How to drown your brand in one click

Ever wondered what makes global brands successful? 

Well, it's actually many factors, but to name just a few, let's go for authenticity, consistency and professionalism. These are "those things" that sometimes induce nightmares to marketers, but make people willing to convert into (loyal) customers. On the other hand, business is primarily about making money, and the success is related also to the general economy. It is only logical that brands need to make compromises to find a balance between what's desired and what's feasible. But do they?

First impression REALLY matters

The outcome of your compromises can have serious negative impact on your brand's perception, although meant to do no harm (or even worse, to do good). Mainly if venturing into unknown waters – e.g. when expanding the brand to new international markets, the "let's save $500 now in order to miss $50.000 in the future" approach can make you fail in the moment of truth – the first impression towards local customers. To prevent this, you need to invest in proper localization of your content. Not just your packaging, guidelines or manuals, but also your website. It's the multi-channel approach in communication and localization that makes you authentic and consistent and what makes the difference in seizing or losing the market. This surely would be common knowledge to most everyone.

So why are there still so many businesses out there, who think they will impress and win local customers with machine-translated websites?

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Google doesn't like machine translation

Ironic as it may sound at first, the very company that powers the largest machine translation platform in the world fights against auto-generated content including machine translated websites. After all, with browsers having built-in features for automatic machine translation, it goes against logic to pretend that you care about local clientele and went the extra mile with "real translation" of your website, while you merely clicked a button.

When Google algorithms can see through it, so can your potential human customers. And while search engines may forgive you your SEO sins within several months, your disappointed customers won't forget the negative first impression. After all, why should they, if they already give their money to your competitor who seized the chance and fluently speaks their language... 

Indeed, the Internet is a tough jungle, where seconds matter. The free machine translation tools that allow you to translate the content in one click (seemingly saving time and money), take their real price in the very first seconds of interaction with potential customers. Professional localization really matters and it's much less of an expense than trying to repair a destroyed brand image and to reengage lost, potential customers.

Don't let that one click destroy your brand perception in international markets. It's just not worth it.

Language facts: Korean

Korean is one of the Far East Asian languages, but is a so-called "language isolate" and the only remaining member of the Koreanic language family (all relative languages have been long extinct).

Korean has around 80 million native speakers, and it is the official language in both South and North Korea and also one of the official languages of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China. 

Torn language 

There is number of differences between South and North Korean due to historical reasons and the isolation of North Korea. Spelling is slightly different between the two nations, but pronunciation is in fact the same (in South Korean the language is based largely on the Seoul dialect, while in North Korea spoken Korean is influenced by the dialect of Pyongyang). The two countries also have slightly different grammar and vocabulary (mainly due to political reasons). For instance, there's number of loan words in both Koreans, but while in South they are taken from English, in the North the vocabulary is "deliberately" influenced by Russian terms (e.g. the expression for "friend" used to be chingu (친구 / 親舊) in the entire Korea, but after the division of the peninsula, the North adopted the translation of the Russian term comrade, tongmu (동무 / 同務).

Even if some English words have been adapted in the North, they are usually transliterated into Korean differently from the practices in the South. Interestingly, for names of places, countries and nations, South Korea uses the English version of the term as a base for transliteration, while North Korea uses the word form in its original language as a base (e.g. Poland in the South is transliterated as Pollandeu (폴란드), but Ppolsŭkka (뽈스까) in the North, based on the Polish original name – Polska). 

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The division into two parts of a once single great nation is visible also in such should-be-common and historically important words as the name of the Korean Peninsula itself (hanbando (한반도 / 韓半島) in the South and chosŏnbando (조선반도 / 朝鮮半島) in the North), or the very reason for the division: the Korean War (hanguk jeonjaeng 한국 전쟁 / 韓國戰爭 in the South vs.choguk'aepangjŏnjaeng 조국해방전쟁 / 祖國解放戰爭 in the North).

Unusual Alphabet

Korean has its own, unique alphabet system – Hangul – established under the rule of Sejong the Great, and used since the 15th century (however, it did not become an official script in Korea until the 20th century). Today, Hangul is used both in North and South Korea, and it can be written from left to right or in columns from top to bottom starting from the right. 

The Korean writing system also uses Hanja, the Korean name for Chinese characters and traditionally used for words of Chinese origin. These can  be mixed in to write Sino-Korean words. South Korea still teaches 1800 Hanja characters in its schools, while the North abolished the use of Hanja decades ago. In the past, Hanja was the core of the Korean writing system.

 

Consonants:

ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅇ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅎ, ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅆ, ㅃ, ㅉ

 

Vowels: 

ㅏ, ㅑ, ㅓ, ㅕ, ㅗ, ㅛ, ㅜ, ㅠ, ㅡ, ㅣ

Most people agree that the World Wide Web has become such a convenient tool that most of us now take for granted. For most of today's prosperous businesses, it is also a powerful sales tool in particular to those who aim to expand internationally. Speaking the language of your target market and potential customers is undoubtedly a competitive advantage and a way to increase international sales and product awareness. But is website translation, or better said localization of the website really so important...or is it just another upsell?

"Everybody speaks English, right?"

Actually, they don't. And even if your customers do speak English as their second language, addressing them in their native tongue has much stronger impact and delivers the message to a wider audience. This is especially important to ponder for a company that considers itself "international", or even "multinational". 
Need more evidence? Let's look at some numbers*:

  1. More than 56% of customers are willing to buy the same product at higher prices if the website contains information in their native language. Ergo if you localize, besides gaining a wider audience, your margin increases – not just absolutely, but also relatively.
  2. 65% of your multinational competition considers localization of their content, including websites, as important, or veryimportant for achieving higher company revenues. Alas, a big majority of international players already know what you know. However, the sole fact that the competition realizes or considers something doesn't automatically mean they pursue exceptional efforts in the matter. Speed is the key here. Whoever get's the right message to the right audience can win the market – let it be you. The sooner and better you localize, the more likely you are to outrun your rivals.
  3. Can you afford loosing a homogeneous online market, counting over a billion potential customers? Well, you do exactly that if you omit to localize your website into Chinese. 95 out of 100 Chinese online customers prefer and are significantly more comfortable with websites in their native tongue.

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Machines translate. Never localize.

Now that you are all in for website localization, it's important to address what localization of your website actually means. And mainly the difference between website translation and website localization (because it's really NOT the same thing). Simply put, when you merely translate your website (usually using free machine translation tools), you do not customize the content and the message in terms of linguistic and cultural specifics of the target market. You merely rely on the machine to match the words and phrases from your website with a database. Despite evolving in intelligence and learning literally day to day, machines can still deliver only a mechanical translation (what a surprise) with a surprisingly high error rate. 

And we come to the point of necessity to employ human skills to edit not just content errors and word order, but also address the "clumsiness" of content converted by machines, and to adapt the translated content to make it appealing and sound natural in the target language, i.e. to localize the website. 

Therefore, if you are serious about expanding to new international markets, wish to understand your customers and want the online content to relate to them, put your effort into the quality of website localization. You sell to humans. Don't talk like a machine. 

*Source: https://www.gala-global.org/industry/language-industry-facts-and-data/why-localize

Language facts: Khmer

Khmer, also known as Cambodian, is an Austro-Asiatic language and it is the official language of Cambodia. Khmer is spoken by 15 million native speakers, 12.6 million of whom live in Cambodia.

As old as the Khmer empire

Khmer has been influenced by Sanskrit and Pali through Hinduism and Buddhism as well as the Southeast Asian languages of Thai, Lao and Vietnamese, but unlike those it is NOT a tonal language (in tonal languages, changing a tone of speech changes the meaning of words, with otherwise intact spelling. Many Asian languages, including Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai, are tonal, while most languages in Europe are not, although in some European languages the meaning of words can be changed using pitch accent on certain syllables).

The language developed under the Khmer Empire, dating back to the 9th century, but goes back even further. It underwent turbulent change from the 14th to the 18th century. Modern Khmer as used today cannot be used to interpret Old Khmer. Several dialects of Khmer exist with a significant amounts of speakers in both Thailand and Vietnam. The majority of speakers use the Central Khmer dialect though. 

Khmer is an analytical and isolating language, which means there are no inflections, conjugations or case endings used.

Alphabet

Khmer is written in the Khmer script, from which both Thai and Lao have developed. This script also has its own numerals.The Khmer alphabet consists of 33 consonants supported by vowels represented by diacritics written above, below and/or alongside on either side of the consonant to modify it. This example shows consonants without the vowel diacritics:

ក ខ គ ឃ ង ច ឆ ជ ឈ ញ ដ ឋ ឌ ឍ ណ ត ថ ទ ធ ន ប ផ ព ភ ម យ រ ល វ ឝ ឞ ស ហ ឡ អ

 

Khmer numerals (0 to 9):

០ ១ ២ ៣ ៤ ៥ ៦ ៧ ៨ ៩

Liability in Translation: "Glossary, glossary, glossary"

Hmm, this being 2016 and an election campaign in the Americas  in full swing, like many others we also want to emphasize the importance of good glossaries to get statements right and avoid blunders. Built rightly, glossaries  help the "poor" translator and others to adhere to preferred terminology, and they prevent use of synonymous terms and expressions that  clients and others want to avoid.

The classic Battery Example

Did you know that in many languages there are different words for a battery that can be charged and a battery that cannot – and must not – be charged? It is actually a safety issue.

In Dutch, for example, a non-chargeable battery is a "batterij", while one that can be charged is an "accu". In a car, you do not have a "batterij", and in a remote controller you most likely do not have an "accu", unless you spend time charging those batteries yourself. This concept applies to a lot of other languages.

In technical English, these batteries do have different names, but most people tend to disregard this and simply use the term battery. [The professional English term for a non-chargeable battery is a 'primary battery', while the version that can be charged is a 'secondary battery'.]

"Liability, liability, liability"

In the end, if during translation an issue like this is disregarded, the resulting outcome can become extremely costly. Liability claims is one thing, but some manufacturers have gone to the extreme to redesign technical solutions because of stated claims, others have conceded that translations were wrong and have issued new documents to replace old ones with all the inconveniences involved.

These issues include pedals in passenger cars, batteries in trucks, lighting in normal homes, and there are a lot more. We all now know why microwave ovens and driers suddenly got to include warnings not to dry our pets in the products.

Professional help

In the end, relying on professional solutions with human translators and not machines, you can save more than a buck – probably the whole future of your enterprise. And we have fantastic technologies to keep those charges for translation and glossary maintenance in check.
We will keep you posted of potential issues we come across and we like to go the extra mile to  ensure your documents are translated  correctly. 

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