How to Avoid Common Mistakes with Content Localization


Remember the translation error that cost HSBC $10 million in rebranding campaigns? The translated version of the bank’s tagline, “Assume Nothing” became “Do Nothing” in some countries. KFC followed suit by mistakenly translating the catchphrase, “Finger-Lickin’ Good” to “Eat your fingers off” in Chinese.

These translation errors can be hilarious at best, but for the most part, they will result in an expensive PR disaster that’s extremely difficult to fix. So when you’re expanding your business to other regions of the world, it’s crucial that you take the time to ensure proper content localization to avoid this type of expensive mistake. 

Check out how you can avoid some common mistakes in content localization:  

Avoid Literal Translations

A literal translation is never going to do your message justice. 

In fact, it could end up meaning something completely different in your target language. For example, “body” could translate to “corpse” in some languages. So you might have a hard time trying to sell a car with a high-quality “corpse.”

In some cases, cultural differences may result in the context being completely meaningless or confusing. For example, the Coors slogan, “Turn it loose” may not relay the same meaning if you translate it literally into another language because other cultures may not use the phrase in a similar context.

Understand the Target Region’s Culture

A better understanding of the culture in your target region will help you understand what truly resonates with the audience and has the potential to create the desired impact. Not only will it help you avoid meaningless and confusing contexts, but it will also give you an idea of what expressions to use to effectively convey your message. 

For example, Nike appeals to Chinese consumers by changing its name to 耐克 (pronounced Nàikè) in China. This translation offers somewhat similar phonetics and also has a positive meaning in the Chinese culture as it means “persevering” or “enduring.”

Study Language and Dialect Differences (and Similarities)

One major content localization mistake involves failing to understand differences or possible similarities in the language of your target region. Some words in English may have the same spelling and/or pronunciation in your target language, but have completely different meanings.

For example, you might have a hard time selling a “body mist” in Germany because “mist” translates to “manure” in German. At the least, it could be a harmless yet hilarious mistake that’s easy to correct. At the worst, it could be vulgar and offensive, thus destroying your brand reputation in your target region even before you start to build it.

Understand the Meaning Behind Symbols and Colors

Different cultures may have different interpretations of symbols and colors. While the Chinese may associate red with celebration and prosperity, the same color may symbolize mourning and violence in South Africa.

So it’s crucial that you avoid reusing the same website design and visual content for different regions. This is where your understanding of the target region’s culture will come in handy.

Know When You Need Transcreation

Transcreation goes beyond basic translation and combines the processes of translating and recreating content. It involves recreating the content in a new language while ensuring that it conveys the intended context and gets your message across effectively. In some cases, you may need to switch to more culturally-relevant analogies and phrases to deliver the desired impact.

This is only possible if you work with a translator who has a close (ideally, firsthand) understanding of the culture in your target region. At the same time, they should also be fluent in the original language and culture to avoid any syntactical errors.

Preparing for a Global Expansion with Powerful Content Localization

It’s always a challenge to expand your horizons and bring your product to a different country. Even between English-speaking countries, cultural differences may render certain phrases and words useless in your target location. So you can imagine the challenge that you’ll have to face when expanding on a global scale.

This makes it crucial to always prepare for thorough transcreation if you want to avoid expensive translation mistakes. For this, make sure you find a translator on Fiverr who’s fluent in the language and culture of your target location.

Fiverr Team
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