Language facts: Belarusian

Belarusian, or White Russian (or White Ruthenian), is an East Slavic language spoken by somewhere between 7 and 9 million people, most of them residing in Belarus. It is an official language in Belarus and parts of Poland. Belarusian is most closely related to Ukrainian, and it is indeed also a minority language in Ukraine. 

Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian are in fact mutually intelligible to a certain extent (due to their connection to the Ruthenian language, the form of Old Slavonian spoken in the region).

Officially unofficial language

While Belarusian has had a troubled past and originally was regarded as a rural language for peasants, even assuming the second role to Russian in years after the Second World War, it has survived as a national and official language of Belarus. It shares this position with Russian. Surprisingly, out of a population of 9.5 million people, only about half are able to write in the language, while ten percent of the population does not understand Belarusian at all. According to an analysis of the official 2009 Belarus census, more than 70% of the Belarus population declared to speak Russian at home, which is perceived as a mother tongue by the majority. After all, as many other languages of the East-European area, Belarusian has also been formed within the clashes of geopolitical power games, where linguistics and politics often go hand-in-hand. 

Alphabet

Belarusian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, but previously also made use of the Latin alphabet. In the 16th century, Belarusian was even written in the Arabic script (so-called Belarusian Arabic alphabet) and was used by the Lipka Tatar settlers who were invited to the Belarusian lands. In the course of about two centuries of assimilation, the Tatars resumed speaking their original language and switched to Old Belarusian. 

А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Ы Ь Э Ю Я 

а б в г д е ё ж з и й к л м н о п р с т у ф х ц ч ш ы ь э ю я

Multilingual communication on social media: The myths

Social media have become an important feature of business communication strategies – for some even highly essential. Communicators at many leading brands generally understand that content needs to be as customized as possible for (potential) clients, yet their communication on social media often exists in a single language only.

There are, in fact, many good reasons why marketers and social media managers have opted not to localize social media content. However, times change. 

Here are a few myth-busters that might make you reassess the social media content strategy for your international markets.

1. English social media content is sufficient and machine translation will do the rest. 

WRONG. It's perfectly understandable that brands, mainly small or mid-sized, cannot always manage separate social media accounts for each individual key market in different languages. And while it is true that machine translation provides a certain extent of understanding to non-English speakers, the business potential of your messages drastically decreases. 

If you are serious about your international expansion, make sure you include social media content localization into your strategy, at least for 1 or 2 of your key markets. Then, you can either:

  1. a) hire a social media copywriter to produce content that is subsequently localized by aprofessional translation services provider, or
  2. b) hire native sales reps with copywriting and social media skills for each key market.

2. Social media don't support professional content localization.

CORRECT. They only do it partially. The common practice for brands was to manage multiple accounts on social media platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), each account for each key market with different language, for a very prosaic reason:there used to be no way to communicate different language versions of a message via one single post. 

However, globalization is strong. So, it's been over a year already since Facebook introduced the option for multilingual posting on fan pages, or better said of adding non-machine translation to the original post content. Social media managers can actually publish the very same posts in various language versions, while users will see it in their preferred language settings of Facebook. As long as the language is not supported yet, the post will display in its original language. It is safe to assume that other social media platforms will follow Facebook and introduce better localization options for their business pages.

3. Translation services providers are not flexible enough to supply translations for social media content.

VERY WRONG. Translation service providers have been forced to amend their business models and translation techniques because of online environments and the increased volume and speed of content consumption on every level. By hiring social-media-savvy translators, using tweaks on social media platforms in combination with upgrading their translation tools and optimizing content channels, the translation providers are eager to upgrade your content to a truly international level.

So...what are you waiting for? :) 

Contact your translation services provider and begin a discussion on how to localize your social media content for your key international markets today and don't let opportunities slip by you again...

Language facts: The difference between French and Canadian French

French. The stereotype language for romantic souls and fancy chefs. And one of the few languages in the world with the richest vocabulary. It is also an umbrella name for a whole range of French language variants, e.g. Canadian French. The latter is spoken by around 12 million speakers, being a native tongue to 7 million, mainly in the Quebec province. This is due to historical reasons, as the Quebec city and settlements in its surroundings were established by French colonists in 16th and 17th century (originally, the French were up to find a new trade route to China, while they "stumbled" upon North America instead...). As new settlers poured to the "New France" from Europe, they naturally brought a piece of home with them – including European social customs and values, and the bubbly French language. 

However, as the mixture of arrivals originated from different regions with different accents (especially the Parisian French are worth mentioning here), the Canadian French language was created as a fusion of classical French and regional dialects of the first-comers. 

This development naturally caused the most visible difference of the classic vs. Canadian French as we know it today: the accent. Mainly vowels pronunciation is more "nasal" in Canada.

The difference is so obvious, that native Canadian French speakers who haven't come across the European (or Metropolitan) French before actually admit having trouble understanding the language and vice versa. Metropolitan French is "cleaner" in terms of pronunciation (maybe similar to standard British English and American English). There even is a term joual used to describe the working-class Canadian French, in a rather derogatory way. 

Another observable difference even to non-native speakers is the vocabulary used in Canada in comparison to France. Canadian French, mainly in the Quebec region, is heavily (and quite naturally) influenced by English – a phenomenon actively resisted in France (walkman, computer, and NATO could tell stories..). Maybe this inherited overprotectiveness of the language determines a tendency of Canadian French to balance the English influence by trying to preserve the "original French", often to the amusement of European French (e.g. the STOP sign that says simple "STOP" in France reads "ARRÊT" in Quebec...). Interestingly, this approach affected Canadian French swear words, some of which have a religious context and are only offensive in Quebec, while having a regular meaning in France (obviously, most swear words used in France apply in Quebec).

Indeed, in many aspects Canadian French is considered quite traditional, while the actual words used can be right out of its closeness to the United States.

Similar to British vs. American English, Canadian French goes easy on formality as well as grammar in comparison with Metropolitan French. The informality of the language is what mostly causes the misunderstandings by Metropolitan French speakers. It is also the reason why Canadian French don't like to consume European French shows and movies and prefer home production. 

Nevertheless Canadian French is not a standardized language in itself, the grammatically correct form is standard French. The fact of the world, however, is that Canadian French exists as a separate French version. When we translate to Canadian French, we use French Canadian speakers – and the result is truly different from standard, European French.

Go with the locals, and write as the locals do.

How to communicate at international exhibitions #2: Localize your channels

Attending international trade fairs or exhibitions is stressful, especially if you want to push a small or mid-sized company onto an international scene – not just for the staff involved, but also for your promotion as well as your localization budget (= how you tell people in another language want you are doing and want to do + how you want to bring them aboard).

We have already shared several tips concerning the right language choice for your international presentation, but the presentation channels and their right mix are no less important. 

If your budget is tight, or you lack experience in communicating with international customers, here are a few tips to keep on your checklist when it comes to communication channels usage and localization priorities:

1. Know your communication mix. And mix well.

Before you even start thinking about localization of your message, think first of the communication channels you use, as well as the sales techniques you plan to implement on the exhibitions site (needless to say that all the channels as well as techniques should be tested for efficiency before you throw them into the communication mix). 

It is safe to assume that the days of having one nice catalog and talking it through with potential clients prior to handing them a v-card are over. Your approach needs to be multi-channel and integrated from offline to online. Basically, the channels are a thread and your message is the needle. Mix your offline channels (such as printed catalogs, flyers, etc.) with your online channels (social media, and mainly your website) and define a clear path to conversion for all channels involved. 

2. Localize everything that passes the road to conversion.

Even if you don't have resources to spend on fancy multilingual promotion material, if your product/promo message is clear and consistent through your chosen channels, and as long as those channels lead to ultimate conversions (and the path is not very long), you want the content involved to be localized. Mainly the entire path leading from initial recognition of your brand and products to the conversion goals you set for yourself should be localized for the target markets. As presumably your conversions mostly take place online, on your website (registrations, order placement, etc.), the funnel that leads to profit-making does have a top priority for localization – even if it would include only partial localization of the entire content you work with (e.g. not every single sub-menu or section of your website needs to be localized, if it's not directly involved in the conversion path, nor do you need to localize products you don't plan to push). 

3.  The localization devil hides in forgotten content snippets.

Having printed material such as flyers or catalogs translated is not that problematic because the content involved is pretty much clear and visible in one place. The fun starts online, where the channels may include a number of notifications, additional information, automatically sent confirmation messages, or error calls. Such content snippets could be easily forgotten in the process, yet might interrupt the conversion path and consequently fail the acquisition (with the worst-case scenario of losing potential profit because of it), despite the rest of the content having been perfectly localized. 

A typical example: Your potential client successfully walked through almost the entire conversion path (that was nicely localized), but failed to fill in the order form correctly. The error message and instructions that pop-up are not translated. Such situation produces pointless drop-offs. You could, of course, be lucky if your potential clients are very motivated to buy from you. In such case, they would likely try to order again, and will almost certainly leave your business if they once again get the exact same unlocalized error message. So, keep your eye on the details.

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