Sep 6, 2011

New Videos and Foreign Language Recordings

As an email marketer, it’s important to speak your audience’s language. It may seem obvious, but I can tell you as the resident international chimp of mystery, there’s a difference between obvious and easy to do. This is usually where the gurus pontificate about globalization this or international commerce that—but the fact of the matter is that the more people you can talk to, the more potential business you have. The internet, in all its multilingual glory, affords you the capacity to sell your goods or services to anyone, anywhere. This is all fine and dandy, but what happens when you don’t speak Icelandic or Guarani? What happens when your business grows to levels of internationalness that you certainly weren’t counting (or even planning) on? After a while, it feels like there are barbarians at the gate howlin’ for either something you can’t provide, or your head on a virtual spike.

I’ve been at MailChimp for a while, so I still have memories of foreign-language help requests being about as frequent as Halley’s comet (and usually treated with equal fanfare). Some of these requests were so remote and isolated, it was hard to see how it all fit in with the overall MailChimp application. Fast forward a few years. We’re at a point where not only do we have to tailor our content to a growing global audience, but we have to accept unforeseen consequences like being big in Turkmenistan. Even our CEO Ben’s shameful lack of a passport hasn’t stopped MailChimp from spreading the message of easy email newsletters worldwide.

So how do we overcome the language barrier? Stick our head in the sand and hope that everyone learns English in the next six months? Frankly, that’s not our ethos at MailChimp. We don’t ignore difficult issues.

The webinar team is here to help. We’ve been working on a full barrage of educational materials for our international users. We’ve spent a lot of time lately on Getting Started videos in a few different languages, to help you cross the language divide. German, French, and Portuguese tutorials are coming soon, in addition to the Spanish videos that are already available. These videos will cover the same topics as the videos and live webinars from the Getting Started program that’s already available in English.

These videos may sound easy-peasy, but in the name of all things simian, believe me when I say that they’re quite complex to put together. The intricacies of internet-speak across different languages and cultures are very delicate. The creation process for these videos has to be somewhat meticulous. We have to be careful when we’re trying to say “click here” in a foreign language, because we might accidentally say something we regret. And it’s not just the politeness factor—the big idea behind these videos is to give our international users the same level of training that our anglophone users get. Which means that beyond just being understandable, these videos have to have the same usefulness and level of instruction as our English presentations.

To make these educational videos in another language, we start off with our English recordings as a template. With this template, we painstakingly translate the content in a script style. This is usually the longest part. Eventually, we stop correcting every little detail and move on to the sound track portion, which is where the fun begins. We lock ourselves in the recording studio  and start speaking in all kinds of foreign languages. Once the sound track is laid (and our office mates thoroughly confused), the last bit is adding the video and post production. Once we say the magic words and tap with the magic wand, Presto! Brand new recordings for everyone.

While working on this linguistic challenge for our training videos, we realized that some of you may be experiencing a similar process. You may remember that we recently announced an integration with Straker . This integration allows you to translate the content of your emails on the go, so that you don’t even have to think about it. I don’t say this lightly: This integration borders on miraculous. If your audience is growing ever more multilingual, accept no substitute. We’re working on a video with the good folks at Straker to show you the ins and outs of the integration,how to make it all work for your campaigns, and other ways MailChimp can help you connect with your international audience. Whether you’re selling chimp-themed snuggies in Lithuania or organizing submarine tours off the Falkland islands, the idea here is to help you sort out how to make your content speak to your target audience—even if you don’t actually speak their language. Consider us your very own email babel fish.