Producing bilingual social media content doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive

Producing bilingual social media content doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive
Alun Jones - May 2023

In Wales, we’re finding our own way to a large extent when it comes to bilingual social media content best practice and producing effective bilingual social media content. This is a great opportunity to pave our own path and set our own best practice.

This causes headaches for marketing teams up and down the country, and has done for years.

👉 So why bother?

If nothing else, as the number of people speaking Welsh stays consistent at about 18% of the population (2021 census) and the number of people in Welsh language education continues to increase, which in turn is likely to lead to an increase in the number of people in Wales who can speak Welsh in the future, it’s important for us as content creators, marketers and advertisers to understand this audience and create content in their own language that they’ll love.

Throw in the Welsh language standards and other requirements, and it can be a bit daunting, but it really doesn’t have to be.

Stick with us, and we’ll bust some of the most widely-peddled myths and pain points around producing content in Welsh or bilingually…

👉 “It’ll cost double to do everything in English as well as Welsh.”

There are actually a number of ways to integrate Welsh with English for little or no extra cost. The best way to do this will depend on your content model.

If you’re producing two videos (one in each language), it’s worth designing and planning the content bilingually from the outset. It might be beneficial to consider using writers, actors or talent who can work in both languages and plan and film both versions back to back. There’s a thriving media freelance community in Wales with many Welsh speakers who work in both languages. The same goes for text on screen - Video editors will normally be able to easily adapt one video in order to integrate the other language in another video.

If you’re creating just one video, it’s a little more tricky, but all figure-outable. For a great example of how Welsh and English are integrated seamlessly in to one script, check out THIS VIDEO of Michael Sheen announcing that the Brecon Beacons would now be known as the Welsh name, Bannau Brycheiniog. Again, this is down to the initial planning and production. Effective, bilingual scripting has resulted in the production of a video which weaves in and out of Welsh and English naturally and seemingly effortlessly.

In terms of text on screen, there are a few different ways to do this. Consider using text on screen in one language and burnt-in subtitles (”BIST” or open captions) in the other (example left).

Other methods we’ve seen (with varying degrees of success) include using one language on the top of the screen, one on the bottom, or both on the bottom and using text formatting to differentiate.

If you’re using closed captions, some of the biggest platforms (Facebook and YouTube) include the ability to include more than one subtitles files (SRT / STL). This isn’t perfect, because the platforms rely on the user’s settings to know which language captions to show, but closed captions are important for accessibility.

So, in short, it certainly shouldn’t cost you double to do everything in English as well as Welsh.

👉 “The Welsh translation sounds clunky.”

You don’t actually have to use exactly the same wording in Welsh and English. Part of the art of bilingual production is to convey the same message with different words. Often, it’s better to start with a blank canvas than to translate what you have in English into Welsh. Think about it as a separate, fresh piece of content, rather than a translation of another piece of content. A good scriptwriter or copywriter who works in both languages should nail this.

👉 “Can’t we just use Google Translate?”

Google Translate (and some other machine translation services) have improved a lot in recent years, but there’s no guarantee that the output is correct, and maybe more importantly, there may be a better way to convey a message in the other language than to translate it directly. It’s always best not to cut corners. It’s a bit like cooking a gourmet meal in the microwave. Except this is your organisation’s public facing content and your organisation’s reputation, and you don’t want mistakes.

👉 “Using Welsh doesn’t have an impact.”

Using the Welsh language in your social media content can actually open up a market for you and it can certainly create waves and have an impact. Some of the biggest brands in the world have used the Welsh language to create impact. Take THIS AD from Budweiser for example, or THIS TWEET from Netflix.

It’s also worth noting that there were tens of millions of views on S4C’s social media content (of which, the vast majority is Welsh language content) in 2021-22 and that their content was seen 575,000 times per day on average during the year. (S4C Annual Report 2021-22)

👉 “There’s no point - No one reads the Welsh.”

This might be the biggest one of them all. According to the 2021 census, almost 1 in every 5 people in Wales speaks Welsh, and with the dawn of social media, it continues to be normalised more and more every day.

It’s worth considering how you are presenting your Welsh language content. Let’s take social media messages as an example. We know that everyone in Wales (with very few exceptions) who understands Welsh also understands English, so if you publish a bilingual social media message with the English first, human nature would suggest that most people will just read the English and move on, especially when social messages only show a few lines before a user needs to click “See More.” It can feel a little clunky to include a line on top of the message telling the user that this is a bilingual message (like we often see in email marketing), so consider this when you’re deciding which language goes first. Of course, how you do this will depend on your organisation, your target audience, your campaign and your message. There is no “one size fits all” approach.

Welsh Government have some guidelines around bilingual communication and marketing best practices which may be of use to you. You can read them HERE. Every organisation’s exact requirements will be different, of course, and some of this work will also depend on whether or not your organisation is required to adhere to the Welsh Language Standards.

Ready to talk about bilingual social media content best practice? We’re able to offer training around this, or we can work with you on your bilingual content creation requirements.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 We get Wales, we get bilingualism, we get bilingual social media content. No translation workflows, no translation costs, no translation tick box exercises - Just genuine, bilingual work which hits the mark.

Why not get started with a full social media audit?

👋 Let’s chat!