Translation and Localization: Why Empathy Matters During Difficult Times

by | Jul 2, 2021

COVID-19 is still ravaging the world and many countries have almost gone bankrupt trying to stem its spread. Companies around the world have been forced to either fire employees or discontinue operations because of financial issues. In times as difficult as these, companies need to be especially empathetic in their translation and localization efforts.

translation and localization

For instance, announcements regarding a company closure or the reduction of employees need to be delivered with gentleness and care. Even if your company isn’t doing either of these things, it’s important to still come across as empathetic in your communications.

When it comes to translation and localization, it’s very easy for translators to make mistakes. Certain words, phrases, and tones that sound empathetic in English might come across as harsh and rude in a different language. This is why companies must understand how to translate with empathy.

5 Tips to Translate With Empathy

1. Identify the End Reader and Their Conversational Style

Communication styles vary within different cultures. Not only that, but within each culture there may be different groups with conversation styles of their own. When translating and localizing your content, it’s essential to identify who the end readers of your message will be. For instance:

  • Are they young people between the ages of 18 and 35?
  • Are they individuals in their golden years?
  • Are they minors?

Once you have defined your target audience, you can fine-tune your research to understand which words they normally use and what tone they adopt when they are experiencing challenges. This way, your communications can be tailored to their unique needs.

2. Understand What Questions or Concerns Your Target Audience May Have

During the coronavirus pandemic, each culture may have had different concerns. For some, it was about how long their freedom would be curtailed by face masks and home quarantines. For others, would they get beds in hospitals and make it through the day.

Understanding the particular concerns, worries, and fears that each country/culture has can help you be mindful about how you craft your message. Your empathetic message should acknowledge your readers’ unique challenges and concerns and offer valuable information to meet their needs.

3. Use the Right Vocabulary

Many languages around the world have very rich vocabularies. This richness can be confusing for translators. However, it’s crucial to use the right word so that your message doesn’t inadvertently misrepresent your audience’s troubles.

  • Example: The word triste means sad in Spanish, but this is a different degree of emotion than infeliz (unhappy) or deprimido (depressed).

Coming across as callous because of the word you chose can be extremely damaging to the psyche and sensibilities of the reader, especially during such challenging times.

4. Be Non-Judgmental

It might seem that people should automatically know to translate with empathy, but this is not the case. Translators can unconsciously pass their biases and judgments on to the content they are translating.

Genuine empathy in translation and localization stems from adopting your readers’ problems as your own. Using foreign language words or phrases that are disrespectful and incorrect for the context is a huge mistake and could damage your business.

One way to be non-judgmental when localizing your brand content is just to translate and not be tempted to sneak in advice. Your translation should be just that – a translation and localization of an empathetic copy you’ve written in your primary language.

5. Be Human

Translations are far more likely to be empathetic when they sound genuine. So, it’s best to avoid tools like Google Translate, which employ a robotic translation methodology. Readers will immediately recognize that it wasn’t a person who translated the content and will disengage from your brand.

Translation and Localization: Why Use Localize?

At Localize, we understand the importance of empathy and kindness when it comes to translation and localization. Our tools will help you ensure that your translated content is empathetic, gentle, and positive. Contact us today to learn more.