You’ve got consistency problems. Your documentation and website use different terms for the same things. Your translators don’t really understand the tone and voice of your brand, so it’s getting diluted and is now indistinct from competitors. You don’t reuse the translations that are already QA’ed and approved. All this is slowing product adoption in your new markets, you get lots of support calls because people are confused, and your in-country partners are always noting errors.
Your brand doesn’t have to suffer this way. Let’s look at five tactics to drive consistency and tone of voice across your content.
1. Guide your vibe
Your brand—your vibe, look, and feel—is who you are as a company. It has to be replicated accurately in each market where you sell your product. You need a style guide to train and guide linguists in choosing language and grammar so their work will match your brand. It’s a reference document—under 20 pages, please—customized for each of your target markets.
Your style guide should cover things specific to the target market and company brand such as:
- Style and tone. What is your company’s personality—formal and conservative because your audience is financial professionals, or hip and edgy because you’re targeting young retail consumers? Provide samples—don’t make translators guess what sentence structures and vibe are needed to express your brand.
- Audience/target demographic. Is your audience young, middle-aged, or senior? Male or female? Many languages have different ways of addressing different types of audiences.
- Grammar, syntax, and spelling. For example, American English “color” versus British English “colour.” Are sentence fragments acceptable?
- Key terminology. Highlight any major industry buzzwords or phrases that are essential to your brand. Then, list any terms that you don’t want to use because they are overused or just stuffy: some of ours include “resonates,” “value-added,” and “synergy”. Any product terms should be in your glossary.
More tactical grammar and style considerations should also be in your style guide, such as:
- Date and time formats, numbers, phone numbers, currency, percentages, etc. Is January 3, 2013 expressed as 1/3/13 or 03/01/13?
- Acronyms (localized or non-localized). “ASAP” (“as soon as possible” in English) doesn’t mean anything in another language unless it’s a known acronym; you have to make sure linguists know how to convey that concept accurately.
- Logo usage and colors. No green text in China please!
Tone and vibe are especially important in marketing materials—videos, web content, social media—but can be good for your brand you use them in technical materials as well.
Also, there are a number of good tools that can automatically check much of this, as I describe below.
And there’s more on how to get control of your style via style guides in this blog post.
2. Control your terminology
You don’t want synonyms out there confusing people, and you don’t want your meaning to be misunderstood in any language. Managing your terminology can prevent misunderstanding, errors, and customer service issues. It can also help people to find your product when searching for it by name: branded keywords are big for SEO, and can account for a significant amount of searches and website traffic.
To keep it all straight, you should create a glossary, which would contain any product-specific terms and their translations. We are not talking about industry-standard phrases and terms that would be well-known by translators and users, such as “web application” or “user interface.” A glossary term is a concept specific to your company and product.
A specialized translator would translate your terms, your in-country people would review them, and then those terms would be used everywhere—in both the source and translated versions.
There are tools to help with all phases of glossary management: tools to extract terms from source and target content, manage a terminology database, and automate the use of terms in new translations. Some features of these are described in this blog post.
Humans just can’t do it all: memorize every style and grammar rule, look up and reuse past translations, and catch every mistake in the time they are allotted.
What can be automated? Checking for things like terminology and translation inconsistencies, untranslated segments, identical translations for different source (or different translations for identical source), validation against customer-specific rules, and grammar and punctuation issues.
And if you don’t have a technologist in-house, have an LSP help you build customized automated checks. They should include CAT-tool-specific plugins to make sure the QA process can happen alongside translation.
4. Do a linguistic review
Despite what I just said about humans, only a human can check for vibe and tone of voice. Automations can help compliance with rules, but vibe and tone are the human side of content; a tool can’t understand brand personality.
A human review can help. Yet you can’t have a professional review 100% of your translated content — it would take forever and cost too much. Best to review a sample, such as 10%; more if you have “troubled” languages. Reviews can help you look for patterns and address issues with translators when they come up. Quality problems could also stem from failing to use TMs, glossaries, and automations properly — so check on those processes as well.
Look at how to set up a linguistic feedback loop in this blog post.
5. Reuse your approved content
You’ve spent a lot of time approving and reviewing your translations. Make sure that time wasn’t wasted: reusing them is a must. This happens via the use of a translation memory (TM).
For a quick refresher, or for new loc professionals, a TM is a byproduct of past translation jobs. It’s a database linking a source phrase, or segment, with its translation. That database is then used to “pre-translate” new text.
TM leverage gives you quite a big bang for your buck: marketing materials might leverage as much as 40% of a translation memory, and that figure can jump to 90% for technical documentation for a product with small feature changes.
There are lots of TM tools out there and your LSP can help you choose one.
A caveat: you have to keep your TMs clean, and here is a blog post on how to do that.
Justifying the investment
These tactics will give you higher quality and more consistency—the best ways to maintain your brand in each country, and your brand loyalty as a result.
There’s one other important way these practices can help you: they can reduce localization costs and speed up work. They help linguists work more quickly by reusing content, having to do less from scratch, and reducing the time spent researching and translating terms.
Altogether, a worthy investment of time and money, don’t you think?