Lots of B2B marketers know the feeling - you've just finished the copy and design of a brand-new landing page for your latest campaign or product. You're ready to go! But hold on a second - you need to wait for the translations first. Cue a lot of email threads with your international colleagues, chasing them about their progress, or endless back-and-forths with a translation agency that doesn't know your industry.
Quality translation is absolutely essential if your company does business internationally - but too many companies treat it as an afterthought. It doesn't have to be this way - and to prove it, I invited Linda Gårdlöv to guest this week's episode of The Onlinification Pod. She's the CEO of Comactiva Language Partner, a Gothenburg-based agency specialising in translation and localisation of commercial content.
Linda has a wealth of experience from the translation industry and the world of international B2B business - so she was the perfect person to ask about how companies should be handling translations, and how they can work to increase the quality and accuracy of the finished result.
In our discussion, we spoke about:
- The common mistakes that companies make when handling their multilingual online presence
- How a good language partner can not only translate your copy, but also adapt it effectively to be understood in a foreign culture
- How you should collaborate when working with a translation agency to make sure your industry's unique jargon doesn't get lost in translation
I hope you enjoy this episode - historically, it's the first episode we've ever had with an external guest! Thanks to Linda for joining.
As always, links to The Onlinification Pod on the leading platforms can be found below, as can a full transcription of today's episode.
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DB: [00:00:00] So hello, and welcome to The Onlinification Pod, Linda Gårdlöv.
LG: [00:00:05] Thank you so much.
DB: [00:00:07] How are you doing?
LG: [00:00:07] I'm doing very well, thank you. How are you?
DB: [00:00:11] I'm fantastic. I'm happy because you are the first external guest we've had on The Onlinification Pod. Up until now, it's been my colleagues and my bosses and so on. So it's nice for some an outside perspective as well.
LG: [00:00:24] Yes. I'm very honoured to be your first guest. Thank you so much for having me.
DB: [00:00:30] But since you're not from Zooma, maybe you could just, uh, introduce yourself and explain what your company does a little bit.
LG: [00:00:36] Yes, my name is Linda Gårdlöv. I am currently the CEO at Comactiva Language Partner. We are a translation agency and a language partner to many global companies, all having in common that they have very high expectations on quality when it comes to translations and localization. We have been in business for over 25 years and we're working with many well-known brands across many different industries, and we see ourselves as experts when it comes to commercial content, even though we're doing a lot of other translation work as well. But our main focus is supporting global marketing and communication departments with their translations and localization efforts. And so we have, I would say, hundreds of translators connected to us across the globe. And we're translating to the world's largest languages used for business. And I have a background, I used to be actually a customer to Comactiva, working for a global company headquartered in Sweden and in Denmark. So I've been liasing and coordinating content for all local markets in those companies, and I've used Comactiva as my language partner, so I was very much aware of their quality and it was easy, also easy and for me to say yes to this job offer when they contacted me because I could really stand up for their work.
DB: [00:02:30] Well it's good you have that background because, um, I thought this would be an interesting topic to take upon the part about translations and things. Because for a lot of companies who have, from Zooma's perspective, we usually talk a lot about online, so you have a website maybe in ten or 20 languages for all your different markets, translation is like a big challenge for them. You know, you have so much content and new content, you know, it's not just a case of throwing it up, it needs to be translated. And what if something changes? And you know, what if the quality of the translation is poor and things like that, it's um, is quite tricky. But in your experience now from this current role, what do you think of those big challenges or maybe some of the big mistakes that companies usually make when handling translations on their sites?
LG: [00:03:18] For the first thing, yes, I think it's really good for me now being in the translation industry that I have the experience from the other side because being responsible for global marketing and communication, you're of course you want to push all that great content that you do produce from a global level onto the local markets. And that is something you do quite swiftly, I would say, because you spend a lot of time producing, creating the master content, and then you kind of want to get it off your table and you send it to the local markets and they sometimes they translate it in-house with the person, you know, best suited, they think for the job, they might not have a translator background or even taking into consideration the target group, the aim with the actual content. So I think you could lose a lot of benefits there and I've done that myself until I realized I should definitely use a language partner or a translation agency. One thing I do think a lot of customers are not aware of is that a translation agency works with translation memories and term databases, which means that we store, keep all the translations that we do for companies, and we do that in all the language combinations that we translate, which means we can pick up sentences, or material that we have already translated. And that way we ensure that the brand is harmonized through all your content. Also, you can save actually money because obviously if we have already translated one piece of text, we will not translate it again because that work is already done. So I think when you realise all the benefits it is to have a translation agency as a partner or a language partner, you can save a lot of time because also there's a lot of feedback rounds if you really want to reach your target groups and you have quality as one of your core values, I think there's a lot to win to have a professional translator and language agency doing that work, and that means that you can focus on your core competence as well.
DB: [00:06:01] I've, uh, I've been in that position as well, you know, that you, you do the translations in-house. Maybe if there's a text that needs to be translated to German, it gets sent to the German marketing team and the person who's best at German takes it. But that kind of brings us into something else I wanted to find out about, which was, and you mentioned at the beginning as well, translation versus localization. And I guess this is kind of related because it's not just a matter of what does this sentence mean in German or something, it's not quite that easy, right?
LG: [00:06:36] No. Well, I think a translation is what it is. It's 1 to 1 translation. You translate a text into another language. A localization of text is, of course, you're taking in the cultural aspect and the target group into consideration. When you're translating a text, you will get the same text, but with some adaptions. So it would actually better suit your market and purpose with the marketing material or with your communication. Then we also have the next level, which is transcription, which is a mix of translation and creation. And this is something that could be used perhaps for advertisements or you're creating, you're being very much more creative, more going into copywriting.
DB: [00:07:31] Yeah.
LG: [00:07:32] But you involve your translator much earlier because then you will have the local trends coming into the discussion and you could bring them in already in the creative work at the beginning of the process. And that's why at Comactiva we have a policy that we only work with translators that are native in the countries that they're translating into. And, and they should also currently be living in that country. Meaning that you need, I mean, there could be politics or political events, it could be things happening that you need to take into consideration while when you're creating your campaign or your ad for something. So it's I mean, if you're not in the country, you cannot add this this knowledge into the creative process.
DB: [00:08:32] No, that makes sense. Yeah. And I suppose if you had a campaign or an advert that had a joke in it, or a play on words or some kind of old cultural reference...
LG: [00:08:43] Exactly.
DB: [00:08:44] ...then that would be transcreated, I guess, you know, because you can't just copy a word because it won't make sense.
LG: [00:08:49] Yeah, no. And I actually have a good example of that, because one of our customers, a very large Swedish furniture company, had an ad campaign where they said Santa Claus is from the county of Småland. And in Sweden, you would know that everyone comes from the county of Småland is very tight with their money. So when they wanted to push this ad campaign out, I don't know, there are hundreds of markets where they are present, and obviously, they could not use the reference 'county of Småland'. I mean, for you being from the UK, you probably think that maybe the I don't know, the Scottish people are quite tight with their money, and that would make sense in your market. But what county to pick in Germany or in Brazil? I wouldn't know. So that's why it's so important even when it comes to what image to choose or illustration, because you need to be really aware of what signal that sends out to your target audience.
DB: [00:10:04] That's a good example.
LG: [00:10:05] Yeah.
DB: [00:10:06] Well, I live in Småland and my parents are Scottish, both of them, and I hate spending money, so I can definitely attest to that. Absolutely true. So speaking of, um, you know, challenges and headaches with translation as a company, especially as a B2B company, we in Zooma mostly work with B2B companies, so we focus on them quite a lot. Um, and a problem I've noticed in previous jobs at big B2B companies is all the jargon and all the industry terms that are used in the translations. Often these kinds of companies have a very specific niche market and not strange products, but, you know, products that even if you're a native speaker of another language, you will have no idea of what the name is unless you work in that industry. So that's often a challenge for companies when they get these translations back. But what's the best way to deal with those kinds of difficult terms? Uh, as, as one of these companies, if you're working with a translation agency or a language partner.
LG: [00:11:10] Well, I would say again, actually, to involve your translation agency or language partner early in the process, if you're a new customer to us, for example, you come in and you have a content that you want translate it or a website. The first thing we would ask would be, do you have a list of specific keywords relevant for your industry and do you have them in all the different languages that you want us to translate to? And if you have that, we will import those lists into our terminology database, and then we will cross-reference that within the translation process. So all the translators, they will be connected to the terminology database. So it will, you know, pop up a flag. Oh, instead of using this word, you should use this specific word. And you can also have flags popping up saying, do not use this word for that, because that is something our competitor is using and we should definitely not be using that. So you can use that terminology database for different angles. And so I think that's one thing to keep it all and also keep it up to date. If you're changing the term for a reason or a product name or whatever you need, all you need to do is actually update the terminology database and that will ensure that the correct word is used is used onwards. So I think it's again, it's a technique that brings us, you know, gives us the tools to harmonize and always keep a harmonised communication and use the same terms all over. And I think also now in this day and age when we have the SEO, search engine optimization, aspect as well, the term database can also be used for that if you've done your audit for local market because obviously SEO is a local initiative and people commonly or usually search in the local language on Google as you know. And you need a terminology database for each and every market and you could definitely use that to boost your SEO work.
DB: [00:13:43] Yeah. So, so with those special terms, it sounds like it's just a matter of being a bit prepared and thinking about the definitions of these words before you, uh, send off a hundred pages to be translated.
LG: [00:13:58] Yes. And I think it's well worth the time because then, I mean, it's a one time job, and of course you will need to keep it up to date. But I mean, if you do this work once and usually you do have those lists anyway because you know, when you need to put those together as a company dictionary or because you're using that for new employees or for other initiatives going in going on within the organization. So I think you probably have that already. Perhaps you just need to put it all together and it's very important for your own expectations when you receive the, you know, the translations back that you want to see your terminology and your words that are specific for your industry in that material. So I think it's really important to have this talk before you actually kick off the translations.
DB: [00:14:52] Mmm, OK. In this pod, especially at the end of episodes, I always try and get some tips and we have had plenty of tips already, but it doesn't hurt to get one more. Um, I was thinking in the, in the case of maybe a company that was about to expand into a new country, I mean, not tomorrow, but in a couple of months or something, what should they be thinking of and what tip would you give them? Maybe so they can reach that new audience in the best way, right off the bat.
LG: [00:15:20] I would definitely say involve again your translation agency early in the process, perhaps make use of them when it comes to how you should communicate your brand in a new market. I mean, from the from a cultural aspect or knowing a bit more about the target group or if you've already done that research about your target group on a new market, share that, because it's so important for the translator to understand the context of the communication and what you want out from it know about your target group. So I mean share as much of the information and research and strategic work that you've done. I think you will definitely gain a lot just by doing that. And of course, I would say if you've done SEO or did perhaps not, that's not the first thing you do. But if you do launch a local website and as soon as you've done that, do that audit together with an SEO partner or through your translation agency like us, we provide that as a service. And that result, again, ensure that you use the technique to implement those keywords and key phrases into terminology database and I mean establish a long term relationship with the translation agency. If you have content created in English, for example, all the master content so that you can make use and save time and money with the translation memories and you're getting help with the feedback rounds and local checks and so and yeah. And keep producing really good content for the local market and ensure that you have that local aspect. Because I think, yeah, these days I think translation agencies do a lot more than only the 1 to 1 translations. And I think that's, I think that's an old view on a language partner. So ask and see what you can, how they can help you to cut corners actually and get relevant feedback about the market that you want to enter.
DB: [00:17:42] Great. Well, Linda, thank you very much for joining us today.
LG: [00:17:45] Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure.