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The Importance of Culture in Translation: 6 Crucial Points to Consider

Updated: Oct 14



Communication is a crucial part of everyday life. Whether you communicate with B2B partners via email or blog about your personal life, it’s important for people to understand what you are saying. According to Shutterstock, 60% of global internet users rarely or never buy things from English-only websites. Likewise, 71% of marketers say that less than half of the available content is consumed due to its lack of translation and global reach.

While an innovative business idea may help you establish a public presence, reaching a global audience is just as pivotal. But how do you translate your content into various languages given the cultural differences? What are the practical benefits of doing so in 2020? Let’s find that out in the following segments.



Literal VS Contextual Translation


The first order of business when it comes to cultural translation is to take your own content into consideration. What type of writing do you want to translate? Is it a corporate document such as your company’s mission statement or an important public announcement? Or, is it a personalized blog post dedicated to B2C readers?

There is a sea of difference between literal and contextual translation, or rather, translation and localization. Raw translation is fit for technical documentation with niche verbiage and specific industry terminology. However, localization takes the language’s cultural, value and taboo context into consideration.

A statement which is completely valid in English may be inappropriate in Spanish or German. If you’re unsure about the writing you are dealing with, you can reach out to a professional translation company such as Vespucci Languages for consultation. Asking for assistance in translation and/or localization is completely valid and it will ensure that your documents are edited and proofread properly before being published.



Target Audience Consideration


The target audience for your writing will make a world of difference in regards to what type of translation you should apply. B2C audiences, or customers and blog readers, tend to lean toward localized content based around cultural context.

In this case, you can freely transliterate your original writing into different languages and don’t worry about 1:1 translation. This approach is often applied to animated movies and TV programs aimed at young adults in the form of translated subtitles.

However, B2B audiences require certain finesse when it comes to translation. Corporate documentation, business correspondence, presentations or content meant for external or internal company communication is delicate. It can often mean the difference between a successful corporate meeting between two overseas companies or a failure to communicate each other’s’ intentions. Make sure to carefully gauge which audience you are dealing with before you settle for the approach for your documents.



Approach to Multimedia Translation


Translating multimedia content is somewhat different compared to raw text translation. Images, videos, audio files and other forms of multimedia offer a more flexible approach to the choice of translation format you will apply.

In this case, translation transcription is a completely valid choice as it will allow both native speakers and foreigners to understand your content. Providing your target audience with transcripts of the original content which are translated into different languages will do wonders for your company’s reputation.

In case of B2C readers, you can easily gain brand ambassadors who will share your content with their acquaintances due to its user friendly nature. In B2B, corporate partners will look positively to your efforts to offer different translation formats for the audience to choose for themselves.



Standardize the Vocabulary Early On


Depending on the scale of your cultural translation project, you may want to standardize your lingo and writing style early on. Short-form content such as social media posts or promotional emails don’t require as much thought as long-form blog posts or printed publications.

However, the latter can be extremely damaging to your brand’s reputation if you mishandle its translation. The national book awards list is a great example of how mixed writer/translator teams can deliver amazing, culturally appropriate texts to different language-speaking groups. Make sure to do proper research on the territory and background of whichever target audience you want to market the writing to.

English-speaking audiences in the US and UK vary drastically when it comes to cultural expectations even though they mostly share the same vocabulary. The same applies to languages with multiple dialects such as Chinese, so take your time to standardize the language you will use early on.



Ask Native Speakers for Feedback


It’s worth noting that DIY translation is never a good idea, even if you are bilingual and have intimate knowledge of your target language’s culture. Likewise, avoid automatic translation platforms on the web – they can lead to large ramifications for your future as an author.

Small translation mistakes can cause severe harm to your company or reputation as an author based on cultural misunderstanding. To avoid that, work with a professional localization expert or a native speaker who can verify your translation.

Native speakers with practical experience of the culture you want to appeal to can advise you on how to approach the translation without doing harm. Finding test readers is another great way to make sure that your writing is on point from a cultural perspective before publishing. However, the key takeaway is that you should work with as many consultants or professional translators as possible on your texts.



Advantages of Cultural Translation to Consider


Now that we have a better idea of how culture factors into translation, let’s discuss the benefits of taking it into consideration. Different regions use not only different languages but also rely on vastly different cultural backgrounds in their day-to-day lives. Culture stretches from religious and social beliefs to superstition and taboo, making smart localization a must.

According to 90 Seconds, writing that is locally targeted and culturally appropriated has six times more engagement than texts made in English, for every reader. China is the prime example of how cultural translation can make a world of difference, with 92% of top-performing iPhone apps being transliterated into Chinese. If we break down the practical benefits of culture-based translation, or as is colloquially referred to, localization, the list would include the following points:

Wider global appeal and increased market share

Competitive advantage in your industry

Improved public perception, reviews and word of mouth

Ability to efficiently avoid cultural translation mistakes and taboos

Increased bottom line revenue generation and return on investment



The Role of Culture in Translation (Conclusion)

Cultural context matters, whether you are a tourist with a pocketbook vocabulary or an online writer or marketer. A single word can be taken out of context and misinterpreted by the audience, leading to reputation problems and mandatory revisions.

Taking culture into consideration when you decide to bring your writing to new audiences around the globe is extremely important for your long-term appeal. Research your target languages and territories carefully, while also consulting with a professional translation company for assistance. With cultural context in consideration, your value as a writer or a brand will grow significantly in the eyes of readers across the world.



Bio: Dorian Martin is a Writer, Editor and Business Communication Expert who is also a college graduate of Computer Science and Mass Communication. His professional experience extends to collaboration with a research paper writing service where he likes to help academic students in need of writing help. Dorian aims to apply his knowledge of digital technologies, marketing and communication to writing and publishing of articles based on trending and practical topics. In his spare time, Dorian contributes to his personal blog.

Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/jBSTNenQxok

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