As a content producer, you’re proud of your work. You do everything you can to make sure your content is high-quality and exactly what your users need. So, when it comes time to distribute your product across the world, how do you make sure the translations are up to your high standards?
Here’s how to translate content for a worldwide audience using today’s best practices.
But if you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
What does it mean to translate content for the best user experience?
Consider what the “best user experience” would be for someone viewing your content. Do you want that user to have a seamless, intuitive understanding of your content? Do you want that user to know how to navigate your product and understand its nuances and subtleties? Would you like for that user to feel as if the content was produced natively in his or her own country, even if it wasn’t?
The goal of translating content is to address each of these goals with a resounding, “Yes!” Well-translated content should flow naturally and feel so intuitive to the reader that he or she doesn’t even realize the content has been translated.
To translate content with the end user’s best experience in mind, you will first need to narrow down the translation services you need based on the media you create.
What kinds of content do you produce?
Chances are, your content falls under one of the following broad umbrellas that encompass nearly all of the media we consume in the modern world:
- Written text, such as on websites or in ebooks
- Audio recordings, such as podcasts or music
- Video recordings, where words are spoken by someone on-screen
- A combination of the above, such as in video games, apps, programs, or movies with subtitles
Based on the media you create, make a list of all the ways your content will need to be translated.
Simple projects may only give you one or two items to address.
A text-based app, book, ebook, or website with no audio or video content lends itself to straightforward translation very well, with few extra steps. In these cases, you could hire a translator to translate the content, and then have native speakers of the new language edit and proofread the content for context, accuracy, and a “natural” flow.
If this is all you need to do, you can safely skip ahead to the next section once your content is translated. You will want to follow the remaining steps for putting the finishing touches on your product’s localization even if your content itself is fairly straightforward.
But, what if you aren’t in the business of creating simple text-based products?
When you have a much more complicated piece of content, you’ll need to think outside of the box a bit more.
We’ll use the example of a video game, since games can be potentially very complex. In this case, your list may look something like this:
- Translate written content that appears in quest text, ability descriptions, and any other text that will be visible to the end-user. For simple games, this may be a matter of changing a few lines here and there. For complex games, this step can be extensive. To make sure you have caught all instances of written text that pop up in-game, it’s best to have some beta players test your game before it is released in the destination location.
- Translate any dialogue spoken aloud by voice actors. Once the script itself has been translated, you can hire voice actors in the new language to record the new lines.
- Edit animations so the characters’ mouths appear to be forming the sounds of the new language as opposed to the original one. This step is optional, but it does make gameplay more seamless for the player.
- Provide dubs or subtitles for users who prefer one experience over the other.
- Provide translations of text files, how-to documents, installation and troubleshooting instructions, game packaging, and even the game’s title itself.
With your exhaustive list in hand, you can then provide the details to your experienced translators so they can get to work on your project. Hire a high-quality translator right off the bat, and save yourself the time and effort you would have spent fixing errors from a cheaper translator.
Once your content has been translated on the surface level, how do you finish the process?
Getting text or audio from one language and putting it into another language is only the first step toward a successful translation strategy. If you stop here, you will be falling short of providing the best user experience, likely by a long shot.
Have native readers and editors in the new language proofread your translated content. Beta readers can check for many common pitfalls and language-specific idiosyncrasies that everyday translators may miss:
- Local or regional catchphrases
- Phrases that may be offensive in one language, but not in another
- Proper nouns that should not be translated
- Awkward wording that doesn’t sound natural in the new language even if it technically has been translated properly
This vital proofreading and beta reading step can make the difference between content that sounds natural and delivers your message flawlessly and content that has been obviously and hastily translated. When you’ve only done the bare minimum to change one language into another, your readers will be able to tell. The phrasing is often choppy, some words won’t make sense, and most of the time, the context will be off.
In fact, this proofreading step is arguably the most important part of the translation process. If you plan to skip this step, you might be better off just not translating your content at all.
Badly translated content reflects poorly on your brand.
When it comes to product quality, your users should never question whether the shoddy and unnatural translation means your product might be equally unreliable. At best, your intended users will be more likely to skip past your product in favor of something else that looks smoother and more polished. At worst, you’re setting your brand up for negative reactions, bad publicity, and a reputation that will be hard to erase.
Not even a mega-company like Coca Cola can get away with hasty translations and skipping the proofreading process! This notable translation difficulty has followed Coca Cola since the 1920s and reached such notoriety that it is almost considered an urban legend. Likely, the company will never entirely shake the story of this awkward translation issue.
If you’re going to translate your content, take the time to do it the right way. Your users, not to mention your business, will thank you.
Once your translated content has been buffed and polished to a shine, a local reader should not be able to tell it was not written in their language originally. When it passes the “native reader” test, you will know you have successfully translated your content.
Simple projects may be ready for distribution in the new language by this point. However, if you want to really put the effort in and stand out for having great localized content, keep going!
Bonus things you can do to improve the end user’s experience:
Even if the translation itself is technically complete at this point, you can keep working toward an optimized and seamless piece of localized content. Once written text flows naturally and any verbal dialogue has been rewritten into a translated script, you’re ready to put the finishing touches onto your final product.
To make sure you have fully translated your content to its new destination language, remember the following steps in the content localization process:
- Consider hiring native voice actors in the new language to record dubs for video content or for games. Sure, subtitles are great and perfectly functional, but for the best user experience, you want to optimize. Allow your viewers to choose between subtitles and natively recorded dubs.
- Do a triple check for tiny details you may have missed. Think icon text that may still be in the original language, logo text, and other small items that may get missed the first (or second!) time through the proofreading process.
- Keep in mind that certain fonts are more legible in some languages than others. What works for written text in your original language may look awkward or even unreadable in the destination language. Understanding this distinction is another area where native beta testers and proofreaders will excel above cheaper options.
- Look into additional localization for your media. Think about tailoring color schemes, background images and themes, and even the music you choose to run in the background of your videos to the destination location.
- If you have translated your content into a language that is very structurally different than the original language, you may need to redesign your website or app format to take this into account. For example, languages that read right to left will have more intuitive and natural formatting after a redesign. Also, languages that use a totally different character set will take up a very different amount of space on each page and may look strange without some formatting adjustments.
Overwhelmed? Don’t be.
As a content producer, you want to put your best foot forward when it comes to showing off your brand. You may worry that an imperfect translation or some small detail will slip through the cracks. A mistranslated phrase could betray its non-native origins to your user!
More than likely, you don’t need to worry.
If you go through all the steps in this process and hire high-quality translators, proofreaders, and voice actors you can trust, your content will be in good hands. It’s unlikely your team will miss a glaring mistake that would gravely affect the user experience of the final product.
So relax, and enjoy spreading your message to the world!