Updated: Jun 14
As your company and brand grows, you are reaching a wider target audience in different parts of the world.
But is your communication keeping up with the change in audiences?
One of the things that marketeers overlook, whether from lack of budget or otherwise, is adapting their website to suit the local audience.
If the language spoken is different in these locales, naturally the content will be translated.
But what if they speak a different variant of the same language, like say English? English in the UK is not the same as in the US. What about Australia and New Zealand? What about Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong? What about the Commonwealth countries? Each country or region has its own linguistic history and points of references. There’s no one-size-fits-all international English, not if you want to connect with your audience at a deeper level.
Connecting at a deeper level involves touching people emotionally. And this involves paying attention to both cultural and linguistic sensitivities.
A lot of brands that operate in different countries and regions understand this, and therefore, adapt their websites to speak to local audiences. And yes, this does take a bit more work and planning.
Global Brands | Local Sites
A look at the websites of some of the global brands gives us some illustrations of this practice.
Take Coca-Cola for example. Many of its South East Asian sites like Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand include both an English site and a local language site, catering to speakers of different languages within each country. This shows a keen interest in connecting with audiences in the countries their businesses are operating in. Many Asian countries have a sizeable proportion of residents who communicate primarily in English and it makes sense to have an English website or English communication materials. However, even though they speak English, the cultural background and influences of these English speakers are very much steeped in that of the local community, and a direct copy-and-paste of the US or UK site might not work very well. In this case, a local linguist or translation agency can help with adapting the site for its intended audience.
Fedex is another global brand that takes its customer communications seriously, and it has separate Traditional Chinese language sites for its Hong Kong and Taiwan markets. In order to save on expenditure, it is not uncommon for companies to create just one Traditional Chinese site that’s supposed to cover all grounds. However, the Cantonese (Yue dialect) influenced form of Traditional Chinese is not the same as the Min-dialect-influenced version of the language in Taiwan. Translation and adaptation of the sites to communicate with the target audience in these two locales will have to take place separately.
Remember that your company’s communication messages are meant to form and build deeper relationships with your audiences and customers.
What Happens During Adaptation?
Adaptation – tweaking your text to localise your content. This could be from US English to Singapore English, or Traditional Chinese for Hong Kong to Simplified Chinese for China.
Here are some of things to look out for during adaptation:
Spelling. E.g. color (US) versus colour (UK/SG)
Word choice. E.g. fizzy drinks (UK) will be localised to carbonated drinks or soft drinks (SG)
Reference to major events or occasions. E.g. Super Bowl (THE major football, or rugby depending where you are located, championship in the US might be adapted to mention other major sporting championship events in the country or region. Another example during the pandemic is the notion of a lockdown. In the usual euphemistic fashion of the Singapore government in the way things are named, we had the ‘circuit breaker’, or ‘CB’ in short
Climate. As a perennially summery country near the equator, references to seasonal changes (e.g. seasonal wardrobe changes) might need to be adapted as they may leave readers somewhat bemused
As you can see from the above, adaptation is the step of identifying/recognising how something in the source text is not regular in the local context and making amendments to the text so that the person reading the article eventually will feel like the article is written for them and is speaking to them.
Paragraphs may be removed, added to or rewritten, depending on what’s necessary.
Sometimes, if no local example is found to be a suitable replacement, the linguist may adapt the text by adding more background information as context so that the reader can understand what’s going on. For example, if a Chinese language website that mentions the Chinese qipao (or cheong sam) is being translated into English, the linguist would definitely ask for which country or locale is the English website meant. If the English website targets the Hong Kong market, no additional explanation may be needed in the translation. But if the text is meant for a more international audience, some background information on the qipao may be necessary.
If you're already spending money on translating your website, you'd want to make sure it's one that works.
Adaptation is one of the ways to deliver messages that work to customers and clients the world over.
Is adaptation one of your current methods of connecting with your audiences? If not, you might want to talk to a translation or transcreation agency that can help!
And if you can think of any more examples of adaptation, please share your comments below.
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