Your Message in Pictures

8 12 2017

We are all aware that the attention span of the average 21st century human being using 21st century media has observably diminished. By choice and culture we have learned to navigate abundant, often chaotic content, including mere flashes of imagery that our visually-oriented brains handle quickly.

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We have been honing our media-consumption skills for decades now, and we’re good at it. A compelling statistic from Springer research says that people who follow driving instructions with text and images do 323% better than those who receive only text as guidance.*  Clearly non-verbal imagery streamlines certain types of thinking.

So how to take advantage of this hard wiring now that visual image options are numerous and easy to share? Where to begin? Four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it, according to Animoto* – you probably don’t want to ignore that opportunity.

The goal of marketing is to quickly capture the attention – and heart – of your potential customer, so clearly you must carefully consider both those elements that attract and those that are off-putting. You would do well to research everything from the effect of colors in various cultures, to the most popular social media outlets in your target countries**, to whether your audience prefers dubbing to subtitles, and what kind of imagery is most likely to resonate with them.

Partnering with transcreation and media experts can elevate your creative ideas into forms you may not have even thought of before. Live video has grown more popular than traditional video, for instance – is there a place for this in your messaging? Almost 30% more people viewed a 360-degree video than the same content in a conventional format, research by Magnifyre* revealed, and there might be an aspect of your business that is suited to this medium. Have you explored adding visual content such as graphs, memes, and photos to your text every 75-100 words or so? This is the ratio of articles that receive the highest social media shares, according to BuzzSumo’s* analysis of over 1 million articles.

Decades ago translation of your marketing materials required little more than native knowledge of the target language. But today the depth of communication and range of marketing possibilities is expanded by knowledge like this observation from Hubspot, referring to a Norman Nielsen Group study: “Eye-tracking studies show internet readers pay close attention to information-carrying images. In fact, when the images are relevant, readers spend more time looking at the images than they do reading text on the page.”

As a global leader in the language service industry, Skrivanek has kept up with every aspect of international communication, at every level. For your projects, both new and those you wish to re-invent, we will assemble the experts who can optimize the visual content of your marketing materials for every culture you wish to reach.

* As referenced by Hubspot, “42 Stats You Should Know About Visual Content Marketing in 2017”

** See Moravia, Nov 13, 2017, “Four Tips for Choosing and Optimizing Visuals in Your Global Content,” by Lee Densmer for more information

 Contact us!

www.skrivanek.com

 

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Culturalization: the Heart of Communication

13 11 2017

There are experts employed by global companies like Microsoft, whose job descriptions might read something like: examination of everything going on at every level in every country where we sell products.

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Beyond adaption to such elements as foreign currencies, time zones, and programming requirements, and beyond translation of languages, culturalization is the process of deep-level product adaptation to the huge variety of people globally who will use it. Sensitive and subtle issues unique to a country’s current political and social climate can figure prominently in the reception of marketing in a country. Historical circumstances that still prompt emotional responses and geopolitical boundary disagreements that were never satisfactorily resolved – such issues can lurk potently just below the surface of a people’s consciousness.

Imagine a start-up in Eastern Europe deciding to play on the vast geography of the US by using both Union and Confederate flags in marketing graphics. Not every entrepreneur in every country knows American Civil war history and how its symbols can still sizzle and divide neighbors. And, likewise, American knowledge of almost all foreign cultural, political and historical issues is most often limited to a handful of fairly superficial ideas. Experts are required to safely and successfully navigate touchy details at the heart of a culture or country. And such details can be brought to mind for a country’s natives by background music, color schemes, hand gestures… the list of potentially volatile elements is long.

Current developments within a specific people’s behavior are also important to study. As an example, for the Chinese version of Draw a Stickman, the game developers observed and incorporated the fact that Chinese players generally prefer more detailed and explicit instructions. This company also modified the game’s online social integration tools to link to the preferred social media platforms in China. There is no globally uniform strategy for any aspect of communication.

The world of ideas that your product presents may be a fiction conjured from what appears to you to be ‘nothing’. But if it hints at the sovereignty of one people over another, it will be deemed unacceptable in the offended nation. Games that do not show Taiwan as part of China, for instance, are banned there. What is known as the Sea of Japan in Japan is called the East Sea in Korea – clearly that’s a detail one would want to get right or avoid altogether.

Digging into cultural knowledge from the start is the best policy your company can adopt. The geo-cultural experts say they are most often called in when a problem has already arisen. But if you build content from the start with awareness of, and advice about, every market you hope to reach, your core communication can be clean of misguided mistakes. Skrivanek’s approach to serving our global clients has prioritized this practice from the start. We employ the expertise of our native linguists and subject experts in the countries where you need culturalization assistance, and welcome the opportunity to optimize your connections there.





Greeting Chinese Travelers in Their Own Language

9 08 2017

The number of Chinese travelers visiting destinations around the world is rapidly increasing. And according to a recent survey*, when they travel, they are willing to pay for quality. Chinese visitors to the US, for instance, spend an average of $7200 USD per person.

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Quality is not the only thing Chinese tourists want: they prefer that language services be available on-site at their places of lodging, and the majority of hotels don’t have them, especially in the US. The survey showed that only 18% of hotels surveyed globally offer travel and tourism guides in Chinese and only 21% plan to offer it in the next 12 months. Meanwhile, only 17% of hotels polled also offer in-house Mandarin-speaking staff with about that same amount planning to offer the service in the coming year.

This is the current state of things in the hospitality industry, in spite of the fact that for 9% of Chinese tourists having travel and tourism guides available in Chinese is the single most important service they expect from their hotels, while 7% mentioned a Chinese language hotel website as an essential service. In-house Mandarin-speaking staff and Chinese language travel and tourism guides are also top desires.

Accommodation of Chinese tourists varies globally of course. Mandarin-speaking staff is offered by 23% of APAC hoteliers, compared to 5% in Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), 1% in the US, and 11% in Latin America. In 2015 and 2016, Japan hosted more travelers from China than from anywhere else.

With growth of Chinese visitors to the US expected to nearly double in the next few years – from 2.59 million visitors in 2015 to 5.72 million by 2021** — enormous opportunity awaits the hotelier committed to providing Chinese language materials and services. Chinese affluence and the easing of visa restrictions in many countries has opened up the world to Chinese tourists, and the flow of travelers from that part of the world seems bound to continue to grow.

Hoteliers and other hospitality industry businesses might do well to follow the example of enterprises such as the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown (Washington DC area) that offers Chinese language television and newspapers, with plans to introduce more traditional Chinese dishes on its menus. As part of its China 2020 Strategic Plan, Australia is instituting numerous initiatives, from giant video ads in Beijing subway stations, to the facilitation of easier payment methods for Chinese tourists.

Numbers indicate that now is the time to incorporate a response to this trend into your business plan. And whatever ideas you generate for connecting with Chinese visitors, Skrivanek will be able to create exactly the texts you need to ensure that they work well.

 

*Chinese International Travel Monitor 2017 by hotels.com, IPSOS research marketing firm

**Statista





Consider taking an interpreter when meeting with French business partners

25 07 2017

Europe’s second largest economy offers a number of opportunities. The key to a good relationship with French partners involves having a clear understanding of French culture and etiquette, which are distinctly different from those in the U.S. The French believe that the business relationships you develop are more important than the contracts, so think in the long-term about building partnerships.  

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To start with, remember: you’ll get furthest with some knowledge of French.

The traditional belief that the French often do not bother with English and other foreign languages is not far from the truth. In large and multinational companies, the situation is better, but it is still recommended to learn at least a few basic phrases in French. ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Enchanté’ (it’s nice to meet you) are almost essential. To a certain extent the emphasis on using their own language is due to national pride. The French have a deep patriotism. Although it is a very diverse country in which many different cultures live, they tend to have a reserved approach toward foreigners. If you are in doubt about a situation, it might be best to use interpreters’ services.

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French society is very hierarchic, and this also has an effect on business relationships. Therefore, always be careful to ensure that your French business partner communicates with someone in a correlating position in your company. Respect toward a company’s management is also shown through gestures such as standing up when superiors enter the room, or through acknowledging their arrival, at the least.

There is a general emphasis on education and good morals. In discussions with you, French business partners may debate about the most wide-ranging topics and in the process assess your intellectual abilities. French men are gentlemen based on principle, treat women with courtesy, and adhere to ethical standards. Of course, there is also an emphasis on elegant fashion and aesthetics in general. For instance, the French consider the quality of their environment, wherever they are, to be very important. So, when choosing a location for lunch or dinner, consider not only the quality of the food and a good address, but also the restaurant’s interior design and ambiance.

First – and lasting — impressions

The French prefer personal interaction, so initial contact should be made by telephone, rather than e-mail. Arrive at meetings on time (although the French are comfortable with slight delays), shake your business partner’s hand, and start the meeting with casual conversation. The French do not get right down to the heart of the matter, and this is in part because they are seeking to understand you as an individual. If you seem disinterested in debating the issues involved with your potential deal, they can consider that a sign of arrogance.

The French pay close attention to detail, so you can expect a lot of added questions. It will be a major advantage to have a visual presentation prepared, such as a PowerPoint presentation, and descriptions in French will aid your cause. The French are generally conservative when it comes to body language.

When defending their own interests, the French know how to be tough, and when negotiating, they are suspicious of supposed “win-win” deals. They are not generally fond of risk, and prefer arrangements that leave room for adjustment and adaptation over time.

During negotiations, it is acceptable and appropriate to take detailed notes so that you will be able to ensure that everything makes sense. French meetings tend to be more creative than the average American business meeting. It can seem as if they are rudely interrupting you in conversation, but this is a customary French mode of expressing interest in the topic. It’s probably a good idea to pay close attention to their suggestions, without allowing them to throw off your focus. For important negotiations, it is a good idea to sign a written document, such as a memorandum. In fact, with the French oral agreements don’t mean much, so if you’re serious, get it in writing.

http://www.skrivanek.com





A Special Challenge for Political Interpreters: America’s 45th President

6 03 2017

Professional language interpreters of political leaders face numerous obstacles to accuracy. Among those: the speaker’s voice or accent, his or her attitude, missed words, misheard words, misconstrued logic of the speaker’s thoughts. When every sentence must be quickly or even simultaneously translated, the interpreter must – like lightning – 1) understand what is being said, 2) convert it, and 3) deliver it.

A prestigious job, certainly, but an extreme challenge under any circumstances.

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Add to this picture a leader like the new American President, whose speech contains multiple idiosyncrasies, and the problems are not merely technical, but can become ethical. As French translator Berengere Viennot wrote in the French edition of Slate, if she translates what he is actually saying, French listeners may not understand him; however, if she edits and smoothes his language then she misrepresents him as “an ordinary politician who speaks properly.”

An interpreter’s job requires acting; the interpreter must “become” that person whose words they are translating. Vile ideas, ugly words, offensive arguments … these are not the interpreter’s to soften or exclude. It is incumbent upon interpreters to expressively communicate all of the ideas their subject speaks, as well as every emotion, nuance, and tonal element that can possibly be conveyed.

So translating low-minded comments and vulgar words is all part of the job, although slang, sarcasm, and innuendo are notoriously difficult to find equivalents for. What’s troubling in the 45th American President’s talk is more fundamental. Good interpreters attempt to get into the minds of the politicians they are translating, because if they can understand their subjects’ ways of thinking, the interpreters can more fluently anticipate and comprehend the speakers’ ideas. But finding integrated ideas at the core of the 45th President’s mind has proven difficult so far.

From the point of view of many professionals, Donald Trump’s ramblings often just don’t contain clear meanings. Agness Kaku, based in Tokyo, told the Washington Post that within Trump’s remarks the subject is very easy to keep track of: “it’s about him, it’s about the enemy.” But the actual point of his sentences is hard to track. “It just drifts,” she said. “You end up having to guess as a translator, which isn’t very good.”

And who takes the blame for incoherent translations that might have relied on some guessing?

“Trump gives me outbreaks of sweat,” his German translator said, according to a Tweet by journalist Laura Schneider. “He is so contradictory that people think the translator talks rubbish.”

There have been many tense moments and high stakes in the history of political interpreting, and it seems there may be an increased number in the near future. But on the other hand, in your world, for your interpreting needs, Skrivanek offers some of the best professionals in the industry, and we are ready for any challenge.

J. McShulskis





Germany’s Dedication to Data Privacy

6 02 2017

Germany is working toward being the most secure digital data site in the world. But as the world’s citizens knit together in networks that aren’t confined within geopolitical borders, the governments of individual countries with strong values face complex legal and trade-related issues when trying to assert them.

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A serious emphasis on privacy is embedded in German law, and even more deeply ingrained in German culture. The 1949 German constitution created after WWII forbids spying on German citizens, and challenges to the fierce protection of privacy tend to spark quick, wary references to the past. The Federal Data Protection Act was established in 1990, and has continued to be strengthened since then.

Digital Society, in Berlin, is a group of 35 industry specialists (such as copyright lawyers, cryptography professors and journalists) formed in 2010 to keep the public educated about data privacy issues, and to propose legislation to the German parliament. “In Germany,” said Markus Beckedahl, one of Digital Society’s founders, “privacy is a civil right, and in the United States, it’s an option.” Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations about the US data collection of German citizens’ phone conversations by the NSA dominated German media for a while, and damaged German-American relations.

But pressures from the EU and international giants like Google and Amazon, push data-sharing agreements that prioritize corporate profits and consumer convenience, as well as fears, such as that of terrorism. Many countries are building policy around such concerns, but Germany would like to avoid capitulation to compromised security standards, even as it retains leadership as an economic power.

A recent survey by auditor KPMG and the German digital trade association, Bitkom, shows that 83% of German companies expect their cloud provider to retain its data centers in Germany, while 74% want them to at least be located somewhere in the EU. This is not a perspective that supports such strategies as the EU plan to create the Digital Single Market (DSM), which would be a unified EU digital market that eliminates regulatory barriers for online services and goods.

Nor does this attitude embrace the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement that went into effect in July of 2016. That agreement gives companies the legal right to transfer data from the EU to the US, but with required US Department of Commerce reviews. Resistance continues, however, although one compromise that seems to be effective as practiced by companies such as Microsoft, is to assign “data trustees” within Germany, no matter where the data is physically stored or what levels of encryption it has undergone.

Awareness of this highly sensitive issue is important to keep in mind when dealing with German clients, maintaining respect for boundaries you may not be accustomed to dealing with. Skrivanek Group is well acquainted with all the relevant subtleties of the German culture and language, as well as the country’s laws, including the new and volatile area of cyber-law.

 J. McShulskis

 

 





New Markets in an Ancient Land – Localizing in Persian

15 12 2016

Nearly 80 million people inhabit Iran, the second largest country in the Middle East, and years of trade restrictions have limited that enormous consumer population’s connection to international products. Businesses in the west hoped for an explosion of trade after the nuclear-program-related trade sanctions of 2012 were lifted shiraz-1481595_1280in early 2016, but that has not yet happened. Apparently, logistical and diplomatic work remains to be done to secure trust and compromises about policies, the current resistance arising more from the government of the U.S., than that of Europe or Iran.

 

In spite of the hitches, Persian localization is accessible, and much more approachable than it was ten years ago, before some large-scale localization work was done by mega-companies such as Google and Microsoft. The frontier has been softened by the development of new, effective tools for translation into Persian, larger software glossaries, an increased number of available language and subject matter experts, and the like.

There are three modern strains of Persian, Iran’s being called by both Persian and Farsi. Since the Muslim conquest of Persia in 651 AD, the word “Farsi” began to be used in documents, because the word “pars” – for “Persian” – contains a “p” and Arabic does not provide a corresponding character or sound. That term “Farsi” was officially adopted to describe the Persian language by English nations in 1935, for political reasons, and it is often used in the west, but Persian refers more accurately to the language of Iran versus the Persian of Islamic/Arabic influences.* The two other modern strains of Persian are Dari, spoken in Afghanistan, and Tajiki, of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the latter of which uses the Cyrillic alphabet; but speakers of all three Persian variations can understand each other without significant obstacles.

Obstacles to localization, on the other hand, abound, for many of the usual reasons: religion, culture, consumer history, limited native on-site expertise, and unusual language features. Consider the simple fact that Persian reads from right to left, and therefore a customer reading advertising text who comes upon the left-to-right reading name of a European or American company has to switch directions when reaching the English interruption. Directional processes affected by the placement of tabs and action buttons must also be considered. The entire orientation of a page is going to be different.

Since the ninth century, Arabic has influenced Persian – the scripts are quite close, for example – but there are still notable differences that will show up as errors in translation software that is checking for Arabic alphabet accuracy. For example, Perso-Arabic individual letters have up to four different, slightly altered forms, depending on their location within the word, and therefore the automatic joining of letters (when prefixes are involved, for instance) is not always desirable. Because computer programs are set up to join the letters of distinct words in a cursive string, a nonprinting character called ZWNJ (zero-width non-joiner) must be used to override automatic joining and ensure breaks where they need to be.

There is passionate national feeling for Persian in Iran – it is an ancient language that has been evolving in a country with a seven thousand-year-old architectural presence on the planet. English is spoken more commonly than it once was in Iran, and it has a presence in major Iranian cities, but that presence is still a limited one. Even young consumers, who may be fluent in English, prefer localized websites. It’s a country where per capita income has been for the most part steadily rising for decades until the trade sanctions of 2012. Now that those have been lifted, there seems to be every reason to hope that the Iranian consumer market will soon be a strong one.

As one of the top fifty language service providers in the world, Skrivanek has extensive experience localizing all types of content for the Iranian market, and we are happy to discuss your needs any time.

 J. McShulskis

 

* “Persian NOT Farsi,” by Shapour Suren-Pahlav, 2007, Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies, http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Languages/persian_not_farsi.htm