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Translating for your Target Audience 

Translating for your Target Audience 

All business documentation is directed at one or more groups of stakeholders. Understanding who the target audience is will help you shape the type of translation required. If you are producing a marketing campaign, for example, you will need a different kind of translation than you would if you were merely translating a document for internal informational purposes.

What is a target audience? Put very simply, a target audience is a group of people that’s most likely to be interested in your product or service. And members of this group usually share common traits. Identifying your target audience is key when developing new products and services; and vital when it comes to how you communicate with them.

Consider the use, purpose and format of your documents: this will help you determine if they need to be highly polished — all marketing collateral, for instance — or not (HR documentation for internal use, for example).

The simple matrix below helps classify documents by business needs. It allows you to quickly identify what the real priority is for each project. Corporate translations can be classified in terms of use, purpose and format

INSPIREBrochures, websites, communications, advertising…Newsletters, intranets, motivational materials…
BE ACCURATECatalogues, datasheets, installation manuals, training materials…Business reports, legal and financial documents, administration, IT, quality…

A document for internal use which aims to motivate and inform will obviously cost less than a document for external use which will be published, and needs to be 100% accurate.

Keep in mind that all translations need to be equivalent to the original and appropriate for a given use.

Tone and register

There is more to translation than simply conveying information, translators also need to address the target audience in an appropriate tone or register. Often this is referred to as Business vs Colloquial. For example, Business English is more formal and more structured, while colloquial English is more casual and conversational.

When determining the correct register a translator will consider:

  • Age of the target audience
  • Gender
  • Academic level
  • Social group
  • Country or geographical area
  • Purpose of the translated document

It’s important to note, the differences in how we address an audience are not about being correct or incorrect — both forms are correct. The language register (also called linguistic register or speech register) describes the way a person speaks in relation to their audience. We all understand instinctively that a speaker modifies their language register to signal levels of formality appropriate to their relationship to their audience, and intended purpose.

There are four primary factors that determine our register:

  • Audience
  • Topic
  • Purpose
  • Location

For example, we use very different registers when communicating with an employer, compared to a partner or friend (I hope!). We speak differently when addressing a large audience, compared to a 1-to-1 conversation. Naturally our language changes when discussing a scientific concept, as opposed to what we’re having for dinner.

In marketing especially, it is important to consider the purpose — the register should be very different for a sales document, an ‘instructions for use’ guide, and your company Annual Report. For example, in Academic English, we might come across sentences like “The experiment was conducted…” but in a report for the class, the student would more likely write, “We did the experiment…”. Business register often involves a higher standard of vocabulary, while in a colloquial register we use everyday phrases.

So, there may be registers for technical language and another for academic language and still another for mathematical language. For the translator to do a good job, they must understand the register, as well as the subject.


Note that while in English, register usually involves using (or not using) particular terms — such as technical or slang. In many languages, such as Spanish, German or Japanese it affects the conjugation of verbs, and pronouns used. 

Find out more: Marketing copy: Speak your Customers’ Language

What languages do I need? 

Which languages you translate your documentation into is a function of your business objectives. Multiple studies have shown that people prefer to buy products in their own language. So, if you are only offering your products in English you will limit your potential to expand.

Consider also, that if you are already making sales in a country where you have not translated into their language, this means you already have a foothold in the market. Translating your content shows commitment to your customers, and will almost certainly give your sales a boost.

Bear in mind that most people will consider their own language variation to be “correct”, “the most prestigious” or “the most neutral”. Fortunately, for a broader and more objective perspective you can turn to a team of professional linguists.

Find out more: Which language variations should you translate into?

Find out more: Optimising with Translation Memory

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