Fidelity creates multi-cultural Web sitesWill CurtisMultilingual mortgage resources America is a land of many cultures. During the first two decades of this century, new immigrants formed the majority of our urban population. Italian and Irish immigrants clustered in the Northeastern corridor. Norwegians, Finns, Danes and Germans created their own enclaves in the Midwest. Polish immigrants transformed Chicago into the second-largest Polish city in the world. The Japanese gathered in Los Angeles and Honolulu, while Jewish immigrants were once overwhelmingly located in New York. All of these groups have assimilated into American society at their own rate. Despite having been in the United States for a long time, many cultures find tremendous value in preserving their cultural traditions and languages. According to the U.S. Census, nearly one in every five families in the United States speaks a language other than English at home. Languages spoken at home (2000 U.S. Census) English—82.105 percent Spanish—10.710 percent Chinese (all spoken varieties)—0.78 percent French (including Patois and Cajun)—0.627 percent German—0.527 percent Tagalog—0.467 percent Vietnamese—0.385 percent Italian—0.384 percent Korean—0.341 percent Russian—0.269 percent Polish—0.254 percent Arabic—0.234 percent Portuguese/Portuguese Creole—0.215 percent Japanese—0.182 percent Today's successful marketing professionals appreciate our country's many cultures and communicate with each of them on their own terms. People who speak English as a second language represent a large and growing customer base that cannot be overlooked, especially for anyone doing business in the real estate industry. Right now, the agencies and Mortgage Brokers have a major opportunity to reach out to minority homebuyers. Asian-American and Latino homeownership rates lag behind the 75.8 percent homeownership rate of whites (non-Hispanics), according to the 2005 U.S. Census Bureau statistics, and this completely defies the fact that Asian-Americans have the highest education and income levels. Fidelity National Title Group is using multi-cultural marketing to narrow this gap and increase sales. The title insurance company contracted Yamagata America to translate its customer Web sites into Spanish, traditional Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. Since February 2007, they have had more than 61,000 visitors. "English is a second language for many of our customers," said Pablo Wong, Fidelity senior vice president of market development. "These Web sites allow them to access often complicated information in the language most comfortable to them. The content seamlessly blends the subtle nuances of their native tongues with technical real estate, title and escrow information." "Fidelity's in-language Web sites are an excellent resource for the many Asian-Americans and Latinos who prefer receiving information in their native languages. Navigating through the home-buying process and the real estate industry can be difficult. The Web sites are a prime example of providing better and more resources for the multi-cultural communities we serve," said Betty Wong, president of the Chinese Real Estate Association of America. Localization for real estate Multi-cultural communications are critical for brokers and other real estate professionals, but simple translations are just the beginning. Copy should accurately reflect the regional nuances and cultural traditions of its customers, whether they live in China or Florida. Yamagata, which offers full translation and localization services in more than 40 different languages, helped Fidelity send just the right message. "Our linguistic experts are ideally suited to translate content for Fidelity's customers," said Rufus Ho, a Yamagata America project manager specializing in localization. "In addition to living in the United States and having complete mastery of English and the target languages, they all have significant experience with real estate and title insurance terms." Getting the industry's terminology right is vital. All marketing content, from product brochures to Web sites, should be translated so that customers can understand and relate to it. From word selection to typeface choice, it needs to make the targeted audience feel like a company really knows them. English has become a common language for people around the world. As a result, translating copy from English to other languages sometimes involves leaving certain terms in English. Especially in Asian markets, words like "memory," "holidays," "Christmas" and "love" should remain in English, simply because they just look and sound trendy. "The real estate industry uses many culture-specific terms that should remain English to preserve original meaning," said Ho. "Whether the word should be translated, it is strictly based on the client, but we always discuss this with our client and recommend the best way to convey the true meaning of its original contents. As we build up the terminology preference and its multi-lingual lists, such information can be used for Web sites, as well as printed materials sales/marketing collateral." Will Curtis is a freelance writer with Whole Product Marketing and has covered business localization, marketing strategies and printing for more than seven years. He may be reached at (714) 349-7976 or e-mail [email protected].