What Content Marketing Can Learn From Translation Theory

translationThe practice of translation is multifaceted, and many translators – especially literary translators – consider it an art. But what does this have to do with content marketing? This may surprise you, but content marketing actually has a lot do with translation.

Translation Defined: It’s Not Quite So Simple

Most people know what translation means in the literal sense: to convert text or speech from one language into another. What this simple definition fails to define is the literary implication of translation. Translation is about nuance: the creation of a text that not only communicates the meaning of the original version in a way that can be understood by the reader, but also reads naturally in the receptor language, as though it were written originally in that language.

So What Does This Mean For Content Marketing?

Now we know that translation is a process of change from one language into another. Believe it or not, content marketing can be similar: in essence, content writing involves a literal carrying over of day-to-day language into internet-friendly language. This refers not only to euphemisms, as outlined in this blog post by Deon Binneman, but also to tone and attitude.

Consider this example. Your company specializes in trainings and workshops that are designed to improve the overall functioning of a workplace by targeting its team of employees. If your web content advertises that your service will target “problems” in the workplace, you are probably going to end up putting off and alienating potential clients.

What if, however, you say that your company works with a workplace’s development needs rather than its “problems” or “issues”? In this case, rather than saying that your workplace has problems – or even that some of the team members are problems (yikes!) – you’re helping them to understand their needs as a company. As a result, your service will be viewed as a tool for helping this company address its needs, rather than its issues.

Translating From English to English

In this way, we’re translating from the language of English into the language of content marketing – still English, but now a different version of the language. Consider, also, the literary aspects of content marketing. This CEM blog post by Beans Velocci outlines the importance of remembering that we’re working with a language that requires nuance, creativity, and flow. A key piece of the translation process is that you want your language to be easy to read. If your audience is tripping over the word order or bothered by your phrasing, you may lose them.

Don’t Lose Your Audience With Euphemisms

If you go overboard with your “translation” from English into the language of content, you may have your audience rolling their eyes. The key is balance: be cordial and informative, but avoid superlatives. You want to be clear and straightforward with your written language. Don’t use “differently abled” if you mean “left handed.”

Targeted Translations

When it comes to content marketing, we have to consider the importance translating from English into another world language too. This is especially important if you’re planning on targeting your marketing to another country or regional demographic, or even to a community in the United States that speaks a different language.

Targeting content for this kind of marketing takes a little leveraging, and usually the help of someone who speaks both languages. A machine translation is simply not going to be good enough. Just as in the idea of translation from “English to content marketing,” you’re creating content that’s intended to make your audience not only familiar with your service, but also comfortable. This more conventional use of translation is just as important. When you have good content, you show your audience that you care about them by providing them with useful information, and that’s the same across every language.

What lessons can your business takeaway from translation theory?

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Tree is a somewhat nomadic graduate student pursuing an MFA in Poetry and Literary Translation from Drew University. A self-identified “diplobrat,” she spent over 16 years living as an expat in countries like Guatemala, Bolivia, and Tanzania. Tree graduated from Smith College in 2012 with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature, a minor in Studio Art, and a concentration in Landscape Studies. In between writing poetry for school and content for CEM, she dabbles in goat herding and freelancing. Other interests include reading, watercolor painting, gardening, and traveling.

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