Difficulties in translating social media posts
Social media has a large influence in the world today that two decades ago we could not have fathomed. Leading political figures use it to help spread their opinions, social movements such as #MeToo have started on social media, and people can connect with friends they’ve lost contact with. It is one of modern society’s greatest tool and if used correctly, it can create great opportunities for businesses wanting to spread their reach. Creating social media pages for your business automatically increases the chances of being seen and reaching your target audience if your content is relevant and intriguing.
If you work on an international level, having your social media posts and pages translated and localised is important. Yet there are some obstacles when it comes to translating social media. With hashtags, length restrictions, new terminology, and slang or jargon, social media has its own special type of translation.
Hashtags are a great way to get your page known. They can link your posts to specific threads and allow people who don’t follow you to see your posts. The problem with hashtags in translation is that they are language-specific and often context-specific. If you add a translated hashtag to a post, it will not take the reader to the same thread, and it might lead to an entirely different thread that might not be as powerful or used as often as the original. It is necessary to do research and find out which hashtags are pertinent in the target language domain. This way the translation will still be tagged, and users can find the posts through a hashtag search.
The placement of hashtags also proves to be difficult in translation. When a hashtag is placed within a sentence, the same word or phrase may not be relevant in the translation and the hashtag will therefore have to be placed at the end of the post sometimes. Sometimes they may even be omitted if they are not at all relevant to the target culture.
You also have to consider that some languages are using different alphabets and do not write from the right to the left like Arabic for example, and that can be more complicated when using hashtags in those languages.
Twitter, the famous 280-character restricted platform, makes translators’ jobs that much more difficult. Being creative with a limited character count is already hard enough when writing the original content, let alone trying to transfer the meaning into another language within the same limitations. This proves especially difficult when translating from a language that is more concise to a language that is more extensive. For example, translating from English into Spanish will normally lead to a 15-30% increase in text size, whereas translating from German into English will lead to a 20-30% decrease in text size. The language pair makes a difference and translators that have to account for an increase in text size must be creative when working with social media posts.
Even in social media platforms that have a lengthier character limit, such as Facebook, the length of posts is still important. People are more likely to read a shorter post when scrolling through their feed than a lengthier one because it takes less time. Being consistent and concise with posts is important so as to not lose followers or even clients. Knowing the ideal length of a post in regard to a specific platform is something social media translators must be aware of as well.
Translating the platform terminology itself is a tough task. Alike, a follow, to tweet, to tag someone, a wall, a DM or PM, etc., the list of social media terms is quite extensive and unique for each platform. Since most social media sites were created in English, for an English speaking audience, when it comes to translating and localising the features, it can be difficult for translators, as they are the ones who are essentially coining new terms for a new cultural context. And hopefully, they work! Sometimes the terms are simply borrowed from English like follow or DM that commonly used in French. Sometimes, they are adapted to the language by mixing the English term with a word ending in the target language. For example, to tweet is tuitear in Spanish and to pin (Pinterest) in Italian is pinnare.
Slang and jargon
“On fleek,” “trolling,” “profile stalking,” “starter packs,” and many more terms and phrases have been born from social media. A lot of them may only stay relevant for several weeks before fading out, while others are constantly used. Knowing whether or not these terms are relevant to your target readers is important for a translator. If it is a phenomenon that seems to be spreading globally, it will need to be translated, but it is imperative to be careful and do research to find out if other translators have already coined new terms related to a new trend. For example, the MeToo movement rattled social media around the world, and language-specific hashtags started trending as well such as #YoTambien in Spain and Latin America, and #BalanceTonPorc in France.
There are many difficulties in translating social media posts and pages, but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t an important step for your company. Having posts that reach your target market in other countries and cultures will help your globalisation strategy immensely. Think about hiring translation experts who are specialised in social media content. They already know how to overcome these obstacles by using practical methods and will create effective, relevant content for your target market readers.
Do not hesitate to contact Smylingua via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +33 1 76 43 32 76 for your translation projects.
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