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What did you say? With translation, hitting the right cultural tone is just as powerful as getting the words right.

Creating content for multiple channels and in several languages is a given nowadays — but simply providing a direct translation of the source language isn't good enough. Cultural, colloquial and current events must also be taken into account.

A 'good' translation can increase your effective reach — but if any content, whether digital, print or video, is likely to be required in multiple languages, planning for this from the outset can ensure that you avoid some costly (not to say embarrassing) mistakes.

Any translation must be much more than word-for-word from the source. At On Screen Productions, our goal is to engage international audiences in exactly the same way as we connect with those within the domestic market. The translation should capture the style and tone of the content — as well as the meaning and sub-text.

Word length varies dramatically across different languages. Embedded text within graphics and logos should be avoided (unless a trade or brand name). Designers should allow for space around icons and graphics to make room for the increased or decreased letter count seen in some languages.

When creating video inserts, timing is often critical. Unless you can amend the pictures in the edit, allow room for the translated voice-over to increase in length without running out of images — or decrease without uncomfortable silence!

Careful planning from the outset ensures your materials will be well received at every destination. Don’t end up like the council officials who asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign. When the email reply came back, the officials thought they had what they needed. Unfortunately, the email actually read “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated” — and that is exactly what appeared on the sign… and around the world on social media sites.