How to make your content translation-friendly

You’re thinking of bringing your content to the international audience?

Our recommendation is – even before you start looking for a translation provider, a translation management platform, quotes and bids etc. – to prepare your content for localization. Your English copy, what we call a “source”, will be translated into multiple languages, so help your translators (and, ultimately, your end users) by providing them with a source text as clean and disambiguous as possible.

Clean here means at the minimum “exempt of mistakes or typos”. Unfortunately, we all have seen examples of those, and translators unfortunately detect misspellings or even logical inconsistencies in the source text.

Disambiguous means that the text can be understood in only one way. Why is it so important? Because translators need to understand the English copy first; so good translation starts with making sure that they understand exactly what you mean, so that the translated text will mean exactly what you intended.

Who is your typical translator (unless you have an in-house team of translators working with you side by side)?
Usually your translators are freelancers or employees of a translation agency. They live in the countries of your target languages, have excellent command of English and top-notch command of their native language. They are proficient in both languages, source and target; however,
a) in most case, they are not native speakers of English and don’t live in the English-speaking world;
b) they don’t work in your company and don’t know the subtleties of your tone of voice, they don’t “live and breath” your product.

They might not understand the subtle irony when your copy refers to your competitors… They might not recognize certain American idioms (for example references to baseball terminology)… They might not understand and properly carry across a cultural reference.

So to minimize the chance of misunderstanding (and, as a result, wrong or incomplete translation), prioritize clarity of your text.

MailChimp published wonderful guidelines regarding things to consider when writing a copy that will be translated:

An excellent example from this style guide is about how the words with multiple meanings can be interpreted differently by non-native English speakers:
“Once” can mean “one time,” “after,” “in the past,” or “when”
=> Clear: After you log in, you will see your account’s Dashboard.
=> Unclear: Once you log in, you will see your account’s Dashboard.

As a native speaker of English, you might not think of such instances. However, keep in mind the above mentioned profile of a translator and try to adapt your language. This way, you will minimize possible misinterpretation by translators.

Even better, consider using specialized services and tools to help you create content that is faster and more efficient to localize. Acrolinx, for example, helps solve the challenge of writing a high-quality source text.

Whatever route you choose, we can assure you that a clean and straightforward text becomes a very important foundation for successful localization.

So, go ahead and pull the trigger towards a more translation-friendly content! (And by the way, many translators may have to look up what “pull the trigger” means:)

And of course, contact us for more details about style guide and source text, or for any other help with your translation needs.