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Lean In crosses borders: Translation and localization of a universal message

Most of us have heard the hype lately surrounding Cheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In. Women all over the United States are buzzing about the book, including those who have not read it. Seemingly, everyone has an opinion on the book because of the controversial themes mentioned in interviews with the Facebook executive. Sandberg is very clear on her purpose for the book, admitting that she has and still makes a lot of mistakes in taking on the challenge to "lean in" to her career while caring for her family. The term "lean in" is a metaphorical one in the sense that Sandberg encourages women not to sit back and let opportunities pass them by. Now that the book will be found in over 20 international editions, how well will the "lean in" message translate into all these languages? Literal translation of an already figurative phrase is simply not an option.

Such a complex issue is the work of specialized translators who work with women's issues and a great editing team. Mana Nakagawa writes, "A challenge surfaced almost immediately: many languages had no direct translation for the phrase 'lean in.' To resolve this puzzle, each translator crafted a title that would resonate with the local audience while still embodying the book’s core message. The title has now been thoughtfully translated for each international edition; the original English phrase also appears on the international book covers, tying these different editions back to Lean In’s central call to action."

Lean In book titles in various languages (

However, the title is only the first piece of the puzzle in marketing the book and empowering women worldwide to take on a more powerful role in their own careers. Translators must work with the Lean In organization to make the concepts and situations in the book relevant to women in the countries where it will be sold. Nakagawa continues, "Our research supplemented the US statistics cited throughout the book with country-specific data wherever possible. This involved investigation into more than twenty-five different issues – from the percentage of women in corporate leadership positions to data on household divisions of labor and public policies – for more than twenty different countries."

Lean In editors take the book's purpose one step further in these international ventures. Various editions will include messages from prominent female leaders who speak to the women in their countries. "These extraordinary women leaders represent a rich diversity of geography, sector, experience and personal choice. However, they all emphasize an important theme: the universality of barriers that women face in achieving leadership."

The book is already available for purchase in nine countries and will surely continue to sell in others, as the combination of an important issue, various research and translation teams and a universal theme allow for its message to cross boundaries and language barriers.

Have you seen the book in another country? What title appears on the cover in that language?

Translating Web Content for Spanish-speaking Consumers: First Steps

Translating your company's website into Spanish doesn't have to be daunting. Should you translate your website content? How do you choose a translation vendor? These are both valid questions when considering the translation of web content. And here are some possible answers that might work for you. Translation is an investment. It can grow your bottom line more than you thought imaginable. Why is that? Consider the ways that your clients reach your site and learn more about your business. Now, think about how many more people you can reach by having your site's content translated. According to the Pew Research Hispanic Center, approximately 78% of Latinos report that they use the Internet to send and receive e-mail. These same groups are searching key terms online (yes, Googling!) to find retailers, compare prices and seek information on products.

The number of Latinos using mobile devices to search online is slowly becoming more even with the number of non-Latino users in the past few years. In 2012 NBC Latino reported, "The digital divide, which can be defined as the disparities between those who have access to the resource of the internet, was much more pronounced in 2009. Then, the internet use rates of Latinos were 64 percent, compared to 80 percent for whites. Now the share of Hispanic adults who say they go online at least occasionally has increased to 78 percent. Comparatively, whites are only at 87 percent. This means the digital divide has been nearly halved in just three years." Many Latinos fall within certain income and age ranges that could very well match up with your current market demographics for native English-speaking clients. According to the Pew Hispanic Center survey, "High family income is correlated with using a mobile device for accessing the internet. About three-in-ten (29%) Hispanic internet users who use a mobile device to access the internet have annual family incomes of $50,000 or more."

In a recent Nielsen Report, it was found that Latino households earning $50,000 or more are projected to grow at a faster rate than other households in the United States. "Hispanics already account for an important share of consumer expenditures and given their youth, educational advances, and increasing spending capacity, Hispanics are fast becoming preeminent drivers of growth and likely trend setters in the marketplace. Marketers will need to understand the what, where, how and why of their role in tomorrow’s consumption space."

Why are so many companies focusing on Spanish in the United States? Besides the constantly growing Latino population, buying power among this group of consumers continues to soar. According to The National Journal, "With an estimated $1.5 trillion to spend, the Hispanic consumer market is expected to boost several economic sectors: housing, food, retail, education, financial services, transportation, entertainment, and media."

Although many may argue that Latinos are often able to read and write in English, creating content in Spanish can build trust and loyalty among Latino consumers. By translating and localizing web content for Spanish-speakers, your company will be able to stand out among your competitors by reaching out to Latino consumers on a personal level. In a survey we conducted at ATS in both Spanish and English with strategic partner Speak Our Language in 2012, we asked participants to rate the importance of a business communicating with them in Spanish. While most said that it was somewhat to extremely important, the majority answered that if a company chooses to communicate in Spanish with customers, poor translations and grammatical errors in their web content has a strong negative impact on their trust in that company.

Therefore, in building your brand among Latino consumers, selecting a vendor with a great track record in translation of marketing materials, as well as the industry in which your company operates (i.e. automotive, food, medical, pharmaceuticals, technical, etc.), is of vital importance. Inquire about the vendor's Quality Assurance process and make sure it's a process with which you feel comfortable. Ask questions and be clear about your expectations. When sending content for translation, it's important to make sure you send the final copy to your vendor and try not to make changes in the source content throughout the process, as this can be costly for the buyer. The vendor should also ask you questions about your target audience, deadline expectations, layout and terminology.

These are some first steps in translating your company's website into Spanish and can put you well on your way to marketing your brand successfully among Latino consumers. What other considerations are important in marketing to Latinos online?