Translating digital copy: Three important considerations

If you read these articles on the CRYNO website it is very likely that you will have found yourself translating digital copy, or commissioning a translation at some point. Here in Wales the new Welsh Language Standards of Welsh Language Commissioner demand that public institutions are obliged to offer bilingual communication channels.

And whether you are representing an organisation or merely yourself, being able to use digital media in multiple languages is always going to offer several advantages in creating relationships with audiences and customers.

Who should be translating digital copy, anyway?

So, how do you go about it? I’m going to nail my colours to the mast from the outset and say it like this: wherever it’s possible you should create your digital copy in all languages yourself. This is especially true for digital copy translation for social media. Why is that? Because writing for digital media is craft which can be unfamiliar to those who do not write in those forms on a regular basis.

But of course, not everyone has the time, or the resources to do so themselves. And not everyone is bilingual or multilingual. There will therefore be a need for support by a trusted translator. But there is a need to consider some things before sending all your great content to a translator. Remember that you have spent hours crafting your content; why lose some of the fineness of your skills in someone else’s hands?

And do I even need to tell you not to use machine translation? No? Good.

Apologia to the translators!

Not that I’m here to criticise translators either. I know great translator. Heck – even some of my best friends are translators! And as someone who is not a translator myself I admire their skill. But I will say that not all interpreters are going to be absolutely comfortable and fluent in the creation of content for the variety of digital media that’s available. And certainly, there are few translators who are going to be digital marketers or who are also great content or marketing communicators.

Your duty is therefore to help your interpreter to understand your needs completely before they begin translating digital copy. This is for your benefit and the translator’s! Here are some suggestions how to go about doing so:

1. Translating for the medium and the audience

It is essential that the translator understands the medium and the audience that they are translating for.

Because social media is conversational, I’d discourage purely translated content wherever possible, and use instead your natural voice in all languages. But recognising that often there’s a need to start conversations by creating shareable content, you will occasionally need help to translate the content. If so, tell them:

  • Who is the audience you have in mind for the digital copy
  • By what means every piece of copy is going to be published (e.g. on a blog post, Twitter, Facebook)

2. Tone of voice

It is very important to know the correct tone of voice before translation digital copy. That is one of the important things about digital media: writing with excessive formality and complex language won’t do you any favours. If the content you have created is good, the translator should reflect this in his or her translation, and the language is oral reflection of your original.

For example, social media requires a down to earth tone. There is no point using formal language or archaic grammatical forms, (unless you are Chaucer!). Do not overuse of the passive voice either as it is not going to be suitable. In Welsh the formal verbal forms aren’t often suited to digital copy especially on media such as Twitter and Facebook. People talk much less formally, and on social media, unless you sound more colloquial, then the audience will not see the person behind the words and switch off.

In terms of online articles or blog posts, there is more scope to vary your tone of voice, and use slightly more formal language. But beware, digital media often requires the use of simpler language, but at the same time not dumbed down.

3. Terminology

Discuss with your translator any terms that may be new or unfamiliar to them in advance. If you can, over time, create a style guide. If there is an inconsistency or vagueness in the use of terms, then it will be a problem for your users and audiences.

If you understand the needs of creating digital copy, you will also understand the importance of some key terms, particularly in a blog post, or news item. Make sure this is considered before translating digital copy.

Get translating digital copy

That’s my lot on the subject of translating digital copy. Please remember the key points that you and your translator need to understand:

  • the medium of publication and the audience
  • your tone of voice
  • consistent terminology

If possible, make sure that you have close contact with the translator, and develop a good professional relationship so you understand each other’s needs. Find the best translator for you, discuss your needs with him or her – and your digital content will reach its goals every time.

Do you agree? Are you a translator with any comment about this, maybe because I am too presumptuous my opinion?! Please leave comments below and we will discuss.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *