Trust the traitor to translate it right
Published on June 7th, 2010 by Aileen Abella
Case in point: During the 1987 Miss Universe Pageant, Inés María Calero said, in Spanish, that her favorite dish to make was ropa vieja. The translator told the audience that the Miss Venezuela contestant liked to cook “old clothes.” That was the literal translation, but in fact it’s a very common Cuban dish consisting of shredded beef in a tomato-based sauce. Although she received 3rd place, the translator’s faux pas may have cost her the crown.
For translation services, accuracy is key, but the understanding of local and cultural nuances, innuendos and colloquialisms are equally as important.
Spanish, in particular, has different written indicators that dictate how the word is pronounced. For instance, depending on the accent mark and capitalization, the same word in Spanish — papá, papa or Papa — can be translated as either your pop, a potato or the pontiff. The more-common Spanish errors include forgoing accent marks and omitting tildes (the squiggles off the ñ). How could you leave the stem off the q? What a ouestion!
These subtle translation mistakes can ruin a corporate brand, embarrass a multinational company and tarnish a well-established reputation.
Most professional translators will not make these kinds of mistakes. However, if they do not understand client expectations or are not familiar with a product or process, a translation can sound stiff and even ridiculous. The worst feedback a client can give is “This doesn’t sound like it was written by a native speaker.”
On the flip side, it is equally important for clients to be aware of the role of their translators and to actively participate in the translation process. On that note, here are a few things to keep in mind:
The role of the translator
- Translators work “into” their native languages. For example, a native German speaker would translate from English “into” German.
- The “source” language is the language that translators translate from, while “target” language is the opposite.
- Translators who are fluent in their source languages (e.g., English, in the US) are effective bridges between the languages in which they work.
- Translators render the translations in their target languages, staying true to the original texts — in their meaning, style, tone and context.
- Translators do not add style or editorial flare, “transcreate” documents, interpret or create branding images for the target audiences.
- A translator can comfortably translate 100 words-per-hour, not including research, editing and proofreading. Anything faster would sacrifice quality for quantity.
How can clients involve themselves in their translation projects?
- Provide a glossary: Clients can provide a glossary of terms in the target languages or refer to documents that exemplify how they like their terms translated. Translators love this because it takes the guesswork out of their jobs.
- Ask for prior approval: At Marketwire, we are able to use our global network to provide translations for our clients. So, as far as translated press releases go, domestic companies will often request that prior approval of the translation be given to their satellite office in the targeted country. If an American client has a local office in France, for example, the client can request that the French translation is sent there for prior approval, not only to avoid “Miss Universe-type” miscommunications, but to add linguistic flare and style to the final version before distribution.
- Provide translation resource: Similarly, clients can provide us with access to employees in satellite offices in those frequently targeted countries to use as local resources.
For more tips on proactively managing your translation projects, contact your local Marketwire Account Executive. Marketwire can help create your glossaries, keep reference documents on file and work with your team to convey the right message.