Translation: A Powerful Communication Tool in Dealing with the HIV/AIDS Pandemic

While a majority of the key actors involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS have integrated the term “global” into their mission, few are investing in the development of multilingual communications tools. With the rise of digital platforms, material such as the proceedings of the International AIDS conference that just took place in Durban can easily become available to an international audience. Yet, according to the FID review on HIV/AIDS and information, “most of the information that is provided is only available in English- a problem for the millions of interested parties who do not have command of this language”.

A tool to foster collaboration

In addition to facilitating access to information, translation can serve as a powerful tool to foster international scientific collaboration. The online collection of HIV/AIDS-related resources AIDSource offers multilingual research options, which shows the international scope of AIDS research. However, providing a thematic selection of abstracts from multilingual sources translated into English and then made available in other languages could help foster more collaboration and promote the work of experts from non-English speaking areas, where prevalence is high.

A tool to facilitate knowledge sharing 

A significant amount of resources is devoted to developing new campaigns and programs for the prevention of HIV. Yet, translating the resources that are already available into the languages used by the population that is the most at risk and into the official languages of the UN could help maximize impact at a relatively low cost.

Two projects related to microbicides and gender implemented by the nonprofit FHI360 and supported by USAID provide a good example of resources that could support international advocacy efforts on preventive treatment options if available in multiple languages.

A tool to raise awareness and mobilize resources

While using digital communications channels such as social media, blogging, YouTube, or coming up with a hashtag has become a necessary step to shed light on complex issue, it is not sufficient to achieve global impact. In a world of constant communication, too much emphasis is often put on finding an attractive message instead of focusing on the best way to communicate to the target audience. Integrating the use of translation in the development of a communication strategy will allow organizations to more effectively raise awareness and mobilize resources. This approach will also help them develop a global brand by going beyond translation and adapting content to different cultures. Nevertheless, creating a simple message that can be translated easily such as the Friends of the Global Fight’ #WhyNow campaign is a great start in ensuring the issue is exposed in terms that are easy to understand by all the parties involved.

Multilingual Content Can Help Non-Profits Build a Global Brand

The process of localization (adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market) has allowed companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon become the world’s biggest brands. However, this process requires a carefully planned marketing strategy involving a significant amount of research and resources. While an increasing number of non-profit organizations are integrating the term “global” into their mission statement, few are investing in localization strategies similar to the ones employed by the private sector. Here are some guidelines for non-profit professionals considering to develop multilingual content in an effort to build a global brand.

Translation vs. Localization

While communicating with a global audience commonly involves bridging language barriers, building a global brand requires more than just translation. However, few professionals outside of marketers know what differentiates translation from localization.

To put it simply, translation aims to communicate a message to a target audience, whereas localization involves creating specific content that matches the target market’s language and culture. In addition to working with linguists who are native in the target language, the localization process usually requires collaborating with a team who has expertise in adapting graphics to a foreign market, modifying the design and layout to properly display translated text, and addressing global regulations and legal requirements.

A Strategic Approach to Global Branding

Unlike for-profit companies, where the end goal drives all the communication efforts, non-profits often lose sight of the objective and get caught up in the creation of original material before developing a global content strategy.

Addressing translation and localization in tandem with content creation will help organizations allocate the right resources early on and identify an efficient workflow between the author and the team in charge of translation management. This approach also allows enough time to conduct research on the target audience, budget for the service required, and avoid rush rates when contracting language providers.

Organizations looking to make existing content accessible in multiple languages should also avoid a blanket approach focused on the translation of all the original content available. This is particularly common for the development of multilingual websites where a mix of translated and original content is often published on the same page. In addition to strategically selecting material to be translated, editing original content to fit the target audience’s cultural context will ensure the message delivered has the highest impact.

In sum, whether the final objective of your organization is to influence policy, fund-raise, educate, or engage, adopting a marketing strategy tailored to the language and culture of the desired audience is critical to achieving success on a global scale.

Top International Business Etiquette Tips

Going global?

This infographic has the international business etiquette tips you need to know before doing business in some of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Thanks to advances in technology, conducting business on a global scale has become easier than ever. However, going into international business uninformed can cost you. You could not only lose your deal, but also unintentionally offend your counterparts.

While some business professionals abroad may be forgiving when it comes to Americans being aware of different cultural norms, you don’t want to look foolish. For example, imagine that you’ve been invited to a dinner at the home of your Chinese business partner. What are you going to wear? Denim? A suit? Surely you’re going to finish your entire meal as a sign of respect, right? You’d know the answer to these questions in an American context, but business customs vary across cultures. Being familiar with international business etiquette will help build a solid professional relationship with your counterparts around the world.

JPD Systems created this helpful infographic to give you a brief overview of conducting business in six different countries so you’ll be aware of cultural differences and avoid some potentially disastrous mistakes.


Overcoming the “Beltway Syndrome”: How Professional Translation Can Help Think Tanks Have a Global Impact

The notion that Washington, D.C.–based organizations seeking political influence are short-sighted (commonly referred to as the “beltway syndrome”) in their communications efforts and messaging is often used to describe the way think tanks operate. Despite the considerable amount of resources invested by those institutions in communications over the last few years, the use of professional translation services has not been integrated as part of a global strategy. Treated as a mundane administrative task, translation is often overlooked or falls short in delivering a message and connecting with the reader.

Here is my three-point take on why delegating this task to a professional translation company is not only cost and time effective but is also key to an effective global communications strategy.

1) Multilingual content is key to global communications.

Most “global” institutions offer translation in 3 or 4 languages at best and often translate scattered parts of their websites; much attention is given to the “user experience” of the English site, while speakers of other languages would only have access to part of the information in their language. This gives non-English users the experience of a website “under construction” while more and more resources are invested into promoting English content through various channels.

A professional translation service would not only help provide quality translation for the complete version of the English website but can also advise the communications staff on what type of content would appeal to the target audience in order to increase the visibility of the research produced.

2) Professional translation is not a cost but an investment.

An argument often used against using a professional translation service is the cost it represents in comparison to the common practice of relying on bilingual staff to translate. Translation often falls at the bottom of their priority list due to their other tasks. Short articles or opinion pieces often relate to current events and are meant to be published quickly. Translation by internal staff can delay their publication to the point of making them completely irrelevant, resulting in the waste of a significant amount of internal resources.

Additionally, bilingualism and translation do not require the same set of skills,[1] and the common use of bilingual staff to translate often results in poor-quality translation or even mistranslation. The value added of a translation is to serve a purpose, for instance, influencing decision makers in a foreign country. This in turn requires a professional translator that can create a road map for the translation, taking into account the purpose of the original text, the purpose of the translation, and the purpose of the translated text, as well as such factors as culture, idiomaticity, and terminology.

Investing in translation as part of a communication strategy would help avoid diverting internal resources and ensure the investment in multilingual content achieves its purpose and increases the visibility of the organization.

3) Translating policy papers in the language of the country or region affected by the issue has better odds of influencing policy.

Maximizing policy impact is a common goal shared by most major think tanks that are increasingly making global communications a top priority. However, while English is the most commonly used language in online communications, a 2012 study by Common Sense Advisory, an independent consulting firm, showed that at least 13 languages are needed to reach 90% of the global market.

Whether think tanks publish non-English content or not, international media will likely end up doing the translation themselves. This is also true for foreign embassy staff in Washington, D.C., reporting to their governments on think tank activities in their native languages. Think tanks are missing a great opportunity to directly engage the end users of their work instead of relying on others who might misread or misinterpret their content.

Furthermore, translated papers would increase the think tank’s ability to access decision makers and advocacy groups directly in target countries and have impact on the domestic debate. This will allow think tanks to truly exert influence on an international scale, beyond Washington, D.C.

Lost in Translation: Overcoming the Communications Challenges of Non-native English Speakers

In today’s globalized world, being able to publish English content has become a basic requirement for non-English speakers seeking to expand their exposure or advance their career. However, communicating technical material in English when it is not the author’s mother tongue can pose serious challenges. This post takes a closer look at two of those recurring issues and offers resources to help individuals and organizations overcome communication barriers with the help of professional translators and copy editors.

Overcoming Cultural and Linguistic Barriers

The obvious first challenge is when non-native English writers are constrained in their vocabularies and expressions while conveying their ideas or thoughts. Pressured to publish content in English, they become translators of their own work but fail to communicate in a compelling manner due to language barriers.

The recurring use of “false friends” by non-native writers—when two words that look or sound similar differ significantly in meaning—illustrates this challenge. For instance, “to control” in English usually means “to exercise authority” but “controller” in French means “to verify.” Another example that could lead to miscommunication is the translation of the English verb “to dispose of,” meaning “to throw away” by “disposer de” in French, which means “to own.”

Understanding the Translation of Concepts

While assessing one’s own level of language fluency can be done easily through proofreading and peer review, the translation of concepts poses a different kind of challenge. Paraphrasing or literal translation as a way to adapt concepts into English or any other target language can distort the original idea. This is particularly the case in social sciences, where “concepts tend to take the form of technical terms, which in turn tend to be culture specific.”[1] This specificity requires that social science translators are both good linguists and experts of the “language” of the discipline or organization they are dealing with (its jargon, its givens, its historical background).

The difficulty in identifying the right translator needed or budget limits may encourage writers to produce content in a second language they have not fully mastered. Below are a few tips on the use of language services to overcome this issue.

Selecting the Right Translator and Copy Editor

The use of copy editing or translation services appears to be an easy solution, but hiring the right professional can be a difficult task.

For readers interested in the selection of translators for social science material, the Guidelines for the Translation of Social Science Texts published by the American Council of Learned Societies, provides useful recommendations when considering the translation of a book or other major projects where the interest of the author and translators are aligned.

For shorter material, authors are looking to get the highest quality possible under tight deadlines, and the use of a translation agency that relies on a collaboration between language professionals with specialized knowledge in the subject matter and related disciplines can provide an attractive option.

While budget considerations are often a deciding factor, looking at translation and editing services as an investment rather than a cost is an important point to ensure that those services are used to support the communication strategy of the organization in English and other languages.