Translation and localization services are necessary functions for international trade and globalization. They become even more important in terms of third-world and developing nations seeking to strengthen their economic and financial systems by establishing a more global presence. If localization and translation services are challenging for national languages, these language services are made all the more difficult in some places like Africa where there are so many different languages with many more localized dialects.
Africa is a continent with a very high linguistic diversity. There are an estimated 2000 African languages in Africa according to the World Atlas. Among the most common languages of Africa are Amharic, Arabic, French, Hausa, Igbo, Oromo, Portuguese, Shono, Swahili and Zulu, with isolated pockets where English may be relatively common for international business.
Unfortunately, many of the African languages are also dying at the same time. Many of these languages have evolved due to natural linguistic localization, often with people being largely isolated from other speakers of the same language, resulting in the evolution of new and unique dialects.
While the final impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic on the African continent cannot truly be determined until testing becomes more readily available, it has forced much of the rest of the world to seriously consider the need to move business operations online. This may in fact serve to great benefit for the many different people of Africa, as they seek independently or in a united front to improve the domestic economic performance.
If there is anything that is truly notable, it is that only about 40% of the people living on the African Continent have internet access according to the Council on Foreign Relations. There can be little doubt that internet infrastructure throughout the continent is in need of improvement. Still, this also shows that more than half a million people do have regular internet connections or at least internet access.
This, in turn, paints a very promising picture for the ability of Africans to develop a more global, digital presence through translation and localization strategies online, at least if they can get online. As the rest of the world begins moving online, there is a vast opportunity for remote service providers working online to greatly increase their income and their global presence. The key to a successful entry into the digital world is through the selective and strategic use of translation services and localization strategies.
The Localization of Education Online Translates to Success for Africa
The current Covid-19 global pandemic has seen many more traditional educational institutions increase their online presence, offering many opportunities to get an education online. With more and more people staying at home due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, there are also a great many more freelance oriented educational opportunities online. These can be used to ensure that Africans have all of the necessary and relevant skills to establish a more global presence in the digital age without reverting to the more colonial-based educational institutions.
An enterprising person with a keen awareness of the potential for growth and expansion, could use document translation services to translate any relevant courses into their native language. With a sufficient amount of computers, a school could be established to teach the local people any number of relevant skills from website development to graphic arts to online marketing or even freelance work online.
Using the same computers, these services may then be offered online with the entrepreneur offering remote service providers to help new businesses online establish their digital presence. Translation and interpretation skills may be needed for the purposes of marketing, but most of the in-house work should be readily accomplished no matter what the native language maybe, or the heritage of the people doing the work online. This, however, will require a better understanding of the principles of localization.
Understanding Digitization, Translation, and Localization
Digitization in a strictly literal sense is the conversion of anything into a digital format that can be processed by a computer. The digital age is seeing an ever-increasing number of business interests moving online and establishing a more digital presence. As each new business moves online it should be viewed as a job opportunity for any number of remote service providers working from home or from internet cafes. The end result must be focused on a positive influx of foreign currency into African markets, while at the same time reducing (if not eliminating) the exportation of the African natural resources.
Translation services are sometimes seen as being little more than the replacement of one word with its counterpart in a different language, but in reality, it is much more complicated and nuanced. There are times and occasions when there is no literal translation, and many times when an expression is used that would make absolutely no sense with a literal translation. Translation and interpretation both have to be about translating not only what was said, but also the intent, context, and content of the conversation at the same time.
Again, this may only be relevant in terms of those who elect to work online as professional translators or as remote audio or video interpreters, but it will still be relevant, especially when working in a foreign language becomes more commonplace for the remote service providers. It will also be important when translating all of the informational materials and other concepts and ideas necessary for working in a more global, digital marketplace.
Localization is perhaps the most difficult of these concepts to fully understand, not because it is exceptionally challenging, but because the areas it covers are very broad and general in nature. Localization is effectively little more than being able to speak to people in their own language, on a very personal, even empathetic level. Where interpretation services require only an intimate familiarity with the languages involved in the translation, localization requires an intimate cultural understanding.
Localization should focus on local preferences, local vernacular and expressions, local sources of cultural pride, and remember to respect local cultural taboos. This requires an in-depth level of research and understanding of the target demographic or audience. The reasons for this will become more readily apparent as some of the finer aspects of digital marketing are explored.
Translation, Localization and Digital Marketing
It does not matter what online career choices are being pursued, digital marketing will play an active role in the success of that online business. Even freelance entrepreneurs will be forced to reach out to the digital world and to market their services in order to find work online and get paid.
The primary aspects of digital marketing that will be introduced here will be a website (or content) marketing, social media marketing, audio and video marketing, email marketing, and affiliate marketing, all of which may be interrelated and connected in some ways. The correlation may be in the form of multi-purposing the digital content or through any combination of digital marketing efforts.
A website is always going to be important when establishing a presence online, especially in terms of marketing oneself or any products or services. Website translation services will be important for allowing the website to be built in the original language, and additionally for the proposed markets overseas or even globally.
Determining which of the global markets is most viable for providing a positive return on investment will require some research. One means to determine viable markets is by looking at the number of internet users based on countries. This, however, should not be the only consideration when determining the potential of foreign markets to provide a positive return. It is always a good idea to conduct a sufficient amount of research to determine whether or not there is a viable market for the products or services being sold online.
This initial research should also help to focus on localization strategies, as they will also play an important role in deciding which foreign lands are more prevalent in terms of the goods or services being offered. An African digital marketing agency that builds websites but who has not done their homework, may look at those numbers and decide that both China and India are great target markets, but the reality would prove quite the opposite.
Even with all of the necessary licenses in place, websites not built or hosted in China may be extremely difficult for the Chinese to access and India is famous for exporting IT professionals around the world, not to mention their internal focus on IT within India. Thus, while both nations have large numbers of internet users, they would not be an ideal market for an African firm selling website design, graphic arts, or other similar services.
Along these same lines, for the purpose of those seeking to expand their digital marketing to include video marketing, there are rules to remember as well. Translating in traditional Mandarin Chinese or Putonghua may not be viable for YouTube. Such a translation would still work on the TenCent Video platform, the Chinese version of YouTube. Their localization research would show that YouTube is actually banned in Mainland China but TenCent Video is incredibly popular there.
It should also be noted that video translations are an excellent way to begin increasing the global presence and organic traffic to the website. YouTube allows srt or closed captioning files to be uploaded for any number of languages on posted videos. All of these files are indexed by the search engines, resulting in an increase in viewership and even audience participation for the videos.
However, the website translation should be completed before commencing this phase of the digital marketing campaign, in order to have something relevant to the foreign, organic traffic now visiting the website. There are of course additional benefits to be found once all of the content is properly translated into the relevant languages as well, and this comes in the form of multi-purposing the content.
Multi-purposing the marketing content includes using the same content to create different digital media formats. Audio transcriptions of a podcast may be used to create web pages, with document translation services being used to make these same podcasts available to entirely different audiences. The translations may either be used in an article format or a voice-over artist may be used to create a new podcast from the document translation. Similarly, articles can be turned into slideshows or even videos. Virtually all of the content and marketing materials can be repurposed in one form or another.
All of these efforts do require a great deal of devotion and some additional learning in the meantime. However, a comprehensive understanding of digital marketing, translation, and localization strategies may also be exactly what is needed to provide a common goal for our youth.
Never before have the opportunities to learn online been easier to access. From learning languages online to learning how to code, and even other skills such as digital marketing and web design are being offered for free during the global Covid-19 pandemic. What is needed are a few kindred entrepreneurial individuals who can and will put together the institutions necessary to train the African people. The biggest challenge now seems to be approaching the global market from a unified African front.
Localization and Globalization From a Pan-African Front
On the 25th of May, people and nations throughout Africa will stand firmly together to celebrate Africa Day 2020. Perhaps the digital world is best left for the children of the Pan-African movement, but is such a movement possible without someone there to lead the charge? The current Covid-19 pandemic has created challenges for Africans in China, and this is to be contested at every level.
At the same time, the current coronavirus outbreak has also presented an opportunity for Africans who are ready and willing to move into more global markets. Digital marketing, translation, globalization, taking a place on the global markets, none of this should be overly difficult to learn. What is needed are a few entrepreneurs who can look beyond our interpersonal struggles and bring the youth together for a better and brighter future for a more united Africa.