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Melt Digital
August 11, 2013

Translation or localisation: What’s what and who’s who?

It’s all very well having some lovely, well-written content on your website, but what if you’re attracting an international audience? Some web-browsers have a built-in word-for-word translation service (to an extent), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be relevant information.

That’s basically, the difference between simple translation and localisation. A few examples of poor translations can be seen via, which although funny would cause multi-million dollar campaigns to fail miserably.

  • KFC’s “Finger-Lickin’ Good” translated into Chinese as “We’ll Eat Your Fingers Off”
  • Pepsi’s “We bring you back to life” translated into Chinese as “We bring your ancestors back from the grave”
  • Braniff Airlines’ “Fly in leather” translated into Spanish as “Fly naked”
  • Chicken-man Frank Perdue’s slogan, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” translated into Spanish as “It takes a hard man to make a chicken affectionate.”
  • Schweppes Tonic Water was translated into Italian as Schweppes Toilet Water.

However, localisation is actually a lot more complicated than changing your content with a few key terms. If you really want to appeal to a region-specific audience, everything from content themes and culture references to images and colour choices. The wrong use of localisation efforts can cause anything from a little chuckle to being seen as wildly inappropriate.

Did you know that the use of the number 4 is seen as bad luck in Japanese culture? As for them, the word for ‘four’ sounds like the word meaning ‘death’, whereas, the colour red is synonymous with good fortune.

Another key factor is where you market your product. Facebook isn’t the biggest network in China, it’s ‘QZone’ with over 520million members (2012). Some countries are more prone to share content via Twitter and some audiences spend more time on LinkedIn than Pinterest. Knowing your audience is key.

Preparing your content for an international, multi-regional, targeted audience is a virtual minefield of potential errors and miscommunications. Luckily, Melt Digital is here to help. We have a network of resources including over a thousand content writers and multilingual bloggers, who fully understand how to use the right language for the right audience. We appreciate the full range of customer behaviour and marketing specifics based on both culture and region.

James R C Smith

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