Two decades ago, when social media began taking off, even when seeing how quickly the growth spurred, I don’t think anyone ever predicted how important it would become. Political figures have used it to grow their campaigns and spread opinions. Social movements such as #MeToo created huge shifts in our lifestyle and culture. Social media really has become one of modern society’s greatest tools. It can make or break careers, be used to sell anything, and has made us all more connected than ever.
Throughout its growth though, an interesting problem has evolved proving there are some limitations to social media. With #Hashtags, jargon, text length restrictions, and slang taken into consideration, translations have become difficult, sometimes impossible. This article explores the top three difficulties when translating social media posts.
Who would have guessed that adding a pound or number symbol in front of a word or phrase would become one of the best ways to market your business? But hashtags don’t always translate well, a great example of this is the #MeToo campaign mentioned above. The hashtag trended in almost 100 countries including Arabic speakers in the Middle East and Africa, Spanish speakers in South America and Europe who used #YoTambien. French speakers in Canada and Europeusing #BalanceTonPorc. Interestingly enough, Mandarin speakers in China not only saw social networks using #MeToo, but its direct translation #WoYeShi was also popular, and “Mi tu” (pronounced “me too”) means “rice bunny” in Mandarin, which spawned #RiceBunny to become popular for activism as well in the region.
With Twitter restricting characters to 280, translations have become much more difficult. Creativity with a limited word count is difficult enough, translating that creativity within limitations is near impossible. English to Spanish, for example, is a common translation here at Fox Translations, but these translations increase sentence length by about 20%-30%.
It takes a language expert to be able to properly translate a social media post, keeping its creativity and sentiment intact. People are, after all, more likely to read a shorter post when scrolling their news feed. Consistency is just as important as accuracy.
JARGON AND SLANG
Once upon a time, it was so “on fleek” to be “trolling” the internet and “stalking profiles”. Many of these terms and phrases are only relevant for a couple of months before fading away, others slip into our regular vocabulary. Knowing which terms are relevant to your audience is important for a translator, to help stay on brand.
HOW TO EXPAND GLOBALLY
While it can be difficult to translate social media pages and posts, that doesn’t mean your organization should stay away from it. Having your social media presence translated to reach your target audience in other markets, countries, and cultures will help your team reach your globalization goals and improve your strategy for launching in other markets. Hiring translation experts who specialize in social media is worth the expense, to ensure you’re building a solid platform that locals will grow to trust and follow. Your translation experts will help overcome obstacles such as post length, jargon, and hashtags while maintaining your creativity and staying on brand.