucky Charms, Jello or Peeps.
In North America, Hallowe’en is celebrated while in Australia and many other parts of the world, October 31st doesn’t hold any special significance.
If you do choose to include references on your site, be sure to consider them carefully.
8. Be as Literal as You Can
So far, I have mentioned many kinds of writing you should avoid, but what should you add? Be as literal as you can with your choice of words without going overboard.
You don’t need to turn “They are wonderful human beings with big hearts,” into “They are wonderful homo sapiens with full-sized aortic pumps.”
It can be difficult to add flair to your writing when you need to be conscious of your word choice. But, you can still add some creativity in many ways outside of the text on the page including creating an eye-catching design and layout to your site and also including images or infographics.
9. Be Concise
Being as concise as possible not only improves your writing but tightening your sentences and removing any repetition also saves you money when you translate it. The reason being that translation costs are calculated by your word count.
The less you have to translate, the more money you save.
For details on how to write concisely, check out 25 Ways to Tighten Your Writing and Write Tight(er).
10. Get a Professional Translation
Getting a professional translation can not only speed up the process, but it also provides a lot more accuracy.
While this list can be helpful, getting a professional translation can ensure mistakes and misunderstandings aren’t a factor.
Instead of leaving your site and your business up to chance by automatically translating your content, you can get an expert translation from Weglot and keep your meaningful message fully intact.
Editing your content can help it keep its converting power once it’s translated, but there are many common parts of your writing style that may not translate well. With these tips, you can edit your content for clarity, so it’s ready to be translated and read by people all around the world.
As an exercise, you can try editing this article and see how well you do at spotting words and phrases that should be changed before it’s translated.
Do you use any of the concepts mentioned above on your site? Are your headings also peculiarly “punny?” Have I missed any tips that you would be remiss if you didn’t mention them? Share your experience in the comments below.