“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. If that is true, I can confidently say I have never worked during my 5-year long career as a Language Specialist at Booking.com.
I found the Language Specialist position accidentally while browsing the Booking.com website looking for a place to stay in Spain. As a travel enthusiast, aspiring copywriter and graduate translator with experience in online marketing, I was sure it was the perfect job for me. Little did I realize it would open up so many opportunities to learn, develop and stretch beyond my boundaries.
Looking back on my 4 years as a Croatian Language Specialist in Zagreb, I have come to realize that pure translation represents just part of my daily work. The Language Specialist role is made up of so many different and exciting tasks, all of which are closely interconnected for the purpose of ensuring a great and localized travel experience for the user.
So what do Language Specialists do?
Many people speak English. However, to grow your business and to reach all potential customers out there, we should not forget about the vast majority of people who do not. How confident would they be buying a product in a language that they do not understand? Would they be able to buy it at all? Then there are cultural differences, and that is where Language Specialists come in and work their magic.
They are the bridge connecting travelers with Booking.com and their dream destinations – using the same content, but tailoring it to different cultures and audiences. That is a great privilege, but also a huge responsibility. We know that the wrong choice of words may confuse, upset and even deter a user from booking – and that is the last thing we want.
It is no secret that big fast-food companies like McDonald’s offer country-specific food options to appeal to local customers. Why? Because you probably would not be able to sell a beef burger in India or a pulled-pork sandwich in the Emirates. To avoid any cultural mishaps, product names are also often changed and localized depending on their cultural and semantic implications. You probably would not be tempted to drink a Nescafe Kenjara coffee in Croatia where kenjara is a slang word for toilet. And then there is (Ford) Kuga, which somehow reached the Croatian market even though the word kuga means plague in Croatian.
It all comes down to addressing the customer’s needs, be it by suggesting to add a new feature or filter based on what most people from your country usually like to have at their property, or simply by removing an exclamation mark in your language to prevent a friendly reminder from sounding like a command.
Teamwork doubles the success!
Localization entails far more than just translation. Above everything else, it requires a fair deal of knowledge about the practices of the country you are localizing for and Language Specialists play a crucial role in this process. They need to know their customers and apply the copywriting techniques that work best for their market. As a Language Specialist, you learn that even the tiniest word can make a big difference if put in the right context and that the right solutions are the ones that our customers like.
For me, being a Language Specialist is a never-ending learning process that requires a dose of creativity, a lot of interdepartmental communication and, most importantly, great teamwork, which makes an idea work and thanks to which anything is possible!
So, what does it take to be a great language Specialist? Is it perfect grammar and spelling, knowledge of the subject, the source and target cultures, or is it passion, creativity, business awareness, great teamwork, brainstorming, never-ending learning? Well, I would say all of the above and much more…plus a pinch of love for what you do.
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