More than translation

Communicating with cultural consideration

The London office of Ernst & Young. EY

In April, I was invited to host an EACD Coaching Day at the very impressive London Bridge offices of EY on the topic of ‘Translation, Localisation and Transcreation’.

The aim of the session was to give some insight to those people working in international marketing, PR and communications or multi-territory research on how important it is to understand cultural differences and nuances when translating content for different countries that they are marketing to.

As someone who was quite naive to the complexities involved in managing a translation project until I started working within the language services industry, I am all too aware of how daunting the process can be to get international communications right.

We therefore started the session by firstly explaining that while ‘Translation’ is straight-forward with a focus on words, ‘Localisation’ aims to adapt the text into relevant cultural context. However, ‘Transcreation’ is different skill all together and tends to be used more within global advertising campaigns, where the message needs to be localised so that it’s relevant for each and every market, but rather than focusing on the approved campaign source text, you are returning to the original brief, the initial idea, and rewriting the copy so that it will resonate with its respective markets.

I was thrilled to have been joined at the workshop by one of Conversis’ clients, Fruugo’s chief marketing officer, Glen Richardson, who came down from his offices in Cumbria to London especially for the presentation and gave some invaluable feedback on what running a localisation project is like from a client’s perspective. Glen shared some interesting insight including the video below that perfectly exemplifies that what you hear sometimes is what you see:

Managing translation

The workshop covered many of the aspects that are involved in project managing a translation project including providing plenty of tips when it comes to Desktop Publishing (DTP) and website translation. For example, when working with corporate documents, the format ideally needs to stay the same in every language, even though the length of characters varies from one language to another, yet for German copy, the text could increase in length by up to 30% once translated. Therefore, the DTP team involved in the project need to assess the best options to maintain consistency throughout all languages, which could include slight copy changes, reducing the fonts, shrinking the images or extending the margins.

We also discussed the fact that content isn’t just about words but also about fonts and images, and these can also have an impact on market and culture. All graphics and copy should be as attractive to the audiences in your target countries as they are in your domestic market. Other considerations to make the adaptation process smoother are to avoid ‘local’ humour, colloquialisms, slang and acronyms when creating your original source of content if you know it is going to be translated at some stage.

As well as talking through project management tools, like Computer Aided Translation (CAT) software and Translation Memories, we also covered off what’s required when translating videos, including subtitling and voice overs, where on the latter, how important it is to get the right voice (considering accent, age, tone) to match your brand identity and to correctly portray your message. Tips that we shared include recommending that your project manager is present at the time of recording to make sure that the brand name and key words are correctly pronounced and that the message is being captured perfectly.

Live transcreation

We finished the session with a little fun exercise using an advert we found online for FedEx from the US, which showed a picture of an American Football Player diving with a FedEx box under the heading ‘Touchdown Overnight’. We asked everyone their thoughts on why this might not work as a global advert, if it needed Transcreating, and so, to choose a country, an appropriate sport for that country, and to come up with a new tag line – basically transcreating the advert. Some of the responses were great and if FedEx’s advertising team are reading, we’re happy to share them!


Do you have a sport and tagline suitable for your locality? Image: Mars Services

We covered off a lot of information in the three hours we had, but the feedback was really positive and we had a really good time sharing our knowledge, but learning from our guests too, based on their own experiences.

Thanks go to the team at EACD for organising it and to EY for hosting us.


Russell Goldsmith of Conversis hosted an EACD Coaching Day in April this year. These are intensive two- or three-hour workshops for EACD members interested in learning more about a particular aspect of communications. To find out more about other events, visit the online EACD calendar.

Russell Goldsmith

Russell Goldsmith is the founder of marketing consultancy Audere Communications and a trainer for the PRCA. He had previously spent 16 years as digital and social media director of broadcast communications specialists markettiers4dc. He is currently producing The csuitepodcast series available on Soundcloud, itunes and at csuitepodcast.com.