Can’t Say Pharaoh Than That

Andrew Morris

Professional writer and translator. Described by his mother as “a genius” and by everyone else as “that Welsh bloke”.

December 7, 2020

Last week I wrote about writing about soap — a new experience for me (the writing, not the soap), but one which involved pleasurable research into a new business and a new lexical universe.

The next client who came along brought a subject that was both closer to home, and yet further away: Egypt. 

Norhan Mohammed is a bright and engaging young translator and interpreter with an entrepreneurial mindset, total fluency in English (and Spanish) and years of experience of living in the Czech Republic (as a child) and the UK (as a university student) as well as her native Cairo. 

In addition to her language services, which are of course familiar ground to me after a decade in the “trade”, Norhan was setting out to offer cultural advice to expats who might be seeking to relocate to Egypt. 

Two challenges present themselves: how to write in a fresh and engaging way about translation services — a way that stands out from the crowd — and how to attack the cultural advice angle in a way that speaks to people’s needs. 

It turns out standing out from the crowd is not so difficult when it comes to the websites of freelance translators, as 99% of them make the same broad mistake — writing only about themselves, their passion for languages, and their services. A felicitous mix, perhaps, but one in which the client figures precisely nowhere. 

And as we all know, people visit websites with a view to finding out how a service or product can help them — in search of benefits, therefore, rather than mere features. 

In the case of people seeking translations into Arabic, it makes sense therefore to start by researching a few facts that might actually interest the client. I came up with a list of six, but here are just a couple:

1. Estimates of the number of Arabic speakers in the world vary, but Wikipedia puts it at 422 million in 2020. 

  1. Arabic is the world’s fifth most spoken language, after Mandarin, English, Hindi and Spanish.

To see the others, you’re going to have to visit the website of course… I’ll let you know on my Facebook page when it’s published.

Both of these facts raise our awareness of the sheer numbers involved, and thus the business potential. That’s a good start…

Of course we want to learn about Norhan (and there’s a whole page devoted to her story on the site), and we want to find out more about her services, but that’s not where we begin. 

We begin with you, the client.

What then follows, about the services, is of course going to highlight all the features translators usually write about — we’re obviously not going to omit all mention of our accurate, efficient, fluent translations. It’s just that we try to reel the client in first with something that actually makes them think, and feel understood and spoken to, as people with wider concerns beyond translation and the story of our lives. 

Similarly, when it comes to cultural services, it’s all very well to know that Norhan provides them…  but wait a minute, we might not even realise we need them. To highlight the necessity, I wrote a case study in which you, as a visitor to Egypt, unwittingly commit a handful of faux pas in your first week, simply for lack of cultural knowledge.

Here’s how it begins: You’ve arrived in Cairo eager to start the next chapter of your life, and your new boss has invited you over for lunch. Unfortunately, you had to refuse yesterday’s invitation, as you just felt too tired after your journey over.  

Did you spot the egregious faux pas already? If so, you win five points. If not, then you clearly need Norhan’s services!

If you’re relocating to Egypt that is…

Anyway, it turned out to be another successful and enjoyable collaboration for Tell My Story. 

And Norhan was happy too:

“Andrew sent me a worksheet with elaborate questions. Based on my answers, he diligently wrote a website copy that makes me proud of myself and my achievements. When I first read it, I went “I want to hire me!”. His questions did not only guide his writing, they also made me consider aspects of my newly founded business that I haven’t considered before. It was really enlightening.”

Norhan Mohammed

Over to you

Care to share your thoughts? Head on down to the comment section.

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