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What Does Culture Have to do with Translations
by Terralíngua      Posted in  November 14, 2013
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What Does Culture Have to do with TranslationsTranslation is not a concept in vacuum, but is invariably a culturally mediated notion especially relevant for global businesses targeting new cultural destinations. For instance, if you want to translate English into Spanish, the words and expressions translated must be culturally compatible, because the literal translation may at times sound ridiculous or may not make sense at all.

Need of translating in local languages

Big multinational companies wanting to reach across diverse cultures have indispensable translation needs. While English is pretty much a universal language, companies get their promotional material translated into multiple languages because they need to reach across different cultures and they need to establish a connection with their diverse clients.

So, pretty much every company wants to get the their product brochures and manuals translated from English into Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, French, German, Russian, Hindi, and several other languages. Translation services help in promotional strategies of a company.

The most successful companies are the ones that are not only able to reach the international market, but also to make an impact. Language is one huge barrier in having the right promotional strategy. However, the same language can turn into an asset for a company with right translation service, so the customers begin to understand the products intimately because it is in their mother language.

Avoiding translation mistakes

Translation mistakes can leave you laughing, but could entail enormous loss to the company represented by the translation. Their image could take a beating that may be difficult to retrieve in the short term. Translation mistakes send the wrong message across. It implies that you not only made a half-hearted attempt at translation, but also that you are only after money. Translation from English into Spanish or any other language should faithfully reflect the cultural touch to be meaningful.

The translator should also bear in mind that literal, word for word translation can change the meaning of a message. Often a dictionary may not be of much help in cases involving technical translations. Translators should be aware with regional variations in different dialects. For instance English into Spanish translation of bus is “autobus” but it becomes “guagua” in Puerto Rican version of Spanish.

Literal translation often distorts the meaning to ludicrous extent. For instance, the menu in a Swiss restaurant translated in English claimed “Our wines leave you nothing to hope for”. Surely, all it wanted to claim was their wines are so good that nothing can compare with the feeling.

Dealing with cultural incompatibility

Cultural incompatibility is a frequently faced issue in translations, not just from English into Spanish translation, but almost every translation. Brands and products often move into the other country without a clear understanding of the native culture. Translation of slang is often the most problematic issue. Therefore, translators should preferably be from the same culture where any product is being introduced. In addition, the work they do should pass through several filters before final adoption.

Reaching your target audience in the right way

When you have to reach your international target audience, you need to break the language and cultural barriers effectively. It is obvious that translation plays a critical role in this task. The translation should not appear like translation but direct communication. For instance, your English into Spanish translation should not appear to the native that it is a translation, but they should perceive it as a direct communication from the native company.

A small mistake could be hugely embarrassing, and the connection with the target audience is immediately lost. For instance “Tegro” a fat loss product was about to be introduced in France, when it was discovered that it sounded like “tes’gros” which means you’re fat!

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