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Transcreation services: How to avoid embarrassing translation mistakes

Published on December 12th, 2018

We have published multiple articles on this blog with examples of when transcreation could have saved major brands like Nike and Mercedes-Benz from embarrassing translation mistakes.

These are only the high-profile cases that create headlines, too – there are countless times when brands of all sizes get themselves into trouble with some questionable translation. So, in this article, we are going to show you how transcreation can keep you from making the same kind of mistakes.

Transcreation: A more creative approach to translation

The key to transcreation is the creative adaptation of language in cases where direct translations do not have the intended meaning or impact on your audience. This is particularly common when you have marketing material or highly creative pieces of content that use rich language – such as metaphors, puns or suggestive meanings.

These creative devices are going to be lost in the translation process, as we have seen in examples such as Ford releasing the Pinto in Brazil. “Pinto” is slang in Brazilian Portuguese for a less than impressive manhood and, surprisingly, this did not become a hit with males (or females for that matter) until Ford adapted the model’s name to “Corcel” (horse) for Brazil.

Nobody in Brazil was buying a Pinto to compensate for anything, that is for sure.

This may sound like an extreme example, but these cases are incredibly common and these translation mistakes have a nasty habit of coming up with crude, rude or simply outrageous meanings in another language.

Some brands can afford to take the hit on mistakes like these but a lot of businesses never recover from making a bad impression with overseas audiences.

How to avoid these embarrassing mistakes

If you are translating documents like user manuals, case studies or textbooks, then you should be fine with translation. However, as soon as you are looking at anything like marketing material, video ads, company slogans or product names, transcreation needs to be at the center of everything you do.

Here is how it is going to save you from translation disasters.

  • Forget about literal translation: Instead of striving for the most accurate meaning word-to-word, transcreation focuses on the broader meaning of your content and the impact it aims to make.
  • Focus on the result: You are translating content because you want your audience to do something – visit your website, buy something, use a product safely or feel a certain way about your brand, for example – and this is more important than the specific wording you use.
  • Pay attention to phonetics: Brand names, product names and slogans might sound like something unintended in another language.
  • Mind your slang: We have already looked at how Ford got this one wrong – do not make the same mistake.
  • Double meanings: Translations can often look safe at a glance until you realise there is an unfortunate double meaning.
  • Check your stereotypes: Stereotypes are central to all forms of storytelling but these can vary in different cultures around the world.
  • Get local feedback: Always test your translations with local sample audiences and get feedback before publishing anything.

With transcreation, you have got all these points covered and the security of knowing your content is going to have the impact you want it to in foreign-speaking markets. All you have to do is look at how brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have turned themselves into truly global names by adapting their brands for new markets like Vietnam and South Korea where they essentially had to start again from nothing.

They achieved the success they have, because they went right back to the drawing board and adapted their entire brands to make the desired impact with each local audience. This is exactly what transcreation is all about; connecting with overseas audiences on a much deeper level than words alone.

If you think translation mistakes could be holding back your brand in foreign-speaking markets, get in touch with our team of language experts to find out how transcreation can change the way you do business overseas.

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Posted on: December 12th, 2018