My sister loves to travel. She finds visiting foreign nations a very entertaining and enriching experience. She explores the food, the local cuisines, and shops (a lot!). She also spends time understanding their cultures of that country. She was once in Japan and was in a similar culture understanding mood. In the flow of conversation, she wanted to say something. The twist is, she wanted to say it in Japanese. She found the relevant words for it and said it with full confidence much to the delight of her listeners. After she delivered her newly learned Japanese line, her audience went into splits of laughter, well, at least the
non-Japanese ones who knew the language.
She wanted to say ‘all humans are same in a very basic way and their cultures too’, what she said was
‘all carrots are same in a very basic way and their cultures too’. You see, the Japanese word for human is
Ningen and carrot are Ninjin. She got confused with the pronunciation and hence the story!
Her experience taught me a couple of things about foreign lands.
- Get to learn basics about being in a country – their way of greeting, the extent of formality in
speech, basic rituals and customs, and norms about behaving in a group.
- Really do your bit on do’s and dont’s – the dont’s can really land you in a soup.
- Do identify a friend for yourself in a foreign country, who can guide you through your stay.
But how is this story relevant to a multilingual email copy?
It is relevant in every way.
If you read the story again,
- Intended communication failed because my sister didn’t know the words.
- The Japanese didn’t burst out laughing as they consider it impolite to insult a guest.
Just imagine if this was not an incident amongst people and was an email delivered online. It would have been one kind of disaster. Plus there would have been no way to control the damage.
When drafting the copy for a multilingual audience, the following things have to be paid keen attention
1. Set the Tone with Greetings
The right greetings can set the tone of the email copy. A generic greeting will serve the purpose of starting the email on a good note but there is nothing like a personalized greeting. It adds a certain warmth and starts the email on a friendly note. Spend some time to understand the appropriate way to greet a particular audience. Do a check on what is an acceptable form. A simple word like hello is Ciao in Italian, Hola in Spanish and Hallo in German. This took me two minutes to find on Google. If you have a German email list, Italy business list or a Spanish speaking email list, finding appropriate greetings will not take longer than this. Spend that little effort to make a good start.
2. Universal Email Template
Use a template that is universally acceptable. Keep it simple, elegant and use the right colors. Some colors in some nations are a strict no-no. Do your bit of research. When writing a multilingual copy, please bear the need for special characters in choosing the email template. The template should be able to accommodate them.
3. Language Check is a Must
Your email is your voice to your overseas customers. Do you want to speak to them? Shout or request them? Choose the words accordingly. The story you read at the beginning of this post is a very harmless example. Without a proper language check, your email can land in rougher waters than the story above. Sometimes a neutral toned and formal email is first created in English and then translated. It is good practice in a way as it saves a lot of time. Check the following to be double sure your email is going to look great.
Do not use slang. It is difficult to translate; there might not be an equivalent. It could land you in trouble; there might be a different and bad meaning to it.
Do not use gender-specific language. You don’t want to hurt the sentimentalities of your customers. Do not use informal language. It might be considered rude. Even worse, your email might be treated as spam.
When you get a translation done, make it a point to run it across the natives of that language. If you are a large organization, you will find a couple of employees who can speak that language. Run it by them. If you are a small organization, spend some money on professional translating agencies or find a freelancer who can do it for you.
Do not send out an email without confirming the translation.
There is so much said about smartphones and the increase in the number of people using one across the world. You would be surprised that more than 40% of emails sent are still not smartphone friendly. When you are creating your email copy, make sure your design, the images, the text are all responsive. All the efforts spent in creating such a beautiful copy are wasted if they don’t open on a cell phone. Remember most emails are opened on a smartphone.
4. Check the Email Client
Your email copy needs to be run across all mail clients that are used in your intended audience nations. The highly accessed ones like Gmail generally have no issues. It’s not the same case with AOL. Run your email copy through various email clients to see how the final output looks like in terms of special characters and pictures.
Creating an effective email copy for a multilingual audience is incomplete without an A/B testing. Test all crucial elements of the email copy and use the findings to make it better.
Whether it is Hola, Hallo or Ciao, if you take care of all the things discussed in this post, your email copy should look good. Good luck with it.