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Consider Your Target Audience When Writing Content for Language Translation

A critical component for any company’s strategy for global branding and for increasing its products’ reach to global locales is “speaking the language” of the targeted consumers. Ironically, some companies invest a great deal of time and money to advertise their brands in other languages, but in some instances they find that their efforts are ineffective in increasing the product’s reach with non-English consumers. The language translation services vendor may play a critical role in alerting a client to content that requires copywriting as well as translation in order to be well received by non-English speaking customers.

When something like this happens, I believe the client’s key stakeholders should stop and ask themselves a few questions, like: What is wrong? Is it the strategy? Is it the marketing plan? Is it the market itself? Or is it the “language” that we use?


Finding the right tone for your target locale

Most companies have carefully formulated a marketing strategy in their source language that highlights a specific ‘tone of voice.’ This tone of voice sets and identifies the way the company “speaks” to its customers and potential customers. An important consideration is to examine whether this tone of voice is “flexible” enough to be modified to suit any particular market locale or language? Or is the definition of the “tone” fixed and considered “untouchable?”

If the marketing strategy is effective, and the tone of voice is perfect, what else can inhibit a brand’s reach into new global markets? Here I would say it is the language, and when I say that, I mean many factors that can make the language ineffective in conveying the intended marketing message.


Client marketing teams and linguistic resources, like agencies and their copywriters and translators, must work together.

Many times companies hire creative or advertising agencies to create a marketing campaign’s original source language content, and then they use separate translation companies’ services when targeting foreign markets to adapt the materials. In this case, either the creative agency or the translation company should take charge of the appropriate “tone” for the message in the new locale. Otherwise, the company itself is responsible for what can become an ineffective campaign.

Take for example a translation project for a marketing campaign that targeted the Middle East region. Initially, it may be written for western tourists who would consider visiting one of the region’s countries during a particular season to celebrate that season with the local community. It  could be initially crafted perfectly for the target audience. Let’s say in one chapter of the brochure, the text contains very basic information about the region’s traditions, religion and some useful local greeting expressions. This is all fine and gives the western visitors considerable assistance in understanding the local culture they have come to visit.

Up to this point, the marketing strategy is strong, and the creative agency has done a good job pulling the project together. The challenge is, how does one effectively translate this content, which was written with the western audience in mind, and present it to a local target audience? Especially, when the text contains some cultural definitions like: “Marhaba* means Hello” and so on. What is the translator’s or the translation company’s role here? Are they going to translate the text “as it is” into the Arabic language? (Marhaba means Marhaba)? It would come off like telling an Italian person that ‘Rome’ is the capital of Italy.


The role of the linguist can go beyond translation

Although it seems obvious, the locale-based Middle East audience is clever enough to know their language and the meaning of these words, and they do not need to be taught about their own culture. A critical role for the translator here is to raise a “red flag“, if he/she has a solid cultural understanding, and let the client know that this text should rewritten with content that is appropriate for the local, Arabic speaking customers.

In the above example, an agency should raise the red flag, and guide the client to adjust the campaign content to be appropriate for the new target audience.

I think that the solution is for the translator to culturally adapt the translated text in a way that gives the regional Arabic-speaking reader useful information, without moving too far from the original message.

This is one example where copywriting is appropriate.

*Marhaba is a greeting expression in Arabic that means “Hello.”

Desktop publishing and Arabic localization

Arabic translation and localization, which includes desktop publishing, requires solid experience with the Arabic language and Arabic-enabled desktop publishing tools to enable delivery of localized Arabic files in best quality. Your language translation services company should have qualified desktop publishers or graphic artists who are proficient in the programs mentioned in this blog. You may find some of our previous blogs on Arabic design and translation issues useful: