Challenges arise whenever translation services are needed. However, certain forms of communication present more challenges than others. Straightforward text that is instructional or informative requires a different focus than something like advertising copy.
Advertising is often focused on inspiring a feeling, a mood or an attitude in addition to an action. It is layered in a complex way that an instructional manual lacks. Humor is often used to great effect in advertising. In addition, advertising copy often relies heavily on pop culture references and other cultural cues to gain relevance to the readers. It strives to meet the target audience where they are in life and speak to them as they might speak to one another. Advertising presents a unique and challenging project for any translator.
Because advertising creates such a challenge, machine translators just cannot handle the job sufficiently. “Dictionary definition” translations can create embarrassing errors that are then viewed on a global stage. A translator must be well-versed in the areas of culture and custom as well as language and it helps to have a creative mind for problem-solving, too.
Obviously, language skills are a necessity for translating ad copy. The translator should have extensive knowledge of both the source language and the target. This prevents errors and mistranslations that could confuse the target audience or embarrass the advertiser. But language skills are not the only requirement. Knowledge of local customs and the culture are just as important as an understanding of idioms and syntax.
Local culture and customs can have a huge influence on advertisements. The translators must have a solid understanding of the target language’s culture. He needs to create copy that conveys the same feelings or motivations in a way that is understandable and relatable to the target audience without being offensive.
The translator needs to create copy that conveys the same feelings or motivations in a way that is understandable and relatable to the target audience without being offensive.
Matters of cultural offense are no laughing matter. What is funny in one culture can be deeply offensive in another. Products can be banned in certain countries if their ads are considered too crude or too suggestive for the culture. The result can be devastating to a company. It’s up to the translation experts to highlight anything that might be deemed inappropriate for the customs of the target market.
This effect can often be seen in the adjustments and alterations of ad campaigns from US English to certain Middle Eastern languages and some Asian dialects as well. The standards of public behavior in these burgeoning markets differ drastically from those of Western countries. Advertisers must walk a very fine line to avoid failures in translation in these areas.
A creative mind is required to circumvent such issues. Problem-solving skills are necessary for this kind of translation. The translator may be tasked with finding alternatives to the advertiser’s slogans or text that will be acceptable in the cultural mores of the target audience.
Advertisements are meant to evoke a particular response. Effective translation will help the advertiser make the same call to action in another language or even several languages. A human mind is needed to make sure that call is heard and interpreted in the way the advertiser intended.