In our globalised and multi-ethnic society, information, news, advertisements, products and services are shared at the speed of the light all over the world.
Journalists are writing articles aimed to their readers but they are actually reaching a more global audience, especially if it is in English.
Are authors considering the fact that their documents not only will be read by non-native speakers but also might be translated into several languages?
Imagine talking to a multilingual and multicultural audience? What “errors” would you avoid?
What jokes would be safe? Here comes a first (not-exhaustive) guide to writing for an international audience.
First of all, be as clear as possible. We recommend avoiding colloquial words, slang, ambiguous expressions. Typos and grammar mistakes will cause further confusion. Do not take things for granted, for example abbreviations and acronyms should be explained and clarified in some contexts.
Remember a mistake in one language could be translated into 15 languages.
Obviously, we need to bear in mind our target audience. For instance, when translating instructions, our target audience is consumers hence the language shouldn’t be too technical.
When writing for marketing purposes, it is important to keep the same style. Do not hesitate in creating a style guide and glossaries. These can be passed to your translation agency and they need to be shared with the translator and possibly reproduced for other languages.
Another essential rule is to know if product names/ slogans should be translated into other languages. This is your decision and not the translator’s.
Some precious advice that came from a web developer is to remember that different languages can produce different sentence lengths.Keep this in mind and if needed, let your translator know if there are any character limitations.
(check out this site http://www.omniglot.com/language/articles/multilingual_websites.htm)
Avoiding ambiguity is also vital hence pronouns should be used only if essential. Do not be afraid to specify the subject again if needed.
Last but not least, authors and translators (agencies) should develop a synergetic relation. We recommend talking to an agency or translator(s) in order to make sure you are on the same page.
Feedback is always appreciated, especially if constructive. Don’t be afraid to critique the translation, the translator should be happy to engage in dialogue.
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