A good translator must sometimes make a prawn from a radish
A good translator must sometimes make a prawn from a radish
This really happened: during a visit to Japan, the former President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Wałęsa, told a joke about communists, comparing them to radishes – red on the outside and white on the inside. He did not know that radishes in Japan are white. Fortunately, his translator had knowledge of this fact and quickly decided to change radishes into shrimps whilst translating.
This example illustrates the challenges faced by translators on a daily basis, despite the fact that we live in an era of widely available machine translations getting better and better constantly. Not many know this, but there are still areas with which the computer algorithm cannot cope, and translations made by humans are unrivalled. For instance the belles-lettres literature. Or marketing texts.
“BALAJCZA translates marketing texts into 23 languages!” – reported one of last year’s newsletters from the Balajcza Linguistic Services company from Warsaw. In another bulletin, we learn that “We are pleased to inform you that BALAJCZA has done another translation project in Hindi. This time, we translated marketing slogans from Polish into Hindi”. Balajcza translation company, which specializes in inter alia translations of marketing passages for all markets around the globe, collaborates with a global network of over 1.500 translators, among which a large group consists of native speakers. They are the ones who are the best in fulfilling the task of “adapting texts in a foreign language to local conditions, so that they sound natural and, of course, are correct in terms of marketing expressions in a given country”, we read further in the Balajcza newsletter.
Marketing texts are usually requested by clients entering foreign markets or introducing new products or services. Due to the rich vocabulary that may apply to all spheres of life, as well as the creativity of the message, they are one of the greatest challenges in the translation industry. In order to reach the recipient in a foreign country, the translator must first and foremost know his language perfectly. This might help avoid language traps which websites like Engrish.com eagerly describe. Nonetheless, this is not enough. The translator should also be acquainted with the recipient: he should know how to address him, what kind of a lifestyle he prefers, what values are inviolable in his culture, etc. This is of particular importance in the case of translations between languages of countries and cultures, which are very different from each other, for example the countries of Europe and Asia. Lack of knowledge about the realities, in which the marketing campaign’s recipient lives, can easily lead to failure. The likelihood of the rejection of a product or a service by the potential consumer if the message was incomprehensible, offensive or laughed at, is very high. Plus, an unsuccessful translation may be used in one of the many marketing blogs in the “Worst failed advertising translations” or “Another slip-up of multicultural brands” section.
Regardless of the type of text, the translation should always sound natural to the recipient. This is why it is easier to translate into our mother tongue. ”At university, this was the message we were given –the translator always translates into his native language unless he is completely bilingual, because he lived in a multilingual family or in both countries”, claims one of the French translators cooperating with Balajcza Linguistic Services. But of course this does not mean that there are no outstanding translators who can handle translations as well as native ones. “I think that this is a matter of sensitivity, which is acquired only through a deep knowledge of the mentality of the country’s inhabitants. To translate a language, you must translate the culture “, adds Balajcza’s translator.
Translating into French? But which one?
Our world is not that simple: in many cases, languages cannot be attributed to only one country and one culture. The same language can be used by residents in various countries and on different continents. Then, it is subject to local influences and it differs, to a greater or lesser extent, from the variant considered to be the standard one. The French language stands for a good example. Due to historical reasons, it has its main varieties in Belgium, Canada and in African countries. In light of this, the concept of a native translator becomes less obvious. A language variation becomes an additional factor that a company such as Balajcza must consider when choosing a translator for certain order realizations. A French translator coming from the Canadian province of Quebec would most likely not be the ideal candidate to translate a text intended for French-speaking Belgians. But perhaps, if he had been living in Belgium for sometime …
Be prepared for anything
Founded in 2010 in Warsaw, Balajcza Linguistic Services currently serves 250 language combinations. It is not a closed catalog, the company is willing to take new challenges in response to market and customer needs, which are difficult to forecast and depend on trends in the global economy, global political situation, population migration, unforeseen events, etc. One thing is certain: according to the 22nd Ethnologue edition, the language database of SIL international organization, currently there are 7111 languages in use in the world. Despite the controversy lately surrounding SIL International, which is accused of missionary activity in local communities, such a large number of living languages and their constant evolution remain true facts. Languages are dying out, coming back to use, spreading, mixing with each other. Most of them will probably never be the subject of an order in a translation company located in Central Europe. If it did though, Balajcza’s clients can expect the highest quality of services, and recipients of the translation can hope for a text, which sounds natural to them. Nobody should be persuaded that radishes are red on the outside, and white on the inside, if it is just not true.