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In a market full of translators, translation agencies and translation directories one is forgiven for feeling confused as to where to go and who to use. Finding a good translation service or translator is a key business decision that should not be taken lightly.
The need for reputable translation agencies and translators to take out professional indemnity insurance is in itself an indication that things can and do go wrong, sometimes with heavy financial consequences.
Financial losses may occur through using a poor translation service or translator in a number of ways. For example, a badly translated business document, such as a contract or proposal, can have a devastating effect if a business decision has been based on faulty information. A brochure or advertising campaign that has not taken into consideration local cultures can lead to a huge dent in an advertising budget with only negative PR as the result. The possibilities for something to go wrong are endless.
A good translation service or translator will be able to provide you with a solid background in translation, a good network of translators to provide proof-reading in addition to the straight forward translation and an understanding of the cultural impact of language and translation.
Cultural Applicability or Linguistic Screening is a process whereby the translation service will examine your text, brochure or advertisement and ensure that none of the words, images, photos or even brand name translate badly into the target audience.
The following translations are all examples of what happens when a good translation service is not used.
* Clairol didn't test market in Germany the name of its "Mist-Stick" - a mist-producing hair curling iron. Mist translates in German as "excrement" and a "manure-stick" did not draw much interest.
* A new facial cream with the name "Joni"; was proposed to be marketed in India. They changed the name since the word translated in Hindi meant "female genitals."
* In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into "Schweppes Toilet Water."
* Scandinavian Vacuum manufacturer Electrolux translated the following in an American ad campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."
* Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine.
* Coors had its slogan, "Turn it loose", translated into Spanish, where it became "Suffer from diarrhoea."
...or when you take the D.I.Y. approach to translation:
* In a Belgrade hotel elevator: To move the cabin, push the button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.
* In a Yugoslavian hotel: The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.
* In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers: Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.
* In an East African newspaper: A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.
* In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all directions.
* At a Budapest zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.
Although comical, the above examples perfectly demonstrate how easy it is for your translation to cause you problems. It is crucial one understands fully what their needs and requirements are when it comes to translating a piece of work.
Ask yourself the following before commissioning any translation service with a piece of work:
1) What is the nature of the document or text? Why does it need to be translated? Who will use it or read it?
2) Does it really need translating? Can it be summarised for gist instead?
3) Can diagrams, pictures or maps be used to replace text which may be too descriptive or complex?
4) Will it be used abroad or by people from differing cultures? Even if a piece of work is going to be used by American, Australian and British personnel ensure that a Cultural Applicability test is performed.
These basic measures can help avoid translation blunders and ensure your translation service provider understands fully the nature of the piece of work.