Websites and Globalizing: Critical Facts

If your website has not been localized in other languages — or if you localized it using Google Translate — here is what you are missing:

According to Common Sense Advisory,

  • 72.4% of global consumers prefer to use their native language when shopping online.
  • 85% of all consumers will not purchase if information is not in their native language.
  • 56.2% of these consumers said obtaining information in their own language is even more important than price.

Whether you are marketing a product or a service, or focus on Asia instead of Europe, the trend is ultimately the same: People want to read about your offering in their own language.

In fact, even in the EU where many people are multi-lingual, only half of EU Internet users will bother with an English website — even when no other language is available.

So if you are serious about achieving global marketing success, you simply must localize your websites into your target countries’ languages.

And be sure to use professional linguists. While Google Translate and other programs can sometimes do well, relying on them is unwise since they often commit comical errors and mistakes that can damage your reputation for excellence. This can lead prospective customers to naturally wonder that if you are willing to settle for a cheap, second-rate presentation, how can you be trusted to provide first-rate products or services?

But localizing some or all of your website into other languages is only one step toward successful global expansion. Other issues to consider are:

1- Do you know what countries or world regions are most receptive to your product or service?

Demographic research will tell you.

2- Do you know how to enter those markets?

Don’t assume that what works here will also work there. You may need to employ different product configuring, packaging, soliciting, pricing and selling methods.

For example, if you make candy or shampoo, the developing world could be a prime market. But you may need to repackage your products in small packets of one or two pieces or individual sachets for one or two uses. Often, most people in these countries work at outdoor markets, small shops or as day laborers, earning cash daily or weekly. They can afford small quantities for small prices, earning you a much larger market share.

3- How formal or informal is your target country?

In informal countries such as the US, Australia and New Zealand, you can use methods such as cold calling, email blasting or postal ads to attract prospects. In formal countries, such as East Asia, India, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America, personal connections or relationships are seen as more trustworthy. If you are marketing there:

  • Do you have a network of personal connections?
  • How extensive is the network of your distributor or agent?

4- Do you know your target country’s retail methods?

Best Buy thought it did when it entered China. It simply replicated its successful model of the US in which many manufacturers’ electronics products are sold under one roof by category (all printers, all TVs, all CD players in their respective sections). But in China, that was a disaster because:

  • Customers there shop by manufacturer, not by product category. So to them, Best Buy’s layout was confusing and frustrating;
  • Chinese sales reps are loyal to and employed by their manufacturer (brand), not to the retailer at which they work; and finally
  • Best Buy emphasizes post-sale customer service. This adds to product prices, while most Chinese customers value cheaper prices more than post-sale service.

In short, languages — whether for brochures, user manuals, contracts or websites — are very important but are one part of the global marketing mix. Many other marketing elements are equally as vital.

We at Auerbach International are one of the very few firms that combine both first-class language services and state-of-the-art global marketing solutions under one roof. If you seek to expand your company’s global footprint, please contact us for a free quote or consultation.

Language Myths and Realities, Part 1: Websites & Volunteers

Over our 25 years, many clients have come to us after discovering that their presumed money-saving methods are more costly after all.

This article is the first in a series to expose some common myths about rendering languages so that your firm can do it right…and gain more revenue targeting ethnic and global markets correctly.

1. Websites: All or nothing

Most companies assume that they have to localize their entire website to attract overseas customers. That certainly could be an end goal.

The hardest part of website localization is not the language agency’s ability to do it. The hardest part is for you, the client, to decide exactly what pages, what links, what press releases and what embedded product brochures you want done. And since that decision is time-consuming or involves a committee, you end up doing nothing. In return, you gain limited or no global business.

One alternative is to start with something: your home page, your contact page, and perhaps three-five key product pages. Your language service can localize those selected links quickly and inexpensively.

And if even that partial selection process proves too daunting, you can simply summarize your company in one-two doc pages. You can then afford to translate those summaries into even more languages and gain exposure to many more potential customers at home and abroad.

When targeting foreign markets, be sure also to ask your translation service to get your domain registered in other languages and countries. Then overseas prospects can find you more easily.

The benefit of website localization to gain some business vs. none is clearly illustrated by this client example:

“Two weeks before a conference in Tokyo, we decided it was critical that our company attend. With virtually no time to prepare properly, we panicked realizing that the company’s website needed to be translated to Japanese so that it could be clearly understood by the conference attendees. In just four business days, Auerbach International not only completed the translation, but also provided the needed web-ready files.

Our now-enhanced, multi-lingual website worked flawlessly from the start. We received numerous compliments from Japanese who were surprised that this could be done so well, and so quickly.”

2. Our volunteer translators (amateurs, students, etc.) can do it.

Maybe, up to a point… one that’s reached pretty quickly. The more amateurs you have, the more variations you will get in how to express your message, in the terminology used for the same word or phrase, and in spelling (or misspelling) or (wrong) grammar.

Sooner than expected, firms using “community translators” often discover that their free volunteers become too unwieldy and time-consuming to manage… and that it’s far more cost-effective to use a professional language translation service with its cost-saving methods, industry-specialized translators, consistent terminology and rapid deliveries of all languages simultaneously.

3. My cousin speaks that language. She can translate our files.

Yes, if your files are very simple. Usually they aren’t. And your cousin, friend or neighbor will quickly discover how time-consuming the process can be … especially when you need the translation yesterday.

A professional language service can use entry-level translators for non-technical projects. These linguists are at least pre-qualified and tested to assure some higher degree of quality.

But if your cousin has to look up lots of technical words… they may still be incorrect and the process can incur a lot of time (and resentment). Your supposed cost savings can easily vanish when your project is delayed or contain mistakes requiring more costly fixes.


A professional language service uses a three-step process:

  1. Initial translation by a target-language, trained translator who speaks your industry vocabulary;
  2. Second-translator, quality-assurance review to ensure correct nuances, expressions, terminology and dialect; and
  3. Proofreading for spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting.

Professional linguists are trained in technical terminology, can translate your files correctly the first time, and generate revenue for you more quickly. Yes, it’s an upfront investment.

But damage to your reputation or brand and time-to-market delays are even more costly to repair. And always ask your language service for pricing options to meet your budget. Some are more flexible than others.

Localizing Videos & CDs: The Essentials

Many organizations have videos or CDs in English (or their native language) but forget that their audience – whether Latinos, Chinese or other ethnicities in the US or customers overseas – would understand them better in other languages.

As a general rule, people may learn English just as Americans learned other languages in high school or college. But in most countries and especially in Asia, Russia and the Middle East, that learning involves grammar, reading, writing and literature. It does not involve speaking, listening or rapid comprehension, particularly if terminology is technical. Therefore, if your product or training videos remain in English, other speakers will probably have a limited understanding … and your ethnic or overseas impact will suffer.

Localizing (to use the proper term) a CD or video involves various steps:

  1. Transcription. Do you have a written version of the speaker’s narrative? If not, the CD must first be transcribed (writing out the spoken words in a .doc format). Transcriptions are normally priced by the number of audio or video minutes.
  2. Translation. From the transcription, your professional language agency can do the translations into your target languages and dialects (such as Brazilian Portuguese or Taiwan Chinese). Before transcribing, prices can be estimated based on say 135 spoken words per minute x the number of minutes. But calculations can only be confirmed once a transcription and the word count are complete.
  3. Voiceovers or Subtitles?

FYI, technically

  • dubbing is a 100% replacement. This means that the foreign narration totally speaks over the original English, as in movies.
  • voiceovers are a percentage, such as when an English interpreter in a news story talks 95% over a speech by the French president; the film still retains a bit of the French in the background since it is a commonly spoken language.

However, the terms dubbing and voiceovers are often used interchangeably.

Your language agency can provide say two or three sample voices per language for you to choose from. Be sure to specify first the gender, pitch, age range and type of voice you want when this is appropriate.

In general, subtitles are less expensive. Do be mindful, however, of the background color of your film. The words may not show up so easily against a very light or very dark background.

  1. Translation expansion. Whether for voiceovers or subtitles, common languages such as French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and German require 10 to 20% more words than English does to convey the same concept. So if your narrator speaks quickly and if the frames move to the next shot quickly, where are those expanded words to go?

Overly fast voiceovers or subtitles will mean that the target audience cannot absorb your information.

Some possible solutions:

  • Slow down the English original to match the expanded language. This will not work if your CD, for example, must be exactly 4 minutes.
  • Cut the translation so that the same concept is expressed in fewer words. For example, instead of saying “requirement” in English, you can use “need.” Fewer syllables, shorter word. Similarly, instead of saying, “Our newly launched product incorporates the most up-to-date innovative technology,” the translation can say, “Our new product presents the latest innovation.” Fewer words and a shorter sentence that will expand with more translated words when dubbed or subtitled.
  1. Other issues to consider:
  • Voiceover fees. Voiceover talents generally charge a one-hour minimum, even if your video is five minutes. Their rates may triple if your CD is for public broadcast on TV or radio.
  • Union vs. Non-union talent. If you are a prominent brand or public company, your image will probably require you to use more expensive unionized talent.
  • Acculturation. Professional language agencies with target-culture knowledge can guide you about what kind of voice would be appropriate in your context.

In some cultures, a male voice may sound more authoritative even though your English narrator is female. Or your male narrator should be replaced by a female voice that is more common in Japan, for example, for many types of presentations.

  1. Production. Professional language agencies can also blend music and incorporate all the elements as part of the standard production process. Your deliverables will be clones of your original files but in other languages.

Thank you. We look forward to expand your presence to other cultures or countries.

It’s NOT All or Nothing

6 – Website Localization:  Don’t make the “all or nothing” mistake.

Marketing is communication.  If you don’t speak or write in your prospects’ language, that communication cannot occur.  And today, the primary medium of communication is the internet.

If you haven’t localized your website into the languages of your prospective customers so they can understand what you can offer them — and why they should buy it — how much business are you losing right now?

Have any of your competitors localized their websites yet?

In the long run, website localization can yield an outstanding return on investment, including in some cases allowing a company to stay in business.

But for a small or medium-sized company, the upfront cost can be a challenge, especially if your website is large and complex, or if you are doing business or want to do business with speakers of other languages. For this reason, we find that many good companies are missing out on the global profits they could otherwise easily have.

Fortunately, there’s a simple and very cost-effective solution to this problem. It is not necessary to localize your entire website all at once. You can do it one step at a time and let it pay for itself as your profits grow. Just start with something, and add more later.

For example, how about doing just your home page, your contact page and two or three key product pages? If you can’t decide which product pages to do for each country, a fairly quick in-country market study can help determine that.

If an abridged website like this still seems too daunting, you can do something even simpler — a one- or two-page summary of your company in .doc format. This can include your history, your mission, your key products and contact info. Your marketing copywriters should be able to produce that in an hour or so. Or if you need help, we have writers who can do it for you. And you can include a link to your main website for prospects who do understand English and want more detailed information.

Translating this one- or two-page summary into many languages will enable you to reach more foreign markets at a fraction of the cost of localizing your entire site. Then, as you gain experience in each market, you can gradually localize additional product pages, and eventually your entire website.

Just get started.

If you fear that you can’t communicate with foreign prospects if they write or call, we have you covered there too. We can quickly translate their emails and your replies, and you can speak to them 24/7 through our telephonic interpreters.

Also, be sure to have your domain name translated and registered in host countries’ search engines. The cost is negligible and enables your overseas prospects to find you far more easily.

For a free quote for any website option, market study, interpreters or overseas domain registration, please contact us.


When Apple wanted to release its quarterly financial statements in six languages within three hours of its US press conference, they turned to us. We assembled six multilingual teams who spoke IT and Finance, and arranged for them to translate, edit and proofread the final versions within Apple’s short window of opportunity. In that way, the US announcement made the same-day editions of business newspapers and media around the world in each target language… a successful solution to Apple’s critical timing and concerns.

Thank you for helping us to become one of the most enduring and experienced language agencies in the world.

If You Missed Tips #1-5:  See our Newsletter Archives


Website Conversion – Don’ts & Do’s


How much revenue will you gain by preparing your website into the languages of your potential customers?

How much will you lose by not doing it…. or assuming that the whole world speaks English?

[FYI, Only about 27% of world internet users do. Please click for stats.]

Even in fields such as IT or Semiconductors or some aspects of Medicine in which most people worldwide do use English, addressing potential customers in their native languages … written correctly … makes them feel that you want and value their business.


Some firms, even multinationals, think that relying on machine translation (MT, also known as translation software such as Babelfish or Google Translate) will suffice. This is often because they are in a hurry and think that having something is better than nothing. But in most cases, nothing is the revenue that the MT version will produce.

MT has its uses. Advertising / Marketing / Promotion is not one of them; the results are often filled with incorrect grammar, misspellings, wrong word usage, garbled sentence structure and comical mistakes.

Your in-house native speakers should normally not write your website either. How will you know whether their spelling, grammar, technical terminology and sentence structure are correct?

Using MT or unqualified in-house native speakers can make your prospective customer feel like you are showing:

  • Lack of concern (“If you address me in my language so sloppily, will you treat me, your foreign customer, that way too? Why would I think that you really want my business?”);
  • Unprofessionalism (“If XYZ Company can’t even do its website well, how good can they really be?”); and
  • Inattention to detail (“XYZ Company’s product demands precision. If they aren’t precise on their website, how can I trust that their product will work as promised?”).


Professional website localization (to use the proper term) involves:

  1. Internationalizing terminology, numbers, dates, currency, images and more;
  2. Acculturating the words and concepts so they are appropriate for the target country.
  3. Translation by a subject-specialized, professionally trained translator of each target language;
  4. Editing/Revising: Review by a second subject-specialized, professionally trained translator of each target language to ensure accuracy;
  5. Proofreading of the target-language spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting;
  6. Translation and layout of the text in graphics, pictures or images;
  7. Proofing graphics and all other images;
  8. Engineering: Changing the code, if needed, so that it works with non-Latin writing systems (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.) and right-to-left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew;
  9. Testing all the links to make sure they work properly in each language.
  10. Translating your metatags, the key-word identifiers through which searchers can find you.

Three website localization choices

The hardest part of the language localization process is not the implementation. The biggest barrier is clients’ deciding what parts of their site they want done: All those news articles? Five years of press releases or just six months’ worth? All blog posts? All sublinks to other products or sites? Brochure PDF downloads? All product descriptions or just certain ones?.

The other critical issue is to decide which parts of your site to localize:

  1. Full website: Your entire site, whether big or small;
  2. Abridged website: Home page, Contact page, and key product pages;
  3. Summary website: A one-two page description of your company, probably as a .doc file, translated into many languages and uploaded as target-language docs or PDFs.

But once those decisions are made, both the website localization process — and global revenue — can start flowing more quickly.

Registering your site abroad

After website localization, your metatags and your company name can also be translated and written in foreign scripts. This can be done phonetically, or by translating the component words (such as “Solar Power Products Incorporated”), or by creating a new corporate name and identity for the overseas market. This method is often done for China and Taiwan.

And then, a professional language service can register it abroad with the host countries’ major search engines.


Postponing. Inaction. Indecision. Perceived complications. Those are the four most common reasons why companies do not localize their websites, even with the quick Summary option. And the greater the delay, the less global revenue will flow. It is relatively fast and easy for a translation service to implement the process. But if …

  • your budget;
  • your committee’s inability to decide what parts (not) to include; or
  • your lack of time …

… prevent you from localizing your entire site now, it is best to start smaller first and do more later. Attracting some overseas business is better than attracting no overseas business. And using a professional language localization service is usually better than damaging your image by using software or amateurs.

NEW!  View our latest Website Localization Video

Localization…What Do You Really Mean?

Localization…What do You Really Mean?

Q: “Can you localize our manuals for Korea and our website for Brazil?”

A. “Yes, definitely. Now what do you mean?”

“Localization” is the most misused, confused and abused word in the language business, a profession that is supposed to be about rendering clear communication across languages. The reason for this confusion is that “localization” has different definitions for different people. And if your meaning differs from the listener’s understanding, what you have is a failure to communicate.

1.  Localization = Translation

To some people, localization is another word for translation, as in the request, “Can you localize my manuals for Germany?” Generally, the inquirer means, “Can you translate my manuals into German?”

2.  Localization = Acculturation

This meaning is the most implied but not stated outright, as in “Can you localize our brochures for Mexico?” In the case, the requester is asking whether we can translate her brochures into Spanish and make sure they are culturally appropriate for Mexico.

In the language business, some agencies have invented the term “transcreation”. Personally, that term seems ridiculous because it defines nothing and requires a translation itself. Instead, our agency uses a term from sociology called “acculturation”.

In essence, all these terms mean the same concept:  culturally adapting a home-country piece to host-country norms. Both “transcreation” and “acculturation” are used mostly in the context of marketing or promotion. (By contrast, technical manuals usually translate quite easily into other languages because technical professions use industry-specific terminology that all members understand).

To some extent this can involve internationalizing, which is explained below. But in most cases, proper acculturation means a thorough review and rewrite, if needed, to ensure that your stated benefits and features are appropriate. For example, a US marketing promotion often emphasizes value for money or cost savings. But when selling to Japan, the theme should be how your product or service is very reliable, of the highest quality, and has excellent back-up support.

A professional language agency can translate the concepts of an American marketing piece into Japanese. But the promotion itself — and all your investment — is likely to fail. No matter how wonderful your product or service may be, the English original often needs to be rewritten first to demonstrate benefits that appeal to the target culture. Only then should it be translated.

3.  Localization = Internationalization

Clients sometimes ask, “Can you localize our catalogue for Taiwan?” In this case, full internationalization may be required. This involves:

  • Graphics, images and colors: Do yours have any negative connotations in the target country? Are you advertising shampoo in Thailand with a blonde woman on the label?
  • Numbers: Are these written for the target country? Example: Should they be 5,234 or 5.234 or 5 234?
  • Currency: How does the target culture write this? Example: Quebec writes 12 592.74 $ (with a space instead of a comma and a space before the $) vs. $12,592.74 in the US.
  • Payment methods: Are you asking for payment by credit card when your target country uses cash or mobile-phone transfers instead? Does your target country use other credit cards not used at home?
  • Currency conversion: Are you asking for payment in dollars when overseas customers prefer to pay in their own currency? (A full-service global outreach firm can recommend solutions to this).
  • Does your text contain slang or references that simply don’t work in other countries?
    • Is a man “on the job?” If so, in Britain it means he’s having sex with his secretary.
    • Are you promoting pink products where pink can have a negative connotation?
    • Are you speaking about “creating your own destiny” to Arab countries, where for orthodox Muslims, only God, not people, can create?
    • Are you promoting price reductions where national laws restrict these only to one week in the summer or just after Christmas?
  • Concept disconnect:
    • Is your manual or website teaching cold calling to cultures where sales are mainly done through personal relationships and referrals?
    • Does your survey give rewards to participants in a country where professionals by law may not accept gifts?

For added confusion, some people consider internationalization to be part of acculturation. And vice versa.

4.  Localization = Website conversion

In the language business, this is actually the correct and traditional meaning of the word (in a tradition that extends about 15 years). Many people ask about “translating” their websites. Any professional language agency should be able to translate a website. But translation (converting the words and concepts) is only one part of rendering a website into another language. Other phases can involve:

  • acculturating your message (no. 2 above);
  • rewriting unclear or home-country references;
  • internationalizing your order page, concepts, images, etc. (no. 3 above);
  • laying out the graphics within the source files;
  • engineering the code to accommodate Asian or non-Latin scripts;
  • subtitling or dubbing any videos or spoken Flash automations;
  • testing all the links;
  • and more.

Website localization considers all of these steps to the exclusion of none. And only the highest-level, full-service, professional language agencies have the skills, expertise, staff and knowledge to localize a website properly.


When you ask whether your language service can “localize”, it is best to explain what you mean or use an alternative word. And if your language agency does not ask what you mean (assuming it’s not clear from the context), you should seek another that does.

Very few full-service language agencies understand international marketing concepts. And since your success in overseas or ethnic markets can hinge on that knowledge, it is best to rely solely on language agencies that combine global marketing expertise as well.