Content Translation

STC has a section under Designing and Developing Content that gives some information and tips on how to translate, localize, and eventual globalize your content. Here are some important this to know and consider when it comes to translation.

Did you know that translation does not only refer to converting a message from one language to another? It also incorporates the interpretation of the message and how it is understood from one language to another language. This is similar to advertising and marketing, because the message that they want to get a cross to their consumers all relies on the sending, decoding, and the noise through the message process.

Translation can be difficult due to these following factors:

  • The rules of grammar of the two languages
  • Their writing conventions 
  • Their idioms

STC mentions that many writers, publishers, and people in general believe that there is corresponding word in another language for the word you are using. A very known example of this is Coca-Cola. When Coca-Cola products went overseas to China the phrase “Coca-Cola” actually translates into “Bite the wax tadpole”, and clearly if they kept this translation it was expected their product would not sell well in China, and would be a huge marketing flop. So to solve this predicament Coca-Cola Company decided to choose two Chinese symbols that have a broad, yet positive meaning to them. The two symbols they ended up choosing generally mean “tasty” and “happy” so in China Coca-Cola is a tasty and happy soft drink… I’d say that is much better than having the perception of a tadpole wax soft drink, wouldn’t you think?

So how do you make the transition from one language to another smoother? It’s much easier if it is taken into consideration while writing the content, that it will be translated because the writer(s) can choose words that are not only used in the country they are writing in. 

Lastly here are some things you should know regarding translation & special topics…

  • Controlled Languages: translation is much easier if you work within constraints in the first place
  • Metrics for Translation: how to measure what you are translating
  • Translation Technologies: although good-quality translation will always rely on people, there are technologies that can help.
  • Computer-aided Translation Basics: A rough census of the Internet shows that the demand for multilingual content increases.


3 thoughts on “Content Translation

  1. Yeah i always knew translations were not easy to I have heard of some other companies having issues with their translations. I always thought it was funny honestly. But I feel like new companies don’t realize how hard it is because now you have to somewhat change your image in a different country so it matches with a word that is somewhat close to your message. English is just not that easy to translate to other languages and vic versa.

  2. I enjoyed this post. Translating is definitely not easy, and can be very frustrating. I know I’ve had fun with online translators because for more complicated translations, it comes out garbled and not even close to the original. I also liked your Coca-Cola example. I find that this is the case for a lot of companies. I read somewhere once that Target had named a style of shoe a word that meant “pee” in a different language. Companies need to be careful and do their research before using foreign words because the translation may not be correct or get lost in another country.

  3. Thanks for your responses guys! Yes I agree that translation is a difficult thing to do, especially for large companies that go to several other countries and have to make adjustments in order to translate correctly for each individual country that uses another language. Coca-Cola is not just in the U.S. and China so I’m positive that they faced the previously discussed complication above, many times but learned from it, and didn’t want an error to happen because the China translation was made public.

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