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.

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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.

Stylish intellectuals

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





Thinking Global from the Beginning

11 10 2016

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European “Eunicorns” have a globalization advantage: out of necessity, they globalize much earlier than successful North American startup companies. Markets in France, Spain, Sweden and other European countries are so much smaller than the English-speaking block, that entrepreneurs think beyond their own borders from day one. Then, when expansion to new markets is the best next step, their mindsets are flexible, translation resources in place, and geographical scalability already prepared for.

But why should a start-up in North America, the UK or Australia think beyond the enormous English-speaking market until much further down the road? For one thing, two-thirds of their customers lie outside that market, by some estimates. And since investors like to see long-term thinking, the question of where a company will be selling in five or ten years is immediately relevant.

An additional advantage is that some potential markets are also less competitive than those an English-speaking company may be most accustomed to selling to, because of fewer similar products. As an example, Arabic markets are often neglected by English-speaking companies, and yet they account for nearly 5% of the world’s internet users*. An early move to localize for such a market could be strategically brilliant.

Thinking globally before you “have to” could save not only money, but protect you from failed efforts and wasted time when you do start to move in that direction. If from the start you are planning with a global market in mind, you will use concepts, logos, and branding, that are simple and direct, and therefore easy to localize. Knowing and working from the essence of what your product offers your customers, you can choose keywords and phrases that don’t have to be abandoned later because they are only relevant to, for instance, an American audience.

Another important localization piece that can be provided for early on: any software you use should be able to support international character sets (Unicode), with user-visible text and images separate from executable code, and a capacity for text expansion.

For an American or UK start-up with limited localization resources, one safe, lower budget way to initiate global readiness could be to localize from American to UK English (or vice versa). Of course the languages are so close as to be interchangeable, to a large extent. It is easy to find UK variations that are accepted and understood by Americans, or Australian phrasing that does not deter purchases by UK buyers.

But the differences that do exist – spelling, phrasing, humor, cultural references — can be addressed and resolved. An internal structure for doing so can be developed within your company, including the development of a working relationship with a strong LSP such as Skrivanek. Then the interface for more complex localization will be in place, the process practiced and the glitches worked out.

J. McShulskis

*internetworldstats.com

 





International Marketing Translation: the Pitfalls and Possibilities

30 01 2015

If Coca Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken can make expensive, comical international marketing mistakes, with all of the marketing translation these giant corporations have done over decades, then it’s clearly easy. Endless possibilities for mis-communication exist, ranging from inaccurate word choices to the inappropriateness sometimes of saying anything at all.

An example of the latter is when Coca Cola once stamped the bottoms of Coke bottles in some countries with the advice “OPEN OTHER END”.
International Marketing TranslationAn early translation lesson is that colloquialisms and slang must be handled skillfully. Clairol’s curling iron called “Mist Stick” was introduced to the German market without translating or changing the name, not taking into account that “mist” is slang for manure in German. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) opened in China in the 1980s with their traditional slangy slogan “Finger-lickin’ good”, which translates to a catchy “Eat your fingers off” in Chinese.

Different sentence structure in a target language can also turn a phrase the wrong way. Pepsi translated its slogan, “Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation” into Arabic in such a way that its new marketing translation promised, “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.”

Even when you think you’re avoiding one trap, you might walk right into a different one. A prominent drug company used pictures rather than phrases for a product they marketed in the United Arab Emirates, specifically in order to avoid language errors. The first picture showed a sick face, the second a person taking the medication, and the third showed a healthy face. But Arab readers read from right to left.

These stories are funny to read about, but not the least bit entertaining to be part of. The answer to the puzzle that is international marketing translation begins not with guessing, hoping, and winging it with Google translate or untrained speakers of the target language, but with professional marketing translators who have lengthy experience providing in-depth, native resources in every country in which you want to introduce your product.

As you work with such a language service provider, keep in mind the following key points for the practice of marketing translations that bring to life exactly what you want to sell.

Make a thorough and intelligent analysis ahead of time of your communication desires, before any of the marketing translation work begins. Many changes may be required, and it’s possible that significant portions of your existing texts and layouts will not be usable.

Think of the process this way: your marketing translation must be generated from your core product concepts and the preferences of your target audience, not from your source-language marketing materials.

In addition to content changes, there are physical and practical considerations such as the way a language moves, the space it requires, the types of symbols, calendars, clocks, and programming codes needed. Pay close attention to all details so that none of them are overlooked – even tiny missteps harm your credibility.

You will want to seek and rely on marketing translation experts with intimate knowledge of your audience and the precise region you are targeting; be wary of superficial or secondhand information, clichés, and erroneous preconceptions. It is not wise to avoid this research by simply generalizing: if your resulting marketing translations are too “global” then they may just be too bland and vague to allow anyone to identify with them.

Be prepared: international marketing translation is tricky and time-consuming, requiring more resources and higher levels of talent and experience than most translation jobs.

A good place to start would be to contact an experienced LSP possessing a global network, such as Skrivanek, for a marketing translation consultation.

  J. McShulskis





A Hidden International Language

25 11 2014

Into the universal realm of the Unicode, the symbols for a weightlifter, a spiderweb and the Mona Lisa have now been accepted. These are three of the more than 250 emoji considered significant enough that their computer encoding is being officially standardized for use by Apple, Google, Microsoft and others.

new_emojisThese three join hundreds of emoji facial expressions, hand gestures, food items, weather and plant elements, on and on, used to replace or augment words.The non-profit Unicode Consortium regulates embedded computer code for every character in every living language, and is “the foundation for all modern software” according to their official website (Unicode.org). Begun by Xerox and Apple leaders in 1987 as an “international/multilingual text character encoding system,” today Unicode sets officially recognized computer code standards in coordination with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Changing the standardized code for any symbol – even if that code accidentally includes a misspelling – is not possible once it is in use, because stability of past programming with present and future programming is Unicode’s fundamental reason for existence. However, adding symbols is an ongoing process: ancient scripts for example, or new currency symbols, and the ever-increasing number of popular emoji.

The formal petitioning process for the acceptance of new symbols is lengthy and complex. The first criterion is that new characters must be in widespread use as textual elements (for a glimpse of the most-used emoji, check out a real time tally of their Twitter use at emojitracker.com). When that is established, petitioners are asked to engage in discussion via Unicode forums and email exchanges to refine (or eliminate) their proposals.

Such discussions may well include cultural, political, and social concerns (see for example, “What about diversity?” at Unicode.org under FAQ), involving issues like the color of your symbol or its origins. One Unicode emoji petition argued: “Of the more than 800 emojis, the only two resembling people of color are a guy who looks vaguely Asian and another in a turban. There’s a white boy, girl, man, woman, elderly man, elderly woman, blond boy, blonde girl, and, we’re pretty sure, Princess Peach. But when it comes to faces outside of yellow smileys, there’s a staggering lack of minority representation.”

Juxtaposition of computer code standardization with a conversation including yellow smiley faces in a tally of racially diverse symbols seems impossibly odd. But this is, after all, the formative stage of a sort of international language, and human beings are incurably attached to the significance of their symbols.

The Unicode 7.0.0 symbols added this year and 8.0.0 symbols in the process of adaptation are described and listed at Unicode.org.
What do they mean to Americans? What do they mean to Swedes or Peruvians? How is the use of such symbols changing our conversations?

 

 J. McShulskis

 





Transcreation or Simple Translation?

21 11 2014

As you expand globally, the question you face is how to establish a customer base that truly understands your message and desires and identifies with your product. The simple translation of your original texts could save time and money in the short-run, but lead to greater expense and even damage control in the long-run, if the direct translation fails.

Skrivanek_globeConsidering all of the nuances that define individual languages, cultures, and product readiness, transcreation is often the only profitable option. What is the difference? Transcreation is a recreation of the original materials in a form that affects the customer in the same way that the source texts affect the original audience. This can result in creative, entirely new messaging that involves changes in the tenor and appearance of everything from your slogans and advertising copy to your product name. Translation more simply adapts your text for the basic verbal understanding of a foreign audience.

But why not utilize copywriters in the target country to read the originals and reproduce the text from scratch in their native tongue? This is an option, but it should be remembered that a nuanced comprehension of your original message must also be employed in order for the new copy to be accurate in all ways. The process of transcreation includes providing a creative brief to specialists, delineating all concepts, as well as feelings, that you hope to convey.

High quality transcreation basically creates a “familiar” passageway into the world of your products, using layouts, colors, colloquialisms, video, music and even purchasing methods that your potential clients in different nations will trust. While the populations of many countries may have some exposure to English and understand it to be the current lingua franca, nevertheless the art of persuading someone to buy your product is complex, orchestrating deeply personal preferences and comfort elements. You can begin to imagine the gap by going online to buy shoes from a Chinese website, for instance, or lamps from an Indian manufacturer – what elements (or missing elements) send you rushing back to Amazon and Shopzilla?

With a booming growth in global advertising, the question of transcreation versus translation can’t reasonably be ignored. A quarter of companies translate into 15 or more languages, and some companies translate into as many as 60 languages. Facebook has adapted its service to the languages of a stunning 90% of the world’s population and 95 percent of people with access to the internet.* The global race for customers is in high gear, and the more sophisticated your tools, the greater likelihood you will win.

 J. McShulskis

*statistics from Nataly Kelly’s, As the Internet Becomes More Global, Language Matters More than Ever, Huffington Post, June 2014