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5 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Multilingual Content Creation

Martin Kura
5 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Multilingual Content Creation

International markets are generating higher and higher revenue to international businesses, yet ways those companies delegate the creation of multilingual content have improved very little over the past years.

Learn the most frequent mistakes in delegating content creation in different languages, and how to avoid them.

Five Common Mistakes When Creating Multilingual Content

 #1 Software Translation

“We want the software in Spanish. Get the strings translated.”

Translating strings within an application without providing additional context is a pain for every translator. Translators have a choice on how to deal with it: #1 Ask a lot of questions, which is not very cost-effective for those who are paid on the per-word basis, or #2 ignore any context and translate everything literally, even though the outcome doesn’t make any sense.


Solution: Context columns in the export file or in specialized localization tools.

You can easily create new columns and provide context to the translator. You can also use localization tools like POedit, MemSource or OmegaT, depending on the file extension. This Wikipedia article will help you pick the best localization tool.

#2: Linguistic Superheroes

“Ask Inga. She’s a German native speaker and handles all translation, proofreading, copywriting and SEO jobs for us.”

Inga might be a linguistic superhero and handle those different tasks professionally. However, never take “being a native speaker” as the only qualification for performing all of the tasks. Those require a very different skillset.


Solution: Do hire native speakers but do not overwhelm one with different jobs requiring different skills.

#3 Homepage Translation

“Our website homepage in English doesn’t work for Italian users. I want it translated by tomorrow.”

The primary goal of a website homepage is to drag users’ attention and motivate them to go deeper in the website structure. So, it should contain a high-quality marketing message that is adapted to the market.

Translation itself doesn’t fulfill this task. Transcreation or copywriting within localization are better methods to achieve this.


Solution: Never assume everything needs to be translated. The infographic below might help you decide.

#4 Brief

“A Dutch copywriter needs a brief? Tell him to look at the English website for reference...”

Your English website might say a lot about your company and your products/services; but, it doesn’t tell you squat about who your customers are and how your brand is supposed to be perceived by them.

Chinese-manicure-setThe Chinese > English translator may not have received the brief. Image credit: 

Solution: Don’t confuse translation and copywriting.

While translation is pretty much about transferring the meaning of words, copywriting “translates” your selling propositions. That’s why a copywriter needs to know The What, The Why and The Who.

#5 Who’s Right/Who’s Wrong Approach

“Let’s FIRE Inga. Markus went through the translation she has done and made quite a lot of corrections there.”

Language is a live tool. Everyone uses different expressions, different style. Inga might have not done anything wrong; and eventually, maybe another native speaker would change Markus’s version completely.

The only thing we can perceive as “correct/incorrect” is grammar. Some languages have very strict grammatical rules (German, Russian, Swedish). However, some are rather free in terms of grammar (English, Italian, Spanish), and other can have different dialects (Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian).

You could end up with a fluctuating linguistic staff; encourage a constructive dialogue among them, not a competitive environment.

How do you delegate content creation to multilingual teams? Let me know in the comments!

(1) Image credit:

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Martin Kůra is an International SEO Strategist. You can visit his personal website.
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Richard Perez
Very good advice for language services clients, despite I might not agree with some nuances, like "the only thing we can perceive correct/incorrect is grammar". In my view grammar is the least important, more important is messages (translated or adapted) and terminology. If the messages are clear, a reviewer should be able to catch grammar mistakes, but wrong messages can go by unnoticed without comparing source with target.
By the way where can I get the manicure set, once I use it I won't need a manicure ever again!
Zunair Rafique
nice! what about that rel alternate tag for different version of web?
Martin Kura
Zunair Rafique
Hi Zunair, rel alternate hreflang is a good way to mark-up multilingual content on web. It's a relative tag, so use it only when the particular page has an equivalent page in a different language. It should be implemented on every page with an equivalent, not just the homepage. Also be sure to link via hreflang to the page itself. Please find more here:

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