“I don’t know the rules of grammar. If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language.”
We all like this wise quote from David Ogilvy and it can’t be truer. This post is about the use of the Russian language to persuade Russian speakers to use your services or buy your products.
Why is it important to have your website and marketing materials translated into Russian?
Mainly because it is a native language of more than 170 million people. This number only refers to people using it as their first language. Imagine how it will grow if we include those who use Russian as their second language.
Do all those people live in the Russian Federation? No, of course not. As Wikipedia tells us, “Russian is an official language in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and many minor or unrecognised territories. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine and Latvia, and to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics of the Soviet Union and former participants of the Eastern Bloc… In March 2013 it was announced that Russian is now the second-most used language on the internet after English. However, Russian is the sixth-most used language on the top 1,000 sites, behind English, Chinese, French, German and Japanese.
Want to get ahead of your competition and tap into the Russian-speaking market? It’s high time to do that before others in your niche seize the opportunity.
Seems that everybody these days has heard at least something about localisation. That’s what makes your message understandable for people who don’t speak your language. However, as one of my favourite marketing professionals says, it’s not enough to just do the right things. You need to do the right things, correctly. So how do you adapt your message to the Russian market and do it right? There are a few things to consider.
1. Not. Ever. Use. Machine. Translation. You can save on anything, but not on translation and localisation. The translated content will become your voice in the target market. Do you really want to sound like Google Translate to your customers?
2. Hire localisation professionals who will:
- Translate the content of your website
- Adapt the currency and date format
- Make your website searchable for the Russian search engines. Yes, we have our own search engines, with Yandex being just as popular as Google if not more. And its algorithm works differently from Google, so just translating the keywords won’t do the trick.
3. Consider the difference in calendar, public holidays, time zones etc. Getting a newsletter at 2 a.m. with a time-sensitive limited offer is kind of weird. Also, for those of you who are preparing your next big Christmas sale, our Christmas is on January 7th, not December 25th. New Year is one of the biggest holidays here, which comes before Christmas and is celebrated very widely, whereas Christmas is mainly a quiet family holiday. Valentine’s Day is not widely celebrated here, so the best time to prepare a sale for men’s products would be before February 23rd (it’s the day when we honour boys and men, and especially those who are serving or have served in the army) and for women’s products – before March 8th (Women’s Day, when we honour women of all statuses and ages).
4. Want to use SMM marketing? Then be ready to do some research and find out how your Russian-speaking audience is using social media and which social networks people use. I bet you haven’t heard about networks like vk.com or ok.ru. We do use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but the most popular network is still vk.com (formerly known as Vkontakte). It’s often called the clone of Facebook, but the netiquette there has some peculiarities.
5. Make sure your marketing brochures, newsletters etc. use the same terminology, same names for products and services (whether they are kept in English, translated, or transliterated etc.). Which means either sharing your translation memory with a professional who will translate your marketing materials, or hiring the same people to do everything.
6. Be ready to answer any questions about your company, your website, your services or products. We ask questions not because we are stupid, but because we care about the quality of our work, and we want to be sure we understand everything correctly. If we understand you, your customers will too.
7. Test, test, and test. The Russian text is often longer than the English, and that’s completely normal. But it may break the structure of your website or the layout of your brochure. So the only way to make sure everything works right is to test everything again and again.
You may be reading the text and thinking, “Wow, it’s going to take SO MUCH WORK!” Yes, it is. But it’s going to be worth every penny you spend. Because you will show that you care about how we think and how we feel. It will simplify the website navigation and communication, thus bringing more sales.
Do you have experience in localising anything for the Russian market? Share what you’ve learned in comments! It’s always great to learn from one another.
About the author: Olga Arakelyan, Russian native speaker, translator, editor, transcreator, and manager of LinguaContact translation training school (the leading online translation training school in Russia!). You can find her on Twitter, or check out her English blog.