English-German Translations, UK

Document and Website Localisation

Localising websites for German or English speaking customers

Document and website localisation is a translation with the additional aspect of cultural adaptation – be it for specific target groups, regions or countries. The localisation process ensures that distinct local market conditions in the respective English or German-speaking countries are being taken into account. The process also ensures that target audiences receive the required (and expected) information in their preferred format. What is more, it includes looking into compliance with local laws, researching the appropriate keywords and taking into account cultural differences.

In short, localisation is a major consideration when translating software and websites from English into German. Please contact me, Erika Baker, so we can work out how I can help you with your foreign business venture.

Adapting German and English documents and websites to a target audience

I will take most of these issues into account as a matter of course, as localisation is part of my standard service for business and commercial clients. However, it always pays to share with me your knowledge of your German language target market/clients. I am unlikely to know your specific target market as intricately as you do. Especially, as you are likely to have experience in dealing with the German-speaking country, will have established trade partners or even know of competitors who are successful in the new market.

Therefore, before sending your document for translation from English into German, consider the following:

  • Foreign clients’ expectations
  • Local differences in legislation
  • Search Engine Optimisation issues
  • Cultural differences

Consider customer expectations for the documents/websites you want me to localise

What customers expect and tolerate in marketing materials may vary greatly from country to country. German readers, for example, expect far more detailed technical product information on websites and in product brochures than English readers. They may, therefore, be surprised and disappointed by the lack of information provided by a website originating in the UK.

To avoid negative reactions I recommend strongly that you research your German or English target market before creating marketing materials for your target country. A good way of finding out clients’ expectations is analysing competitors’ website contents.

Analyse websites of your chosen English or German-speaking country’s most prominent competitors and focus on what kind of information they provide and how detailed it is. Many websites are bilingual, some are multilingual. This can be extremely helpful when trying to ascertain how your competitors market their product in your target country. Alternatively, ask me to help you discover this kind of German or English language marketing information. Armed with this knowledge you can now adapt your text with your target country in mind, maximising its potential impact. I will do the rest.

Some website owners may not want to go into such detail. However, at the very least, provide me with website addresses of competitors in the country you are targeting. This will give me the opportunity to cross reference the appropriate vocabulary, quickly and efficiently.

Research local legislation when planning the localisation of documents or websites

I always advise my clients to research local legislation such as consumer legislation applicable in their English or German speaking target country to pinpoint vital differences.

In Britain, for example, the onus is placed on the consumer to minimise or exclude any risks associated with the purchase of goods in a due diligence process. Sellers must not attempt to conceal faults, however, they are not liable if a buyer later discovers a fault they had not noticed previously. When selling to or buying from foreign markets sellers must be aware that their transaction partners may be in a stronger or weaker legal position when it comes to defending their rights than is the case in the UK.

Let’s look at German law as a contrast. German rules are based on the principle that the buyer is not required to assess the goods in advance. According to §437 BGB (German Civil Code) the buyer may request subsequent fulfilment (repair or replacement). He may also withdraw from the contract, offer to pay a reduced purchase price or claim compensation from you.

Include Search Engine Optimisation when preparing websites for localisation

When translating online content, it is of the utmost importance to implement Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques. This includes choosing the correct keywords. You may market your product in England using one name but the German translation may not be what people will search for in the relevant country. The more specialised the product, the more carefully the translation has to be picked. So, having chosen the wrong term, you may find that you receive no enquiries from the German, Swiss or Austrian market as your potential clients are not looking for the terms used in your translated website text. They will therefore not find your site.

Search Engine Optimisation is an art form. While search engines don’t publish how exactly they rank sites, major factors include:

  • Volume of links from websites with similar content; for your bilingual site, having local links in English and German is said to be useful
  • Quantity and quality of content, uniqueness, “authority”
  • Technical precision of source code
  • Correct spelling and grammar taking into account the formal differences between German spoken in Germany, Austria and Switzerland
  • Proportion of functional versus broken hyperlinks
  • Various user statistics
  • And a host of other factors.

Naturally, I will make sure that spelling and the use of English or German language are correct. As an added service, I may advise you whether certain content is relevant or appropriate for your target country/market. But what will ensure the success of your website is an in-depth knowledge of the product on offer as well as your intended export market plus the content and presentation of your website.

Cultural differences to consider when localising a website or document

Addressing users on websites

Texts on websites written in English often address clients directly: “We have designed this website for you, to serve your needs, to benefit you in a certain way.”

In other countries clients may frown upon this full-frontal approach. In my experience. German readers, for example, tend to prefer a more subtle/distanced approach: “We have designed this website for private/business clients. It serves their needs, it benefits them in a certain way.”

As a professional English-German translator, I take these differences into account when translating and localising a website or document.

Addressing customers in correspondence/on the phone

In the English-speaking western world, the tendency is to use first names when addressing clients. This applies to correspondence, on the phone or in person, even if the parties have never met before.

Germany, on the other hand, does not approve of using first names on first approach. First names are only OK when you know the person you are speaking to. Additionally, the other party should consent to the use of first names before you do so.

It is also a no-no to say that your “colleague Susie” will contact your foreign business partner shortly. What German speakers like to hear is that they can expect a call from “Sue Taylor” or “Mrs Taylor”.

Last but not least, always sign with your full name, not just your first name. In the UK, this approach may look friendly and trendy. In a German-language letter, however, this may easily come across as over-familiar and insincere.

What skills does a translator need when translating and localising websites?

A well written, researched and designed website is essential to many businesses now. Professional website translation and localisation is therefore essential to safeguard this valuable asset. I provide this service for English into German as well as German into English documents and websites. Experienced website translators will ensure that the translated site reads at least as well in the new language as it did in the original one. Website translation is a very fine art and requires not just good translation skills but also thorough background knowledge of the target country.

So why are businesses often tempted to cut corners when it comes to having their site translated into another language? Is this really the place to save money and neglect quality?

When translating an English website, naturally, grammar and spelling of the translated text need to be “just so”.  What is more, it is essential to thoroughly research the terminology generally used on the net for the type of product or service the client is selling in German-speaking countries in Europe. After all, employing popular, widely used keywords means that your site will be found by your customers using exactly those keywords.

My approach to translating and localising websites and documents

I have a thorough knowledge of the German language or British culture/market you are trying to import to. So, if I believe that a certain marketing approach may not be popular in your intended export market I will contact you and make you aware of my reservations. You can then make a decision on how you would like to proceed. A slightly changed, localised, page may lead to best results.

As your English into German translator I will use my skills to make sure that your translated website works at least as hard and efficiently as your original web presence.

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