One of the edutainment projects my agency has the privilege of working on is a series of fun kids learning activities for elementary school teachers to use in their classrooms worldwide. We produce these learning materials in English plus 33 foreign languages.
Whenever one deals with other languages and cultures, there are plenty of opportunities to make costly mistakes. Here are six tips for avoiding mistakes and helping make the creative process go smoothly:
1. Give Your Creative Agency a Heads Up, Up Front.
It’s important to let your creative agency know at the beginning of a project if there will be foreign language versions so they can take that into consideration during the concept and design phase. Otherwise, you most likely will have to change your design for the foreign versions.
2. Get the Base-language Version Completed First.
When doing a multiple language project, it is vital to get your base language version fully approved before beginning the additional versions. If you don’t, it can greatly impact your cost and timing. Think of what would happen if you had, say, 10+ language versions almost finished and then you realized there is a change to the English version, which in turn has to be made to all the other languages you’ve begun.Plan your schedule to give you enough time to get the English (base) language, or whatever language is the base, completed before it’s time to begin the foreign versions.
3. Remember That Space and Shape of Alphabets Differ.
Some foreign language alphabets are fairly similar to English (like Italian, German, or French), but others are drastically different (like Hebrew, Japanese, or Tamil). Your creative agency will need to keep that in mind for the design. A lot of the foreign alphabets take up more space than our English alphabet, and of course some read from right to left (like Hebrew and Arabic) and will layout in a different shape than English.
4. Proofreading is a Must.
Proofreading for a multiple foreign languages project is challenging, yet vital. In my opinion it should be mandatory. I worked on a multiple language creative project for a client who decided they didn’t have it in their budget to have it proofread. Not only did I think that was a bad decision on their part, but my agency’s reputation would be impacted if there were any mistakes. I decided to pay for the proofreading myself because it was more important to me to have peace of mind that everything was right—for both my client’s sake and my own, as well as the students who’ll be using the materials—then it was to save on the cost.
5. Budget an Appropriate Amount of Time.
You’ll need to allow your creative agency much more time for the proofing process than they normally need to proof an English project. There should be multiple layers of proofreading built into the schedule. Besides the inherent difficulties of proofing the unfamiliar languages, there is also a logistics delay because of the different time zones, holiday schedules, and work days of the countries they’ll be working with. (Sometimes that can work in your favor—when my client was on the four-day Thanksgiving holiday, I was able to get a lot of work done with Germany because they don’t celebrate our Thanksgiving.)
6. Have Guidelines for Revisions in Place.
Revisions for foreign language projects can also be tricky. Once the native language proofing begins, you’ll need to have some guidelines on revisions or it can get out of control. I’ve found that the majority of proofreading revisions for foreign languages are subjective in the eyes of the native language proofer, rather than just correcting for typos. Your creative agency will probably tell you that subjective proofing changes are additional to the estimate.
When designing for multiple languages it’s best to keep the design simple; accommodate for text of all different lengths, line breaks, and directions; and be extremely organized from start to finish.