Adding value to your message

Creative translation, worth more than words can say

Copywriters can spend a great deal of time producing slick advertising and marketing words in their own language. But it may all go wrong when the text is sent for translation. Clever phrases might not work in the target language. The smart allusion may cause confusion. There is a risk of causing offence, or even breaking the law.

When two or more languages appear together, each should influence the others, to avoid problems such as mismatched headings, unbalanced text or awkward wording.

Sometimes packaging or advertising text will have been designed to reflect local trends or consumer regulations that mean nothing to a foreign reader. A copywriter may believe that copy produced for the USA will not suit the British, but he or she might – without a second thought – commission an English-language advertisement to be directly translated into Japanese, with possibly catastrophic results.

Your words – and sometimes even the original concept – may need to be re-invented to fit a completely different cultural and literary environment.

Japan, where your advertising may need to send a completely different message

Japan, where your advertising may need to send a completely different message

So, when the text is for advertising or other promotional material, extra effort is often required to translate it into words that are culturally appropriate, will suit the target audience – and have the same impact as the original idea.

This is ‘localisation’. It involves creative input beyond the scope of a standard translation. Getting it wrong can be expensive. ‘Come alive with Coke’ did not look so clever in its Chinese version, which advised that ‘Coke brings your ancestors back from the dead’. A Vauxhall Nova advertisement went down like a lead balloon in Spain because there, the model name means it ‘doesn’t go’.

Pictures are also important. For example, a German computer company selling hotel management systems supplied us with a motif featuring an attractive woman accompanied by three Afghan hounds, at a hotel reception desk. That would have been deeply offensive to the Moslem target audience. We turned the dogs into suitcases.

 Cost Estimator

Language combination
Word count
in original document?
Estimated final word count
Estimated cost
(approximate conversion)