If I am an Australian consumer of a Chinese product, do I care that the accompanying literature is written in broken English?
“It must have been hard to translate. I understand the basic gist. No worries.”
But then someone else might wonder why a producer does not make a bigger effort, if they could positively influence their export success?
In a world where brand loyalty and storytelling are intimately connected, what was a compelling story in the original language, can easily become uninspiring drivel if the same care isn’t taken with the translation. The consumer will simply move on to another brand whose story is more carefully crafted.
There is no place for shoddy translations ruining corporate stories anymore. Well, not for the brands that care about their customers, anyway.
I have written before about the difference between translation and transcreation, and the essence is found in this thought: a transcreation must make the target audience feel the same way as the original article made the original audience feel.
Let’s take an advertisement. The purpose of an advertisement is to attract the attention of people towards a product or service, and to ultimately move those people to purchase that product or service.
An advert that leaves you feeling amused, should also leave a new audience feeling amused, if translated. Different cultures demand different approaches and if a literal, word for word translation won’t achieve the desired customer response, then a transcreation method should be adopted.
It’s all about your market and your audience. Who are they, what moves them, and how can you capture their attention?
If you are exporting, you must translate your content properly, with due regard to your audience, or you don’t do it at all.
An “okay” result risks turning off a vast swathe of your consumers who are used to being wooed.
In China, there is the concept of something being “close enough is good enough.” They even have a word for it: chàbuduō. But whenever I read an inadequate piece of writing I somehow feel that a precious moment in my life has been wasted. Why should I spend more time trying to work out what they are trying to say? If they want to attract my attention, should they not make more of an effort?
Inelegant messaging and clumsy language might suggest a deeper malaise.
And yes, it might be a translation, but there is no excuse for it not to make sense.
Apple are held up as a shining example in many respects, and their corporate messaging is no exception. Their customers might read their literature in hundreds of different languages, but they all come away feeling the same things. Apple know that each individual translation has a life of its own – it is the end customer and not the original writer who holds the key to the success of any piece of translated content.
When a company puts a piece of writing (or any other kind of content) out into the world, they do so in the full knowledge that it will be judged.
Why wouldn’t you want to write it as well as possible?