As a global community, translation plays a big role in ensuring that countries unite, communicate and trade with one another, but what happens when things get lost in translation.
Knowing how to speak two languages is not the same thing as knowing how to translate. Translation is a special skill that professionals work hard to develop.
It is often thought that translation is easy. People often think that it’s just a matter of replacing each source word with the corresponding translated word. Unfortunately, translation is much more complicated than that.
Language is complex; there can be multiple ways of saying the same thing in another language, not to mention things like syntax, grammar, colloquialisms, making the potential for mistakes, huge.
This blog post takes a look at some of the biggest and sometimes funniest translation fails.
- Coca-Cola – In China Coca-Cola was translated as “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax” depending on the dialect. They eventually found the right Chinese characters that are phonetically close to the brand – “ko-kou-ko-le” – which means ‘happiness in the mouth’.
- Parker Pen – In Mexico they translated their slogan: “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” To “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”. The company thought that the word “embarazar” (to impregnate) meant to embarrass.
- Pepsi – The Pepsi slogan, “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” translated in Taiwanese became, “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead”. Which was not only something of bad horror movies but an insult.
- Kentucky Fried Chicken – In China, the KFC slogan “finger-lickin’ good” became “eat your fingers off”. Something that is considered uncivilised and rude in Chinese culture.
- American Airlines – When AA went to advertise their new leather seats they used the slogan, “Fly in Leather”, which they translated in Spanish for the market in Mexico as, “Fly naked”
- Schweppes – In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated into “Schweppes Toilet Water”.
Companies should avoid literal translation as it can cause a whole host of confusion, not to mention a PR disaster.
- Don’t rely on a free online translation service for your business translation. While these tools can be useful to help you translate incoming data, they should never be used for outgoing data.
- Find a translator who is not only fluent in the foreign language, but someone who is a native speaker of that language to translate your marketing materials. A native speaker is less likely to make mistakes, which could impact your businesses reputation.
- Find a translator who is an expert in the foreign country’s culture and customs as well as language. They will avoid an offensive or inappropriate message. A phrase that is common and well known in your native language may be completely meaningless in a foreign language, or worse, it may have a negative connotation.
- Never assume that you can use the same translation for different countries, even if they speak the same language.
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Computers and technology have been designed to help us speed up tasks and processes, save us time and make our lives easier. But there are significant differences between what computers/ technology can do in comparison to humans.
When looking for translation services you will see many translation software adverts all highlighting that they can translate many words quickly, can make grammatical changes as the basic rules of translation and grammar are embedded in its programming. You might think good, problem solved, it’s easy to install and cheaper than paying a human to do it, however, translation software lacks one key ingredient to making it the next best thing. It cannot express the meaning of a sentence, because machines can’t understand context, they run on a strict set of defined rules.
In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of software translation vs human.
The advantages of machine translation:
- Price – Many translation tools are available free of charge such as; Google Translate and Skype Translator
- Fast – Get your translation as quickly as you can type (or copy and paste) your document into a translation tool. It can take minutes rather than hours or days.
- Multiple Languages – You can translate to more than one language using one tool
The disadvantages of machine translation:
- Quality and Accuracy – Generally the level of accuracy of these online tools is very low and often inconsistent across different languages. There is also no quality control process, so unless you have a reader of that language you won’t know if there are any mistakes until you publish the document
- Context – As I have said previously translation software cannot translate context
- It can be dangerous – There are just some things that you would not want to be translated by software without being checked by a human. For example: Translating instructions for medical equipment and aviation manuals would require 100% accuracy as mistakes could cost lives!
The advantages of human translation
- Context – Humans can interpret context, humour, and irony, capturing the same meaning, rather than simply translating words
- Quality Control – Human translators will review their work, proof-read for accuracy and if you use a professional translation service there is likely to be a quality control process in place
- Understanding – Humans can understand the idiosyncratic differences between languages, the use of puns and slang, whereas machines cannot
- Alternative Language – Sometimes the literal translation isn’t possible, a machine would not be able to find a suitable alternative
The disadvantages of human translation
- Cost – Unlike the free software there is a cost associated with translating documents.
- Slow – The turnaround time for translation is longer, but this is because there are often quality control processes in place
Of course, there is always a time and a place for both human translation and translation software for example:
When to use software translation:
- Bulk translate large documents ready for a human translator to improve upon
- You are translating for internal use and 100% accuracy is not required
When to use human translation:
- When accuracy is important
- If your document is to be read by a consumer audience
- When you have a duty of care to your reader e.g. medical manuals
- When translating marketing material and context is important
How to choose between human translation and software translation?
Ask yourself these simple questions:
- Do you care about how my content reads, does it flow well, did you want to use humour or do you want to get the basics of the documents content across as quickly as possible ?
- Are you precious about accuracy or can you live with a few errors?
- Does this translated content reflect my company’s brand or messaging?
We hope that this article gives you some something to consider when it comes to translation services and software.
For more information about the Translation services offered by Fingertips Typing Services click here
To get a professional translation service, you need to research with a certain amount of diligence. As with any service providers, there are good ones and bad ones. You want to make sure your documents are communicated clearly regardless of what language It is, the intended meaning and tone of your document needs to carry across.
A qualified and good translator will not only get the correct words down on the page, but also get across the tone and meaning of the document or written work. Language and communication are complex, and a certified translator should be able to convey your message easily.
Freelance Vs Translation Company
There are a couple of different options on who to hire when it comes to translation services including; a freelance translator or a professional translation company. There are benefits to each.
- Freelance Translators – Thanks to the internet these people can be based anywhere in the world. Pros: Freelance translation often provides the lowest cost option as you will only pay for your translation needs and will avoid extra costs. Cons: Freelance translators are likely to have several clients, so turnaround times for translation may be slower. They may not have quality control processes in place.
- Professional Translation Company – These types of businesses can provide industry-specific translations and translation into multiple languages. They will be able to provide a high-quality translation and consistent turnaround times. Pros: They have established processes for translation and knows what works best as they are experts. Cons: Their services may be higher than that of a freelance contractor. However, this is often due to: quality control processes and management ensuring a high level of accuracy.
What qualities should you look for?
There are so many companies and freelance translators out there but what makes one translation company better than another?
- Certification – This will ensure the quality of your translation, so to get the best results I would recommend that you work with an ISO-certified translation company. The ISO is the International Standards Organisation, who specialise in developing quality standards for businesses. One of the services that the ISO certifies is translation.
- Language Experience – The best translators have fluency in both languages – the one you are translating from and the one you are translating to.
- Industry Expertise – Find a translator or translation company that is familiar with your industry. This will mean that they understand the technical terminology of your industry, so they will be able to convey your message and tone better. They will understand your audience and how to address them.
- Get References – Customer testimonials and case studies are great, see if some are available on their website. Are they from reputable individuals or companies? Ask for contact details of some of their customers so that you can talk to them about their experience.
- Time Scales – How quickly do you need your documents translated? What is your deadline. If you want a quick turnaround it might be better to look for a professional translation agency as they often operate 24/7 and can process new requests at any time of the day or week. Freelance translators may already have work on and are bound by their existing schedules, whereas with a translation company they are likely to be more flexible.
- Quality Control – Having a quality control process in place is important as it will ensure that not only your translation is correct but that the tone and way it is delivered to your audience is correct too. A good QC process includes multiple levels of editing and proofreading.
- Value for money – It may seem more expensive initially to go with a professional transcription company but cheap is not always a good thing as poor translation can have a detrimental effect on your business, damage your reputation and end up costing you more in the long term. High-quality translation is worth paying for as it can improve your business prospects.
If you are looking for Translation Services then speak to Fingertips Typing Services, we have some great professional translators working for us that have experience in many industries. We can turn any document into a professional one. Click here