How to write a case study for translation

So you have a great case study, it’s been well-received in your region and it makes sense to have it translated for use around the world. How do you know that it will have the same impact in Lisbon as in London?

A great story can be made average, or worse, if not properly tailored to the local market. Readers will perceive that you are remote, out of touch or simply not interested—and business could suffer as a result.

By following some simple steps, you can craft case studies—in fact any customer-facing content—with global appeal.

1. Write with your foreign readership in mind

Don’t avoid local flavour, but do ensure that you write with your foreign readership in mind. For example, ‘the recent floods in Fleet’ implies prior knowledge both of the location and recent news events. Provide context for non-locals by writing ‘recent floods in the UK village of Fleet’ instead.

If you have reason to believe that this approach will jar with local readers, leave out the context for the local audience and provide your translator with an alternative as a separate note, for example: ’the recent floods in Fleet’ should be translated as ‘recent floods in the UK village of Fleet’.

2. Unleash your creativity

When you know that a case study will be translated it can be tempting to write in a very measured way, avoiding complicated words and colloquialisms. But the result can often be bland and uninspiring.

  • Use complex or non-literal language if it enhances your writing, but provide a brief explanation for the translator of what it means so they can use an equivalent local-language phrase or a more generic translation that captures the meaning. Ask them for a back-translation—this way you can make sure the phrase hasn’t been translated verbatim and that your message hasn’t been lost or diluted.
    For example:

    English phraselike chalk and cheese
    Spanish translationcomo el día y la noche
    Back-translationlike the day and the night

  • As with any kind of writing, avoid jargon that hasn’t become part of common parlance or isn’t universally understood by the audience you’re writing for.

3. Choose a good translator

Choosing a good translator is as important as choosing a good writer because, unless you’re fluent in the target language, you must be able to trust them to tell the story on your behalf. Questions you need to ask are:

  • Does this person understand my business?
  • Does this person have local knowledge of the region they will be translating for?
  • Do I need to bring in somebody with localisation skills to deal with subtle differences between, for example, Spanish as it is spoken in Madrid and Spanish as it is spoken in Mexico City?

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