Translating Content into English: Which Style of English Should you Choose?
Any organisation that creates content targeted internationally, or even locally to diverse audiences, knows the importance of website translation into English. English is the most spoken language in the world. The combination of native English speakers and English as a Second Language speakers is about 1 billion.
Which Style of English Should Be Used for International Content Translation?
A frequently asked question is, “What style of English should I translate my content into?” Of course this is unique to every organisation, product/service and market situation. It can become a complex decision.
For example, a solar company in Fiji is targeting prospective residential and business customers on several islands. The islanders may natively speak Fijian, Hindi/Hindustani, Rotuman, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu or other Micronesian and Polynesian languages.
The country’s official language is English, due to its colonisation by the UK from 1874 to 1970. Day to day, nearly all Fijians speak an informal version of English referred to as Fiji English or Finglish. There is debate about whether this style should be considered a separate dialect just as Fiji’s geographic neighbours Australia and New Zealand have distinguished their vernaculars.
Our example solar company needs to create globally accessible Internet content, as they eventually hope to expand their service area to all small island developing nations and even Australia and New Zealand. Should they publish their online and printed content into standard British English, Australian English, New Zealand English or Finglish?
Questions to Ask Before Translating Content into English
- Who is my primary target audience? All products and services are targeted to multiple buyer personas. When creating a primary company website, the content needs to serve the needs of all prospective customers. Therefore, content often needs to be adjusted for various readers. Site translation buttons, microsites or multiple sitemap locations are options for the content placement of varying versions. Organisations often evaluate their content modification priorities based on the potential audience size or sales volume potential.
- What is my geographic service area? If an organisation is unable to serve customers outside a specific radius, that will narrow the target audience language preferences considerably. If the product can be shipped anywhere or services provided remotely, the audience is probably larger and more diverse.
- Is my content formal or information in nature? Government, legal, business and financial communications often dictate the official languages in which to communicate in writing. If your content or transaction is business to consumer and informal in nature, the language style options often expand.
- How is my content found and shared? Global Internet searches and SEO rankings have a large impact on an organisation’s reachable audience. Once a prospective customer finds your content, they may share it with others. Forecasting the buyer’s ability to access your content and their preferred English language style is important.
- How substantial are the vocabulary and cultural differences between the English dialects I’m considering? Ensuring that your readers understand your content is your top priority. Encouraging them to take action is your second. Avoiding slang and idiomatic expressions may not be enough if there are significant English style differences among your target audiences.
Importance of Localisation or Transcreation
The final question above is key to determining if standard translation is acceptable or if it would be ideal to tailor the content to area-appropriate language. Specific target audiences may require advanced translation services such as localisation or transcreation if there is a large range of cultural differences between the various dialects of English.
The risks of miscommunication increase with the level of audience differentiation. Most English speakers are able to understand varying English styles. If there is a basic content misunderstanding, it can be quickly corrected with clarifying questions. Unfortunately, unintentionally offensive content can turn prospective customers away, without an opportunity for rectification.
The Internet is filled with examples of humorous translation mistakes made by global brands. Many organisations have survived the negative consequences of translation mistakes. It is better to use localisation for business expansion and transcreation services for marketing campaigns in advance.
Renaissance Translation experts are ready to consult you in determining the best way to approach your communications. Let’s discuss your upcoming project.