Localization of Marketing in Russian Oil&Gas

We’ve just wrapped up the Moscow International Oil&Gas Exhibition here in Russia and as publisher of the Russian oil and gas technology magazine, Oil&Gas Eurasia, I’m really jazzed.

Oil&Gas Eurasia had its first big success in running a b2b marketing and communications action for a Houston-based oilfield service and supply client. And it worked! Our clients got more qualified prospects onto their stand than they ever had in past MIOGE shows.

And they might even have a contract or two lurking in the shadows that simply now needs to be closed.

So while I understand why it worked, I’m not sure how to label what we did so we can package it and sell it to other clients in the Russian oil and gas technology business.

My friends in the Russian translation business are using everywhere a new buzzword: Localization. What it means is that if you’re making a website or brochure material in a foreign language, you need to be aware of not just the words. You need to adapt the material to the culture.

That’s a good selling point for translation services but it doesn’t really do the job entirely for the client. Think of it this way: in Russia, there are no secretaries any more. Every 19 year old kid with an entry level job answering telephones is an “office manager”. What they manage, I don’t know – and neither do they – but they can now put “manager” on their resume.

And today in Russian translation circles, every translation agency is calling itself a Russian “localization” service. A translator friend of mine came back from a conference recently all excited about the prospect of turning her agency into a “localization” business. The basis for this transformation was to be a piece of memory software that would enable her translators to save blocks of type that repeat themselves and so make it easier to “localize” a clients website during the translation process.

To me that sounds like a method for creating a “super glossary” so as to ensure consistency in translation. God knows,  translators do have differences of opinion and often times both opinions are correct. So if you have a large volume, you of course job out the work to several translators and then an editor knits it all together. And the poor client – who usually doesn’t read the language in question – is blissfully ignorant of how strange this porridge might read to a native speaker if the editor simply “knits” and doesn’t rewrite for consistency in style.

But this computer cut and past thing also makes me think about Microsoft Word and its infuriating way of automatically changing words and phrases as I write them.  I grew up in the tough world of Chicago journalism where lesson No. 1 was to insure accuracy. Since computers got “smart”, I find myself very often writing follow up emails to people telling them: “I didn’t write that. I wrote this and I just noticed that the computer changed the phrase. This is what I wrote and what I meant.” This happens particularly when I use a distinctively American idiom in my writing.

So can you imagine – if the English language itself is now referred to as British English, American English, Australian English, African English, Indian English … what happens when we move into languages other than English?

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