Talking your language


Your potential new investors, donors and customers could be anywhere in the world. If you’re targeting new audiences, you need to be speaking their language – literally. But there’s a lot more to it than just running your content through Google translate…

Whether you’re planning a printed annual report or a digital microsite, your content should be translated into the languages of the key audiences you’re keen to talk to. Switched on organisations are actively extending their reach and producing compelling content in different languages. And Blackwood is helping them.

If you’re not already, you should be thinking seriously about producing content in the languages of the main growth markets: Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Potential new business and investment opportunities could come from anywhere in the world, so you need to be open to it. Producing content in a range of languages shows that you are.

But if you’re not a native of these countries and regions, where do you start with translation and understanding the design-related issues of producing content in foreign languages? It’s not as simple as doing a quick cheeky Google Translate – you have to understand the culture, not just the words.

Experience pays

Navigating international waters without a chart is a no-no. It’s imperative to use the services of an experienced hand to steer you through the translation and design process. This will ensure that your content reflects the tastes and cultural preferences of your audiences and avoids inadvertently causing offence. After all, in certain cultures there are strict protocols around what the content should say and how it should be laid out.

UK audiences are considered a low-context culture: they’re individualistic and task-orientated. Arabic audiences are considered high-context: they’re collectivist, intuitive and relationship-orientated. An experienced hand, eye and brain will interpret these cultural differences to inform the visual, typographic and photographic styles and colour choices, ensuring that the aesthetic is appealing as well as appropriate.

Embrace the differences

It’s possible that what worked for the original audience won’t be suitable for another, but that’s only to be expected. Designs will be close but not identical – not least because different language scripts will impact their length.

For example, Russian runs much longer than English, while Arabic can end up significantly shorter. Arabic text is read from right to left, so design choices need to reflect this fact.

Meanwhile, just as you (hopefully) wouldn’t produce a high-level strategic document in Comic Sans, so every script from Arabic to Cyrillic has its own range of font options – some classical and formal, others more modern or casual. Some are pretty to look at in a headline, but hard to read as body copy. We understand this, and we advise clients on which typefaces will work for the message they want to send.

Working in different languages for different cultures is an exciting, enlightening and enriching process. We know because we do it all the time. Native speakers translate and often design our foreign language work. Our clients range from a Middle Eastern bank to a European development organisation and European universities. And our work spans the world, from Brazil to Brunei, Poland to Pakistan, Sweden to Senegal.

If you’re looking to extend your reach, tap into new markets and create compelling content for overseas clients, get in touch and we’d love to chat with you (ideally in English!) about how we can help.

Contact us to find out more.