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A Translation Is A Translation Is Not A Translation

July 11, 2011 2 Comments »

Referencing the theme of my last post, this time I will go a little deeper into why using a professional language service provider to market your products and services is an intelligent choice. Previously, I demonstrated the benefits of using translation services to the growing Latino market sectors in the US, while discussing localization using the example advertisement in Puerto Rico.

A translation is not always just a translation.  As an Account Manager, I strive to understand as much as possible about each translation project in order to provide not only a simple translation, but one catered to the intended the audience.  The concept of providing translation services also considering the geographical and cultural perspectives of the audience is called “localization”.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the AT&T ad in Puerto Rico is a perfect example of ignoring localization.  The ad had been translated from English into Spanish. Grammatically speaking, it made perfect sense.  Their mistake lied in not taking into account the cultural nuances of their Puerto Rican audience.  The end result was creating a household situation that was very unlikely and perhaps even offensive.

Here’s another example of lack of localization with an early computer operating system in the 1980’s with something as simple as a desktop icon.  The same icon Americans interpreted to be the trash can appeared to be more of a mailbox to Europeans.  This example clearly shows that while European clients were intended to by the products, no one seemed to be consulted before the software was green lighted.  While this is a small, subtle example, it shows the importance of not throwing your trash in the mailbox, or really understanding who you’ll be communicating with through the sale of products and services.

While the importance of localization services can be easily demonstrated using marketing examples, it’s actually important for all translations.  Considering who you’ll be talking to and where they will be is important in any type of communication.  Some details that may appear small and subtle in some languages or cultures can often be glossed over when not considering the target audience.  Moreover, these services should be provided by and discussed with professionals who understand these nuances that help you conduct business in the easiest, most effective way.    We are a big world and, while many people may speak English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi or Arabic, we do not all think the same, act the same or approach life similarly.

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