Knowing When NOT to Translate – Voice Messages & Customer-facing Telecommunications

voice messages and customer communications man in white shirt holding black phoneWith today’s global customer base, it is important to cover a wide range of languages for your voice messages and customer communications systems. In the USA alone, you can reasonably expect callers to have as their primary language English, Latin American Spanish, or Canadian French. This range only expands when you take into consideration Europe and Asia, not to mention the regional-specific variations on common languages that abound depending on where you are located and what customer base you are trying to serve.

In the past, we have discussed the importance of having a consistent, credible voice translation done by reliable professionals. But an equally important element of the translation conversation is knowing what not to translate within a message, whether you are discussing lengthy on hold messages or shorter IVR prompts.

What Script Elements Should Not Be Translated?

As a general rule of thumb, customers doing global projects tend to insist that if nothing else, the company name should remain in English no matter what other languages are involved in a project. This consistency is important for a company trying to maintain a single global brand.

It is important to note that letters and numbers, even if they are displayed the same across multiple countries and look the same when reviewing a script, are often pronounced wildly differently from one language to the next. Before submitting a script, ask yourself if your audience will be best-served by abbreviations and technical terms (things along the lines of “W-2s”) or numbers (like a phone number, for instance) or website information (such as “w w w” or the “dot” in dot co) being performed in the native tongue of the voice artist, or remaining in English no matter what language the rest of the message requires.

When developing IVR prompts for navigation through your phone system, this distinction applies to the titles of departments and the categories that a customer will maneuver through. And we have seen different approaches taken by different companies. Some clients will ask that every single letter, number, symbol, and abbreviation be translated. Others will cherry pick individual items and pieces of a sentence to remain in English, believing that this will assist not only with a customer’s navigations but with their own internal assembling of the IVR prompts.

Consistency in Multi-language Translation

What approach you take is ultimately entirely in your hands, depending on what you think will best service your system and customer base. But once that decision is made, it is vital to keep that same approach across the board. Do not have a Spanish voice talent read “w w w” using the Spanish pronunciation of those letters, while asking the French voice talent to read the same letters but using the English pronunciation. This sort of inconsistency will lead to confusion not only on your part as you try to sort out and assemble your recordings, but on the part of the vendors who are trying to juggle all your needs to deliver the finished product on schedule while meeting professional standards.

In all matters concerning on hold messages, IVR prompts, and other voiceover recordings and translating projects, it is always best to make confident, informed choices at the very beginning of the project, and to then communicate those choices to your vendors so they will know how to proceed without having to do extra diligence. That way, the process of creating and implementing your voice messages & customer communications systems can be as smooth and painless as possible.