Author: Matt Sampalean

Translate Image

‘Translation’ vs. Marketing Localization

Fine-tuning your approach to creating content for a foreign market is a significant task and will likely entail a considerable outlay of time and money. Regardless of the rationale and justification for operating in multiple locales, most of the time the end goal is to grow the customer base, and ultimately profits. In order to achieve this though, it is imperative to know how to adapt messaging and content for different cultures. You need to be “culturally relevant”.

Ignorance of cultural differences within your content can result in poor uptake, even reputation damage. There are also occasions you could end up in hot water legally. Ultimately, not considering the cultural differences within your content, on your websites and even on support and technical documentation can lead to outright failure and lack of customer retention.

History is littered with examples of companies of all sizes making cultural blunders when launching in new markets.

The first example is one showing how language needs to be localized, not just translated. The story was originally told to me when I moved into the language industry as a prime example of when translation is done badly. A certain large drinks brand had decided to grow into China, they launched with a great slogan (or so they thought!) “brings you back to life.” However when this was translated, it became “brings your ancestors back from the grave.” For the brand in question, this was a huge mistake, especially as they were trying to develop the brand on a global level.

A second example of how some content / campaigns just do not work for certain international markets. A very large, global consumer goods brand made a blunder which caused great offense in Japan. It was decided they would re-use a television advert in Japan that was popular in Europe. The advert in question showed a woman bathing, her husband entering the bathroom and touching her. No biggie right? Wrong. The Japanese market that the advert was aired to considered this an invasion of privacy, inappropriate behavior and ultimately in very poor taste.

The last is possibly my favorite example of how a great product/idea can ultimately fail just because local culture is not considered. Let me set the scene: it’s the 90’s, home computers are becoming increasingly popular. A certain large Japanese electronics company are way ahead of the times and is about to launch a touch screen, home computer. It was decided that the Japanese company wanted to push the new product in the US, using a famous American woodpecker, called Woody (he was a big deal Japan at the time apparently). The company did a minuscule amount of research, and proudly christened their latest device, “The Woody”. So what? Well, as I’m sure some of you will already be aware, “wood” is American slang for something a little inappropriate… oh well? Well it gets better! To distinguish their product from the competition, it was decided to name the touch-screen feature on the computer “Touch Woody “… Oh and then just to cap it off, the launch campaign slogan was to be “Touch Woody – the internet Pecker” … The long and short of it? It was not until the day before the ads were set to launch, that a member of their American team informed them of the sexual slang connotations. The lack of cultural awareness meant the innovative product was a failure. The campaign is now infamous, and it is actually studied by marketers.

With the growing pressure for companies to “go global”, it’s easy to see why local culture is still incredibly important and has to be considered when creating content for international markets. As highlighted above, many international companies have had glitches with expanding their brands worldwide because they haven’t put in the necessary research and effort when launching in a new market. It is absolutely imperative companies are aware of the potential implications that could come from using a translation of a certain piece of copy, or what a certain visual, image or slogan, could mean within a new market or culture.

Want to know more about the SDL approach to marketing localization? Check out SDL Managed Translation


Location of the Week: Malta

Malta’s Language and History – “Merħba, ħabib!” Hello, friend!

It may sound like it but Malta is not located in the Middle East. Although it’s not far from the Arabic-speaking Maghreb, this small island archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea has a rich cultural history dating back to the Stone Age. It’s no wonder then that it has the highest concentration of UNESCO world heritage sites in the world. Aside from the great weather and beaches, tourists flock to Malta for the prehistorical temples – including the only known prehistoric underground temple in the world – and the medieval city of Valletta, Malta’s capital and the first planned city in Europe.

Balconies in Valletta
Balconies in Valletta, Malta’s Capital








The Maltese language (Malti) and the island’s culture, is closely tied to the Arabic conquests of southern Europe in the 800s. But the island’s history also owes a lot to its proximity to the Italian island of Sicily, where the ancestors of Malta’s modern inhabitants originate. As a result, the language is mostly influenced by Arabic, Sicilian, a bit of French, and, due to more recent history, English. It is, however, the only official Semitic language in the EU as well as the only one written in the Latin alphabet.

Food in Malta – “Ghandi l-guh!” I’m hungry!

Thanks to the island’s multi-ethnic cultural background, there’s something for every taste. But the national dish is quite special, and deceptively simple. Fenkata, a rich rabbit stew, uses every part of the rabbit except for the hop.  It is served in two courses, starting with a spaghetti ragout, followed by the hearty stew with potatoes. The Maltese like to make big and loud social gathering out of it – not unlike Valencians and paella – which is why it’s special and maybe not all that simple.

Fenkata rabbit stew from Malta - Image by Bellyfirst
Maltese Fenkata rabbit stew – Image by Bellyfirst

There are other popular local dishes,  of course: bigilla, a savoury bean spread, zalzett, the small, coriander flavoured sausages, minestra, which, you may have guessed, is the Maltese version of Italy’s minestrone soup, and the omnipresent pastizzi pastries

Pastizzi from Malta
Pastizzi from Malta – Image by

With all this fine Mediterranean food, the important words to know are, “L-Ikla it-tajba” (‘Bon Apetit’) and “Grazzi!” (‘Thank you’).

Now that we’ve added Maltese on, you can start translating between English and Maltese text and documents right away. If you want to learn more about Malta, or the Maltese language, the internet is a great place to start, but if you really want to get to know Malta, book a trip to this stunning place and meet its people.

Share translations online

Share translations across the web with

We all want to understand and to be understood without the boundaries of language, which is why so many people are using every day. To make it even easier to communicate in other languages, we’ve introduced two new features this month to enable you to share your translations wherever and whenever.

1. Quick and Easy Copy/Paste

We’ve received many messages about this feature on our user forums (we do listen, so make sure to write!) to : “Make Copy/Paste easy”. So we did.

Here’s how it works:

Copy and paste translations on

Don’t forget, you can also paste the text by pressing the Ctrl+V keys on your keyboard after clicking on the “Copy to clipboard” icon.

2. Social Sharing

Many translations end up somewhere else, so we wanted to make it easier for visitors to share translations, wherever that may be. You can seamlessly share translations on Twitter or Email, but it’s best to use the quick copy feature for Facebook and Google+ shares where your translation will not carry over automatically.

Here are a couple of examples.


Share your translation via email from



Share your translation on Twitter via


Finally, the ‘Tools’ page also got a makeover to make it easier for anyone to download our mobile apps or use our Microsoft Add-In. Check it out here: FreeTranslation Tools.

Don’t forget to tell us what you think, get in touch via our UserVoice portal here: Ideas and Feedback Forum.



Why The New SDL Translate is The Best Translation App Around

With several web releases in 2014, we wanted to do something special for our iPhone/iPad iOS app. So we built a chat service from scratch. Of course, there are a few more tidbits to that, so read on to find out exactly what’s new in SDL Translate 2.0 and how you can use the app to translate just about anything (anywhere).

Of all the changes to SDL Translate, the new Conversations feature stands out. You can now talk to your family and friends in their own language. Once you’ve created a free account, you can send invites to any email address. When your friend accepts the invite you’ll be able to chat in two different languages in real-time. Imagine that instead of chatting on What’s App or Facebook only to copy/paste messages into SDL Translate and back, all you need to do is type your message in your language and your friend will receive it in their language. While this feature is already available on, we’re sure the mobile experience adds a whole new level of convenience to multilingual communication. It does everything you expect from a chat service – you can even turn off translations and try speaking the same language.

SDL Translate - Conversations


The Menu

The updated menu is almost entirely new as part of the effort to simplify the user experience and to make navigation more straightforward. You can quickly access any app section through here.

SDL Translate - Menu


My Account

You’ll notice the addition of the ‘My Account’ menu item. This is where you can sign to create an SDL Language Cloud account. It’s free, it gives you access to some of the app’s key features (including the much-demanded speech tempo control), and you can also track your chat usage here.

SDL Translate - My Account



The ‘Translations’ area is where you’ll likely spend most of your time when using the app. You can translate simple text, sentences, or speak and listen to translations. Just like before. So what’s new here? Let’s start with the addition of the ‘Favourites’ feature. You can now store any translation simply by tapping the translation and then tapping on ‘Save to Favorites’.

SDL Translate - Individual Translations

The new translations screen action menu (represented by three dots ‘…’ at bottom-left ) is also the place where you can access your favourites (highlighted by a gold star). When you  open the menu you’ll also notice that you can now translate your Dropbox documents directly from this screen. In order to use this feature you will have to sign up for an SDL Account and you will also need a valid Dropbox account.

SDL Translate - Dropbox

SDL Translate - Translation Screen Menu



Another name-change here. You’ll remember the Language Guides in the previous versions included three basic introductory guides in French, Spanish, and German. We’ve now expanded this sections with a bonus pack for Idioms. Idioms are figures of speech (though figures of speech are not always idioms) that are commonly used in every language on earth. Machine Translation doesn’t always do a good job translating phrases like, “back to the drawing board” so we added a pack of 65 common idioms professionally translated from English to Spanish, French, and German. Each idiom contains the equivalent version of the expression in the selected language, the literal translation, and the ability to hear it spoken out loud. At $0.99 per pack, it’s a great solution if you’re traveling, learning a new language, or just curious. Of course, the basic introductory phrases have remained free to use and to listen to.

SDL Translate - Idioms



As before, you can access this section to read all about what’s new, check out the ideas and comments forums, or to write us a note. We’re always listening.

With the launch of SDL Translate version 2, we’re looking forward to improving these features to make sure that anytime you need something translated, your SDL Translate app delivers an unparalleled experience. If you didn’t already click the link up top, what are you waiting for, get SDL Translate via the App Store.

Chat in any language, wherever you are in the world with SDL Translate

Chat in any Language with SDL Translate Chat

In a previous post we looked at the reasons people use translation apps. The need to communicate with friends and loved ones is at the top of that list. Human connection runs much deeper than what technology is able to offer, but smartphones and the internet have enabled us to bridge the gap by keeping us connected anytime, anywhere. But, there is one thing we can’t take for granted just yet; real-time multilingual communication. Until now.

We’ve just released a new feature on It’s located at the bottom-right of the page, and all you need to do is sign up, invite a friend, and get chatting. Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to using the real-time chat translation widget.

1. Create an SDL Account – With an SDL Account you’ll join a growing community of people who use SDL’s machine translation technology to communicate, learn languages, or grow their business (via API integration). Only SDL Account holders can take advantage of chat, email translations, and the upcoming members-only features in the iOS and Android apps.

SDL Account


2.  Complete Sign Up form –  Enter a valid email address and your new password twice for confirmation. Use a secure password, at least 8 characters in length. Make sure to check the Terms and Conditions box.

Sign Up


3. Log in to chat using your new account credentials – This is just like any other web service you use. Your email address will be automatically entered after signing up the first time, all you need to do is add your password and you’re in!

Log in the SDL Account
4. Add a friend – You probably know somebody who speaks another language. Just click “Add Friend” and type in their email address.

Add a friend to SDL Translate

Their email address will now show up as a pending contact. Once your friend is online, you’ll see them in your contact list, with a green chat bubble next to their email address.

Contact Online


5. Choose a language  – The language is set to English by default. If you select another language, you will receive all chat messages in the respective language as long as your friend has selected a supported language. For example, if your friend has selected English, you can use any language on the list to receive messages in that language.  You will also have to type your messages in your selected language in order for your friend to get your message translated into English.

Choose a language in SDL Translate


6. Chat – Select your friend from the contact list to bring up the chat window. If your friend has selected Spanish and writes to you in Spanish, you will receive the message in English. That’s it, have fun!

Chat using SDL Translate


One last note. This app is in beta mode – that means it’s not a finished product. We will be making changes over the next few weeks in order to improve usability. We’d love to hear your feedback in the meantime, just leave a comment here or send a message via our support portal.


We added a couple of little tweaks that will improve your experience on the chat translation widget. Details below the image.

Changes to SDL Translate Chat


1. Hover over messages to view original translation – Any time you receive a message, just move your mouse over that message to see what it looks like in its original language.

2. Your friend’s selected language is permanently displayed in the header of your conversation window, just under your friend’s email address.