Posted in International Communication on March 18, 2011 by Ann-Christin Lindstedt
"An idea does not pass from one language to another without change."
If you’re writing for an international audience, some of the phrasing and word choices you typically use in conversation can lead to confusion and misunderstanding.
For example, I recently used the phrase “second to none” in a corporate brochure intended for a worldwide audience, which met with the comment, “Say this in plain English, please.” Surprisingly (for me, at least), the reader had interpreted that phrase to mean “average” or “just OK.” (To clarify: in the US, the expression means the best, first place, highest ranking, etc.) I wrote it instinctively — like I talk. But what was plain English to me, wasn’t to my audience.
So, for international communication and marketing, don’t write like you talk.
It’s challenging to train yourself to reread everything you write to look for phrases and word choices that won’t work for an international audience. After all, your own language is ingrained in you. But it can be done. And it doesn’t have to leave your text stilted and boring.
Some simple tips for writing for an international audience:
» Read through some online idiom dictionaries to remind yourself of what isn’t always plain English to non-native speakers.
» Use a thesaurus, but not like many people do: looking for fancier words to sound smarter (which rarely works, but that’s another topic). Look for simpler, clearer ways to say things.
» Reread anything you’ve intended to be funny. Is it still funny outside of your own culture or region?
» Ask a non-native speaker to read your work before you publish.
» Be smart. Only change what you really need to for clarity. Preserve your unique writing style to retain the energy and personality in your text — especially in letters and blogs.
What phrases or words do you think are the worst culprits for international miscommunication?
Posted in American Business and Consumer Insights for Europe on September 20, 2010 by Ann-Christin Lindstedt
European marketers and business owners: are you interested in B2B (business-to-business) opportunities in the United States? I'm guessing that places like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago spring to mind, right? Of course, these are huge metropolitan areas filled with every kind of business you can imagine. Yet, allow me to direct your attention to the southwest for a moment. Texas, to be more precise. What springs to mind now? Cowboys, longhorn cattle, and rodeos? Oh, but there's so much more.
This year's ranking by CNBC crowns Texas as the top state in the USA for business in 2010, citing Texas' strong economy as an important factor. In fact, the study describes the Texas economy as "the 15th largest in the world, according to government figures; larger, for example, than all the Scandinavian nations combined."
Now, Texas is my home state and I'm certainly "Texas Proud" about a lot of things the Lone Star State has to offer. But when it comes to business opportunities, I'm not unduly biased. The evidence is clear.
Here are just a few of the characteristics that make Texas a top place to consider for B2B marketing and other business opportunities in the USA:
Cost of Living:
Technology & Innovation:
Population/Workforce & Land:
► Interested in learning about effective B2B marketing, communication, content marketing, corporate communication, and copywriting for Texas and the rest of the USA? Please leave a comment or contact me with specific questions and/or topics.
Posted in International Communication on July 02, 2010 by Ann-Christin Lindstedt
Recently, I was talking with a friend of mine from
That’s when she looked at me with a strange expression on her face. “Biscuits?” she asked. “For breakfast?”
You see, in the
My friend was disgusted when I mentioned having biscuits and eggs for breakfast. We were both speaking English, but our minds had conjured very different images and emotions from just that one word. It was startling, confusing, disconnecting, and it threw off the whole conversation.
We laughed about it, of course. And it was educational. But when you’re writing to customers or business partners online, in brochures, or via email, you don’t get to know immediately if they’ve misunderstood something. You won’t know if they’re thinking or feeling something completely different from what you’d hoped.
In your international marketing and communication, you want to connect clearly, easily, and naturally.
Before you mail your next sales letter, print a new brochure, or click send on your latest email blast, give it a “biscuit test.” If anything is unclear (based on feedback from native regional English experts), consider creating separate communications for each target region. It may take some extra effort, but the returns will be worth it.
Posted in International Communication on April 08, 2010 by Ann-Christin Lindstedt
Yes. You read that right. I think translation is a bad idea. Direct, untargeted translation, that is. Why? Let me give you an example.
As I was planning a family outing last week, I turned to that handy little resource — the Web — to get information I needed from a particular Swedish company. I'm always happy when I see the UK or US flag icon on a website signaling English-language pages. It makes it much quicker and easier for me to find and absorb the information I need.
But happiness turned into frustration within a few seconds of reading the copy. Let's just say, I could forget about quick and easy information. After flipping back and forth a couple of times between the Swedish and English pages, I found the 3 main culprits.
► First, the original Swedish copy wasn't great.
► Second, they'd most likely used translation software or a translation service to directly translate the average Swedish copy into terrible English copy.
► Third, they'd obviously not bothered to ask a real live native English speaker to read through the copy after translating it.
My first thought was: "Wow. Why did they even bother? They must not think English-speaking visitors are worth their time and attention." My second thought was, "This company must not be as professional as I'd hoped."
How unfortunate. Yet, I see this kind of average, quick-fix English translation all too often on Scandinavian and European websites. My Swedish friends might call it lagom (good enough), but I call it a mistake. Why? Because your English-speaking customers will feel like they are an afterthought, rather than a priority, for you — diminishing your reputation in their eyes.
Some may argue that English-speaking customers accessing European websites should overlook poor English communications since they know it's a foreign language for those companies. That may be true when meeting people in person, but not for online and print marketing.
Everything you post on your website is a reflection of your work ethic, professionalism, expertise, and credibility. The moment you put English-language content on your website, you acknowledge that English is important to your business and clients; therefore, it requires the same effort and attention as any other marketing.
Also, consider your global exposure. It just doesn't make sense to put subpar copy on your website where it's accessible 24/7 in a language used globally for business.
English copy on your website is marketing, PR, and customer service all rolled into one. It's a golden opportunity to attract customers and boost your reputation. Don't just translate. Communicate in a way that shows you understand and value your English-speaking audience.
► Remember: an undervalued customer isn't a customer at all, but an offering to your competition.
Welcome to our new website and blog! My name is Ann-Christin, and I'm the writer behind GlobalReach Copywriting. As you've probably figured out from reading through the site, we're all about helping you get the best results from your English marketing and communications. Hopefully, you'll find in this blog a wealth of information to encourage, motivate, inform, and support you.
- In Plain English, Please (Writing for an International Audience) Posted in International Communication
- Why Translating Your Website into English is a Bad Idea Posted in International Communication
- Content Utility: What Batman Can Teach You About Content Marketing Posted in Content Marketing (Content Utility)
- 4 Flaws That Weaken Your International Business Writing Posted in International Communication
- What a Swedish Heat Wave Can Teach You about Marketing Perspective Posted in Marketing
- 9 Things European B2B Professionals Should Know About Twitter Posted in Social Media
- Loose Lips Sink Ships (and Brands): a friendly reminder to watch what you say on social media Posted in Social Media
- Choosing the Right Digital Notebook: A Quick Note on OneNote v. Evernote Posted in Useful Tools, Publications, and Reviews
- How Weak International Business Writing Can Destroy Your Brand Posted in International Communication
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