Translating white papers: the secrets to success

Having a white paper translated is a prerequisite met by any good marketer when developing their inbound marketing strategy abroad.

Publishing a white paper and promoting it on LinkedIn, Facebook, Xing or even Twitter can give you the opportunity to generate many leads through downloads. Therefore, it is important to translate your white papers into the languages used in your target markets, so as to reach the largest possible audience.

The reactions, downloads and conversations on websites, blogs and social networks that follow will allow your commercial staff to identify your potential clients and get in touch with qualified prospects. Indeed, the readers of your white papers are your preferred representatives, as they have searched for the information that they are interested in; they potentially represent the first users of your solution.

It should be noted that, among these users, you will usually be dealing with advisers and decision-makers. Naturally, they are the ones that you need to convincefirst, since they will have the most influence when their company makes a decision about the solution they want to use.

Obviously, you need to pay particular attention when your white paper is first drawn up. However, the translation phase is just as important.

Your company has probably dedicated lots of time and, therefore, money to writing well-researched and substantiated content. It is, therefore, natural to capitaliseon this work and to be able to disseminate it in the different markets where you want your brand to grow. However, you will be addressing audiences from different cultures, and it is essential that your information is well-received by everyone. This means that your communication must be adapted for and understandable by all.

Does that mean that you should start transposing your white paper from scratch, so that it can be adapted to each target market? Ideally, yes, by trusting the translation to native experts who understand all the subtleties of the language and try to find expressions equivalent to those used in the source text. However, you can also facilitate the translation process for your white paper by respecting certain principles.

This has several advantages: the translation will be simpler, faster and less expensive for you. Furthermore, you will be able to ensure that the translator can perfectly understand your message to convey it to your audience. This way, you will be able to meet your goal.

Advice to follow when writing your white papers

1. Use precise terminology.
Adjectives such as ‘short’, ‘long’, ‘fast’, ‘slow’, ‘big’, ‘small’, and ‘expensive’ mean different things to different people and can be open to interpretation. A long-term project could mean a six-month project or a 30-year project, according to the subject being discussed and the line of business. To summarise, be precise and hold yourself to the facts, e.g. ‘a solution is implemented in six months’ or ‘the connection reaches up to 20 GB’, etc.

2. Don’t use references that are too culturally specific.
These references could be any allusion to things or concepts that are unknown in other countries, such as people, sports, places, activities, dishes and national holidays, etc.

Ask yourself if this type of reference is appropriate for a foreign audience before using it.

3. Eliminate all idiomatic expressions.
Similarly, limit the use of idiomatic expressions as much as possible. Expressions such as ‘flying off the handle’, ‘starting with a clean slate’ or ‘falling by the wayside’ will not mean much to a reader from a culture other than yours. If you include them in your white paper and your translator simply translates them literally, they will not make any sense.

On the other hand, if the translator tries to find an equivalent expression, you may find yourself getting further away from your original goal, or worse, offending your audience or even causingmisunderstanding because of an inappropriate translation.

4. Use shorter and simpler sentences and remember that you are not just communicating with native speakers.
In all cases, short sentences are easier for everyone to understand. They increase the readability of your text. Bear in mind that translators tend to use the same sentence structure as that of the source text. What is easily understandable in one language can sometimes become much more complicated once written in another. Instead of investing in costly proofreading or even transcreation, simplify the task for the translator and strengthen the power of your message.

5. Do not worry about losing style through simplification.
Even if ‘starting with a clean slate’ is more vivid that ‘starting afresh’, and ‘falling by the wayside’ is more striking than ‘falling behind’, these are expressions that are particular to the English language and translating them literally into a foreign language could cause problems.

Writing in English in an ‘impersonal’ style is not easy, nor natural, and it can seem dull, but ultimately it will improve your communication.

Advice for choosing and collaborating with a translation agency

1. Request a test translation.
Ask them to carry out a free translation of an extract from your white paper. One page is enough. Next, ask preferably native co-workers to reread the document and provide you with comments to be passed on to your translation agency, with the aim of giving them further direction.

2. Provide them with reference documents.
If you have documents that have already been translated, such as other white papers, websites or brochures, pass them on to the translation agency. This will ensure consistency between different translated documents, and they can also be used to indicate areas for improvement to focus on.

3. Create a glossary.
This can take some time, but the future benefits are considerable. For example, you can indicate what terms you might want to keep in English, or even just list terms that are specific to your organisation.

4. Provide images that can be edited.
Keep the source files with the aim of providing your translation agency with any images found in your document in an editable format. This will allow them to be easily modified during the translation.

If you have a white paper you would like to translate, we can help you find the best solution; just contact us!

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