Advertising and Translation Services Errors

Jan 14


Armando Riquier

Armando Riquier

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Translation services for advertisements play a key role in new product launches. Having high quality multi-lingual advertising copy is therefore very important to marketing success...

When consumer products are launched on foreign shores,Advertising and Translation Services Errors Articles advertisement plays a big part in boosting awareness and thereby building a broad based market for the product. More often than not, it is the translation service for advertising copy that poses the biggest challenge at the point of launch, as it involves both linguistic as well as cultural adaptation to the target market. In the U.S., for instance, there is a large Hispanic population within the country itself, and there is also a large overseas Hispanic market that American manufacturers would like to have access to. There is plenty of bi-lingual promotional literature including in-flight magazines that contain advertisements, and the occasional faux pas is there for everyone to see, and perhaps some readers may even derive some amusement from them. The word "advertising" itself, when translated to its Spanish equivalent, reads as "propaganda," which has other connotations in English. To be really effective in the face of stiff competition, advertisers rely on high-quality, hard-hitting copy, and consequently are at pains to optimise their effort. Unfortunately, instances of translation bloopers and cultural mismatch are high, which can result in vast sums of advertising outlay going down the drain.There are a number of examples of mis-translations encountered in advertising copy, which goes to show that businesses can't afford to treat the issue of advertisement translation lightly. When Braniff International Airways claimed that they can fly "en cuero" they were talking about the comfy leather seats in the aircraft, but "en cuero" means "naked" in Spanish!Frank Perdue of Perdue Farms claimed that "it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken" translated to Spanish, read that "it takes a sexually aroused man to make a chick affectionate." A pesticide ad carried the promise that their product would kill all kinds of "bichos" -- unfortunately, the word "bichos" also refers to the male genitals.The Swedish furniture giant IKEA christened it's new range of office desks "FARTFULL." "Traficante" an Italian mineral water was well received by Spain's underworld - not surprisingly, because it translates as "drug dealer" in Spanish. Even Parker Pen was not immune to translatorese: when they tried to launch their ballpoint pens in Mexico, the ad was intended to say "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you". Instead, the ads said, "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."The catchy Coors slogan, "Turn it loose", when translated into Spanish, read as "Suffer from diarrhea."The operating instructions for a German made refrigerator gave this instruction:"WARNING - THIS APPLIANCE MUST BE EARTHED." While this makes perfect sense to anyone accustomed to the British style of speaking English, an American would conjure up visions of a pot of soil to be placed by the side of the fridge. It is more appropriate to use the word "grounded" rather than "earthed" in American English.An American company used the "OK" finger sign on its product catalogue, blissfully unaware that it was regarded as an obscene gesture in many parts of Latin America. The catalogues had to be reprinted six months down the line.In recent years, there has been a heightened demand for language translation services, with English-to-Spanish (and vice versa) taking precedence over other language pairs. Spanish advertisement translation services are in especially great demand, owing to the large Hispanic population in the U.S. As a result, Spanish translators, linguists, and graphic artists are some of the busiest people in the translation services industry today.

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