Contributed by Peter R. Geyer
There is an old marketing tale (that is handily debunked here) about how back in the 1970s Chevrolet tried to market the Nova automobile in Mexico, only to find that it sold poorly. When they looked into the matter, they discovered that “Nova” in Spanish could be read as “no va” which roughly means “doesn’t go.”
While it turns out that this story is not actually true, it does demonstrate the usefulness of having somebody familiar with your new overseas target market actually review your product, its marketing, and its positioning prior to release. What may seem like an awesome name or marketing strategy in one language or culture, may actually end up sending all the wrong signals in another language or culture. Even the best product in the world can be an unnecessary burden if it unintentionally sends the wrong signals to its international customer base.
Do you remember when the theatrical show STOMP hit the scene in the early ‘90s and – suddenly – every advertisement had the same percussive stomping audio track? No matter whether it was cars or sports shoes (maybe even bathroom cleaner?), for a while there, it seemed like one advertising agency was using the same ad format and sound for all of its clients.
For businesses that create content for other businesses, how do you avoid having all of your clients’ materials sound exactly the same?
I’m going to let you in on a big secret: Not every business needs to translate its entire website in order to reach customers that don’t speak their native language.
On a sheet of paper, make a list in one column for all of the pages on your website. Each of these pages is a way to reach out to customers, right? Do you have some landing pages online? Include those, too. Continue reading
I find translating for businesses to be extremely rewarding – I have the opportunity to help my clients reach new markets for their services. But it’s also very challenging work.
“Lost in Translation” is not just a movie. It’s a problem that translators regularly face. Some things just don’t make sense when you simply substitute a word in one language for its counterpart word in the source text.
Here are the four biggest obstacles I’ve faced in translation, and how I overcame them.
One – Idioms
An idiom is a common expression in a language that doesn’t literally mean what the words say. Think of “time flies” or “speaking off the cuff.” What I typically try to do in my translations is to understand what the author is trying to express in his/her own language – the basic, underlying meaning – and then substitute an English-language expression that conveys the same underlying concept. If a German says Daumen drücken!, it would not make sense to an English-speaker if I simply translated it to Thumbs pressed! The phrase is a wish for luck. In English, we might say Fingers crossed! to wish someone luck, so I would use that phrase in my translation, instead.