Language interpreting (oral, two-way or one-way, simultaneous or consecutive, remote or face-to-face translation) is a vital marketing tool for international environments, in areas such as the analysis of user experience or the generation of brand engagement. It allows us to understand the UX behind a language and culture that we do not understand, and to adapt and express our identity in other languages and cultural contexts.
User experience broke away from our digital devices a long time ago, and today features prominently in almost every aspect of a market that is built on experience, from service or product design to the analysis of the results of customer-brand engagement. Although it may not seem like it, language interpreting can play an essential role in global markets where UX makes sense of things. Literally.
In an international context (and what isn't nowadays?) or a multilingual one, communicating and understanding is a vital prerequisite, both in a purely linguistic and cultural sense. In this section, we will tackle a lesser-known aspect of translation in the world of marketing: the relationship (positive, of course) between interpreting and user experience.
Interpreting and its applications
Let's start with the fundamentals, by clarifying what interpreting means in the world of translation, before moving on to presenting the main aspects of their uses and applications. It is important to point out that our interpreting doesn't have anything to do with performing arts, musical pieces or figuring out hidden philosophical or religious meanings.
Put simply, we would define interpreting as the task of conveying the content and meanings of an oral message from one language to another. The main difference with regards to translation (which is often confused with interpreting; here we explain the differences in more detail) is that an interpreter works with oral language, not with written texts.
When do we use interpreting?
The different applications of language interpreting depend on the different needs that arise when two people or groups need to communicate "on an equal footing," but do not share a common language. The most common applications are as follows:
- International or multilingual official acts.
- Professional, business or institutional meetings and conferences.
- Legally binding processes (judgments, for example).
- Sales events such as international exhibitions.
- Interviews with foreign public figures.
- Scientific or academic conferences and congresses.
- Presentations of products or services in foreign markets.
- Events in the world of shows and entertainment.
This wide variety of situations, with their different characteristics, has led to a requirement for different specialisations in professional interpreting. As a result, different subcategories or types of interpreting have been established within the profession. Below, we have outlined a brief description of each category, so that you can identify the most suitable type for each situation:
- Consecutive interpreting: the interpreter takes notes while the speaker talks and then conveys the message once they have finished talking.
- Simultaneous interpreting: the interpreter conveys the message as the speaker is talking.
- Bilateral interpreting: here, the interpreter acts as a "liaison" (another name for this category) between two speakers in the context of a conversation.
We can also highlight two additional modalities depending on the location of the interpreter, although there are no major differences in the actual work or the result – they are purely technical:
- Face-to-face interpreting: the traditional way of interpreting, i.e. the professional is in the location where their services are needed.
- Remote interpreting: new technologies have provided room for remote interpreting through videoconferencing, which results in a simplified and cost-effective service.
What is the relationship between interpreting and UX?
Taking all of the above into account, the interpreting type and modality required will be determined by each different situation and need, as well as the skills, experience and resources of the interpreter. In any case, it will have a decisive impact – in a field as specific as marketing – on what we call user experience.
Let's start with the idea that user experience (or UX, from User eXperience, as it is usually known) goes far beyond the horizon of web design, and extends to any aspect of product design. It can be defined as the interaction or relationship of a user with a product or service, and their subjective perceptions of usefulness, satisfaction and use.
So, how does this relate to interpreting? Well, when you consider the international or multilingual context, it's obvious, regardless of the product or service we are talking about; whatever message we want to convey to our interlocutors, doing so in their own language will have a decidedly positive impact.
When there is an immediate and oral interaction at any one of the many contact points that exist between a brand, product or service and its customers or users, this is where the added value of interpreting can be truly appreciated as a means to achieving our awareness objectives (increasing awareness, engagement and usability).
How can interpreting improve user experience?
When language is a barrier, interpreting can be essential at different points along an on-going relationship between a brand, its products and services, and a market, an organisation or a clientele living in another language; provided that this relationship happens "in real time" and in a two-way manner.
In a broad sense, everything begins with a fluid relationship with stakeholders, whether they are investors, authorities, experts, competition or collaborators. In any project, these stakeholders are not strictly considered as users, but they play a major role in making it possible for such users to come into existence. Thus, efficient communication with them is key.
The real power tool, however, is in research into the usability of a product or service in a foreign market, when we want to carry out tests from the design phase to the analysis of results. Language interpreting is a complex process that goes beyond literal translation, and takes into account feelings, attitudes, values, etc., which are invaluable to really understand the user experience.
In summary, in this broad context, which can range from the search for investors to the testing of the usability of a prototype, the interpreter carries out a fundamental task (for which, incidentally, they need to be specialised and thoroughly prepared).
Interpreting, UX and localisation: how do they relate to each other?
We have already mentioned that the interpreter's talents must include not only a good understanding of the language, but also of the culture of the market that we wish to enter, and its users. It is also fair to say that the interpreter localises by default. So, what is localisation?
Multilingual websites are a perfect example for understanding the specific importance of localisation in user experience. Localisation constitutes everything that surrounds language, so to speak, in its form (alphabets and typography, currencies, local systems of measurement), but also on a deeper level; historical references, cultural preferences (and taboos), double meanings and poorly understood wordplay can elevate or ruin any project.
On the other hand, localisation is a natural part of interpreting, so to speak. Interpreters must understand the cultural codes to use in order to communicate with our interlocutor (when to switch between formal and informal forms of address or how to adapt fixed expression, for example), as well as other technical aspects (such as "converting" one currency or unit of measurement into another).
Translation and interpretation: impact on user experience
Translating and interpreting are two different but related approaches that affect user experience in international markets. If we are working with a website or a set of instructions for a lawnmower, we want to be able to read them in our language; if we are dealing with a guided tour or customer service, this is even more true.
Therefore, although they are tools with different uses and results, translation and interpreting go hand in hand in the creation of optimal UX, and share a series of essential positive effects on a marketing, branding or sales campaign, in principal, the following:
- The user enjoys a smooth experience with no friction; they can browse a website smoothly, find information in their language, pay in their currency, etc.
- The user does not come across any cultural barriers; including the product or services and their advantages, which are adapted to their cultural context.
- The user finds it easier to identify with the brand; they feel a sense of closeness and can form a connection more easily.
How can interpreting improve brand engagement?
A lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes when it comes to customers (market analysis, individual and group interviews, strategic campaigns), and behind this, solid interpreting work where necessary: relationships with partners and organisations, UX research, corporate branding actions and events, etc.
The most obvious impact is in obtaining a greater reach in quantitative terms, but also qualitative terms. Imagine you present your brand to an international audience. If you do it in a single language, only those who speak that language will understand. Let's assume you do it in English. It will be understood by more people, but they will not have the same depth of understanding as they do in their native language.
There is also another impact that may be less visible in the short term but more powerful: communication is more effective in our native language. It is easier to generate trust, affinity, empathy. The customer feels that the brand "speaks their language," in this case in a literal sense, and better understands the identity of the brand.
Real cases that demonstrate how interpreting improves UX and brand engagement
The best way to understand and visualize the potential impact of interpreting on user experience and brand engagement is to identify a few use cases:
- When the team at Functionaire were asked to help develop an app for managing maintenance in large buildings in the United States, they found that the most common user did not have a fluent understanding of English. Therefore, they decided to include this feature in the qualitative research phase of development. With an interpreter, of course.
- The US federal health agency, CMS, regardless of its public ownership, perfectly explains how the use of interpreters in healthcare greatly improves the perception of the service, as well as the results themselves; This extends to other highly specialized personal services.
- Cory Lebson is an expert UX consultant with more than twenty years of experience. Here he tells us about his experience investigating the usability of a mobile app native to the United States that had been translated into Portuguese and localised for Brazil, with insightful details of the difficulties around preparation, positioning and body language, speech rhythms and the UI of the product.
If we think as users and not as a company, we realize the importance of interpreting for offering a better user experience and improving brand engagement.
At ATLS, we have seen several cases of companies that have invested in the English language only for all attendees, regardless of their origin. In particular, we are reminded of the case of a well-known French company that invested a lot of money in the global presentation of its new products. They hired us for French to English interpreting only. Can you predict the result? Of course, all attendees understood the English perfectly, but for those who did not have English as their mother tongue, the presentation was much less impactful. The company was penalised for this in the questionnaires sent out at the end of the presentation. In the end, this customer invested many thousands of euros in an action that did not create the expected engagement and they did not enjoy the subsequent profits. Fortunately, this error was later amended, as after this event, they opted to use interpreting for all languages spoken by the attendees. The result? They managed to improve their brand image and positioning, which resulted in increased profits.
Therefore, ATLS recommends that you take into account interpreting of your events, conferences, training, etc., wherever possible, as it will add value to the user experience and reinforce the user's commitment to the brand.
We share the benefits of investing in interpreting from our experience
Company events, whether face-to-face or remote, usually bring together people from different backgrounds who speak different languages. Interpreting allows them to be converted into moments for generating engagement. On the other hand, and in the negative sense, the absence of an interpreter in an UX research interview can (and usually does) lead to misunderstandings, loss of meaning and imprecise analysis.
We know from the experience we have gained throughout our career as an agency specialising in translation and international marketing that we are dealing with two sides of the same coin: communication is the basis for actions as specific as a UX study or as generic as generating brand image. In this regard, communication and interpreting are synonymous.
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