Mirrors of their cultures, languages reflect the daily lives of their speakers. From the dozens of Eskimo -Aleut words for snow to Hawaiians’ sixteen kinds of waves, these national lexicons are cultural treasure chests for linguists. But they’re also booby traps for unwary non-native speakers! This is where professional translators―like the staff at Trusted Translations―are worth their weight in gold, especially in today’s hyper-connected markets.
The Online World Is Multicultural
A linguistic melting pot, the internet raises challenges for almost all translators in today’s hyper-connected world. Thanks to global trade flows and 24/7 internet access, many translators pursue cultural neutrality in their texts.
Expected to surmount cultural barriers, translators working for MNCs often strive for a cultural output. This is because the core concepts that underpin societies and drive consumption must be respected, ensuring that international businesses comply with local customs.
What Are Linguistic Nuances?
Creeds, clothes, and cuisines vary widely, with their descriptions known as cultural nuances. These subtle shades in meaning must always be taken into account when translating and localizing content.
Many campaigns and websites make little sense when translated straight and literally into another people’s language, showing that this information is not tailored to their specific needs and preferences. Word-for-word translations are frequently viewed as disrespectful and mocked for cultural deafness.
Companies That Overlooked Linguistic Nuances
Despite a shared common heritage and official language, slogans and campaigns may resonate differently across regions. Even for bicultural executives, understanding multiple markets and audiences can be challenging. However, familiarity with local quirks is particularly important when translating marketing materials. Here’s why:
- Back in 1987, Braniff Airlines translated its catchy Fly in leather tagline for the Latin American market. But in Mexico, Vuela en cuero means Fly in bare skin, which was certainly not the intended message.
- Britain’s HSBC bank tripped on a linguistic nuance when its ‘Assume Nothing’ slogan went global. But its literal translation was rendered as ‘Do Nothing’ in several languages―not a good look for a global financial service provider.
When in Doubt, Go Native
Native translators understand these many different cultural nuances, aware of the negative impacts caused by clumsy wording. So cross-border businesses actually save money and preserve their brands by hiring qualified native speakers to translate and localize their content.
This is because localizing content means far more than just translating it into a local language. The only sure way to get that ‘native’ tone is by hiring translators who understand cultural distinctions between regions and nations.
Why Nuances Matter in Translation
The source context of a phrase or sentence should be seamlessly transposed into its target context, thus avoiding translations that ring false. The original message should be decontextualized and only then recontextualized into its target languages.
The end product can never convey the message flawlessly if the original context is distorted by a literal translation. A professional translation conveys the same meaning or feeling by transposing the core concept into a foreign language, while keeping the original tone, subtleties, allusions, and even humor.
Other Advantages of Nuanced Translation
Focusing on nuance ensures that all written materials convey exactly the right meaning to their audiences, even at the subconscious level. Linguistic nuances underpin connections with target audiences by using terms, expressions, and ideas that are attuned to local mindsets.
The hidden benefits of a skillfully nuanced translation include growing local markets and developing a keener competitive edge through more effective SEO. Consumer experiences are enhanced, fostering trust and building up customer loyalty.
Perils of DYI Translations
In contrast, trampling roughshod over linguistic nuances is likely to weaken both appeal and accuracy, sullying corporate reputations and impairing brand images. This is particularly important for the high-visibility ‘poor cousins’ of the translation world: signs, menus and instruction manuals.
Often relegated to a quick run through a translation app, there are dozens of websites devoted to these hilarious fails in English. But here’s a sobering thought―English-speaking companies are making exactly the same mistakes in countless other languages by ignoring their linguistic nuances.
But becoming an internet joke is not the path to success for any international business. Amusing to outsiders, these cross-cultural blunders are often off-putting or even offensive to local audiences.
Just ask KFC, whose ‘Finger-lickin’ good’ fried chicken was promoted to Chinese consumers as ‘Eat your fingers off.’ Or Ford, which assured Belgian drivers that ‘Every car has a high-quality corpse’ instead of reliable bodywork.
International Business and Nuanced Translations
Successful localization depends on understanding how subtle nuances in translations are read by their audiences. They establish the cultural frameworks needed to understand messages and their intentions.
Nuance-rich localized content appeals to its targets. This is why smart companies always hire qualified native translators, like the Trusted Translations team. Call us to discover how to avoid these nuanced linguistic pitfalls.
Image by manuluna from Pixabay