One of the most difficult tasks that translators face is dealing with culturally specific content, such as idioms. Each language, in regular informal speech, contains a plethora of phrases that are completely lost in translation. We see this especially when marketing material is translated.
The role of transcreation
Marketing materials, often containing slogans and taglines, are designed to speak to a particular audience. Due to cultural differences, companies need to take special care when presenting branding message cross-culturally. However, because of the creative and visible nature, marketing material often goes through the process of transcreation which differs greatly from technical translation. Transcreated material looks at a particular cultural audience and tries to recreate not only the message but the same feeling and tone that the source material is trying to portray. If you look back on a previous CSOFT blog, Transcreation and Why Translation Matters, they provide some interesting examples of when the translation of movie titles failed miserably.
Logos, slogans or tag-lines, and promotional materials need to be tailored. Often, a slogan that works well in one culture translates into something with a completely different meaning, and one that is not intended. These subtle nuances and not so subtle idiomatic expressions, create quite a challenge.
For life sciences, this presents some unique challenges. Health and personal care products often take different approaches than other industries. Given the personal nature in itself, the attitudes cross-culturally can be vastly different. What may convey a message of excitement with one audience, may be embarrassing for another.
I came across an interesting blog post from 2015, that I wanted to share with you. TED talks were translated by a group of volunteers into 105 languages, and one challenge was how to deal with translating various idioms from English into their respective languages. For fun, translators were asked to share their own favorite idioms and how those would literally translate into English. The ted.com blog article, 40 brilliant idioms that simply can’t be translated literally, is pretty entertaining, enjoy!