With more websites taking a multilingual approach to broaden their reach, the question of how to approach marketing content and copy is becoming increasingly important.
Anyone with marketing experience can testify that not all copy works perfectly. That is especially true when you're dealing with website content written in a foreign language for a foreign audience. If you want to reach those people, you're going to need to have content that is understandable and appealing.
Taking your English copy and pasting it into Google Translate will end with you in tears, so that leaves three options in terms of creating the content for your foreign language site:
Let's outline what each option entails and which might suit your specific purposes.
Translation involves a professional translator converting the English content into the target language. The translator must be a native speaker.
For example, if you wanted something translated into German, you have to use someone German—not someone who happens to speak German. A translator's concern is with honesty and accurately conveying what the original English says in the new language. One can consider it as a more "literal" approach to dealing with copy. There tends to be less leeway, which can produce content that lacks flair or sincerity as it is just expressing the words of another author from a different culture and country in another language.
Copywriting is when content is created from scratch with a particular aim or brief in mind. Translation is not involved in any way, and there are no templates from which to work.
For example, if an e-commerce site wants to start selling in Russia, the company may hire a Russian copywriter to create the content according to a style guide or something similar. That is a much more creative process as the copywriter has full creative license regarding tone, style, slang, wording, phrases, etc.
The main advantage to this approach is that you create targeted, specific, and localized content written for an audience from its own point of view.
What has become known as "transcreation" is sort of a combination of the two options cited above. A translator will usually be given an original English text and then given creative license to reformulate it in his or her own language. This can often be more helpful to the translator as he or she has a base to work from. However, the translator can then play with concepts, wording, and the like to make the translated copy more appealing or sound more natural.
Which Option Is Better?
Translation is a lot more straightforward, cheaper, and less involved. A decent translator is also relatively easier to find. However, you lose the focused approach you will get with copywriting and transcreation, plus the invaluable consultancy you would receive by going through the other options.
Before choosing an option, think about what it is you are communicating. If it's something relatively neutral language-wise, such as IT services or mechanics' tools, there really isn't a call for creative, full-of-flair language. However, if you are selling something like a concept, a vacation, or an experience, translation may not always produce such results.
Transcreation and copywriting provide that creative flexibility and the ability to really appeal to senses, aspirations, and dreams. Major brands tend to use this for anything digital or related to their brand. The end results are far superior to translation… and you pay more for this luxury.
Moreover, you also need time to spend working with the copywriter to ensure he or she understands your brand, company, product, or service. These options are much more time intensive.
In some ways, transcreation may be better than copywriting. The content frame is already laid out, and all the transcreator has to do is play with the content to make it appealing for the audience.
There really is no "best" option. All three options provide certain benefits and drawbacks.
What works for one company may be a disaster for another. You need to consider such factors as budget, in-house ability, insight, time, and the nature of what you are writing about.
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