When in Russia, Write As the Russians Do
A letter to Computer Reseller News (1996)
In the present very competitive environment, many vendors are looking for new markets. One of the most interesting markets is Russia.
The Russian market is very large and unsaturated. Many companies from different countries have already acknowledged the fact and entered the region. Some of them are successful, some are not. One of the common marketing mistakes: poorly translated ads and the absence of Russian documentation.
I am a native-born Russian, and I work as a translator from English to Russian. My command of English allows me to read and speak this language freely. However, from the very first lines of this publication you undoubtedly guessed that I am foreign. That is what I am trying to demonstrate to you – very few people can speak like a native in a foreign language.
Why should you bother about such a matter? The reason is that most Russian customers (I would say 90% but maybe even more) do not read English. So they will not buy anything unless you solicit them in Russian. Also Russian Consumer Rights Law requires that any product sold in the Russian market be accompanied by guidelines in Russian.
In fact, some companies do provide Russian documentation. However, it is usually of such poor quality that some customers prefer the English version, because Russian instructions are sometimes really impossible to follow.
For instance, the Colgate Company placed the following text in Russian on their toothpaste package: As soon as you brush your teeth, bacteria start to multiply on them!
In Russia we see and hear a lot of slogans from various foreign companies. Most of them sound foreign, some are just ridiculous, and some are entirely wrong. For example, an Italian shoe-manufacturing company announced that they would provide shoes to everybody in Russia. But the verb they used has a second, very different meaning in Russian slang, so their slogan could be understood as follows: We will cheat all of Russia!
That is why I would like to present the following:
Seven Points To Consider For Vendors Looking For New Markets
1. The Russian market is large and unsaturated.
2. About 90% of Russian customers cannot read English.
3. Ads translated outside of Russia sound foreign, often ridiculous, and sometimes wrong.
4. User guides translated outside of Russia are often impossible to follow.
5. The Russian Law governing Consumer Rights requires that any product sold in the Russian market be accompanied by guidelines in Russian.
6. To enter the Russian market, you need ads and documentation in colloquial Russian.
7. We can do this work for you; you can order/receive translations by e-mail, and no advance payment is required.