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Emoji translation: Here’s why you should be localising emojis

If your text is translated, you need to make sure that your emojis convey the correct meaning even across language barriers.

Want to make your clients and customers feel like this 🤗? Then you need to make sure you’re translating and localising your emojis right.

17th July is World Emoji Day. If your reaction looks a little like this 🤷, then we don’t blame you! We hadn’t heard of it, either. It seems lately that emoji use has begun to diffuse across various means of communication, popping up in contexts we may never have previously expected. This, of course, means that emojis will soon become relevant to you and your business, too. In this article, we want to explain how and why you need to be using emojis in your brand communication.

First created in 1999 by a Japanese artist, emojis were initially introduced to “convey information in a simple, succinct way” – and this still rings true today. By 2007, emojis had begun to be recognised by the Unicode Consortium: a non-profit company which strives to maintain a linguistic standard across digital platforms. In 2015, the importance of emojis as an essential communication tool started to truly come to light, with the option to diversify skin tones implemented, as well as the introduction of more varied gender roles. But why was this development so fundamental?

Emojis in the workplace – yay or nay?

Over the past few years, as the number of remote workers has started to rise, and companies have shifted themselves comfortably into the digital world, emojis have begun also to leak out of WhatsApp group chats and creep into the workplace. They are peppered through company emails as frequently as full stops and exclamation marks. In fact, people have actually started to use emojis as additional punctuation, with 61% of people using emojis in a professional and work-based context.

These tiny images are actually much more important than they may seem – and not just from a linguistic point of view. To celebrate World Emoji Day this year, we want to talk about the way emojis have been moving society forward, championing clear communication and inclusivity, and allowing all users to express themselves.

Read on to discover how emojis have become an essential communication tool in both in and out of the workplace, and why you should make sure your emoji use is well-translated and expertly localised.

Love at first sight: using visual communication tools

Society is becoming more digital by the minute. Perhaps accelerated by the recent pandemic, much of human communication is now done online or remotely – whether that’s via instant messenger, email, or video call. For this reason, visual communication has become essential to effective online communication and marketing efforts – both in-house and when communicating with customers.

Not only has the use of visual communication tools such as emojis been proven to incite better memory retention in readers (an essential factor when it comes to branding and brand identity), but it can also help readers to process information more quickly. This is particularly helpful for fast-paced scrollers! Similarly, emoji use has been proven also to boost engagement on social media, adding nuance and emotion to well-written copy, and allowing the personality of your company or brand to shine through where words just won’t cut it.

Because of this, emojis, and other means of visual communication, are used primarily to provide context to words which could otherwise be misconstrued. It’s so easy for a reader to interpret a written message depending on their own mood – just think of how different a text ended with a full stop feels when compared to one with an exclamation mark! Where face-to-face contact is not possible, emojis are fast becoming the next best thing. In fact, when the right emoji is used, it can actually hold more meaning than the words it accompanies.

Emojis across borders

But what happens when you don’t localise your emoji use? Just as there can be mistakes and faux-pas in translations and spoken language, the wrong emoji can actually hinder your localisation and communication efforts. Symbols, gestures, and expressions can greatly differ across cultural borders – so, logically, the same goes for emojis, too.

Let’s take the humble thumbs-up emoji 👍, for example. Although widely understood in Western culture as a sign of approval, agreement, or encouragement, a thumbs-up is actually a vulgar, sometimes offensive gesture in Middle Eastern culture. Similarly, the angel emoji 👼 is often used to portray innocence or modesty. In Chinese culture, however, the angel can be seen as a threatening symbol of death.

If your text is translated, you need to make sure that your emojis convey the correct meaning even across language barriers. The best way to overcome this? By ensuring your text – and its accompanying emojis – is expertly-localised! Before publishing, do your research into the various meanings and interpretations of different emojis, and make sure that you’re using the right emojis for your target market.

But why does emoji translation and localisation matter?

We’ve already established that emojis are an essential tool in modern communication, allowing users to give context and self-expression to their text. But what if your customers or readers can’t find an emoji that correctly reflects them? For example: a 2019 survey found that only two-thirds of Gen-Z identify as being heterosexual. This means that roughly 30% of users would not feel that they could identify with a number of the love- and relationship-centric emojis on offer. This, however, has recently changed, as the range of emojis begins to diversify in terms of skin tone, gender, sexuality, and more.

If there’s anything we’ve learnt over the past few years, it’s that diversity and representation matter when it comes to communication. As emoji use continues to grow, becoming more diffused across various platforms, it’s important that every member of society feels seen and understood – and this should be recognised across the various forms of communication in your business. This will allow your brand to connect with customers on a more personal level, reach a wider range of readers, and ensure that the message of your copy is crystal-clear.

While the world continues to go digital, emoji use is becoming a fundamental form of communication, allowing companies and users to dip their toes into a wider selection of cultures, and to reach a larger range of readers. That’s why it’s more important than ever to consider cultural borders, making sure your emoji use is localised and well-planned, translating well from one language to another – and this is where we step in! Contact us today for a professional localisation quote, and make sure your emojis are as wonderfully diverse as your customers and readers.

SwissGlobal is more than just a translation company. It has mastered the interplay between content, technology and resources to create holistic language solutions that put you and your unique requirements first. Read our blog post: What does “More than a translation company” actually mean?