Literal translation or the danger of getting lost in translation

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Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 In Other articles, Translation By Kenna Lee

literal translation

  Not too long ago, in the late eighties, the direct translation of a marketing campaign for an airline advertising their leather seats made it into the Hall of Fame of literal translations into Spanish.  The literal translation of the ad “Fly in Leather” politely invited its first class Spanish-speaking passengers to “Fly Naked”.  PR and advertising agencies have come a long way since then, as shown for example by the strategic translation of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign slogan “Yes We Can” in the recent past; the Spanish translation revealed political, economic and cultural awareness as it alluded to an already well-known phrase among politically active Latino voters. In today’s globalized world, straight translations of marketing slogans by Translation Services Singapore might determine the success or failure of multilingual marketing campaigns.  At best, they can cause amusement among the target language’s consumers but at worst and more importantly, they expose the degree of cultural disconnection of a brand towards its intended target audience and this can have long-lasting, negative results.air dancer tube The marketing scenario  described above is one of many that can result from literal translations.  Anyone relying on a translation has to be aware of this most common pitfall among translators.  But how does one avoid the dangers of literal translations and losing crucial messages in translation?  The answer lies in the range of multifaceted skills a professional translator has.  Having expert knowledge of a language is only just the foundation of a translator’s job; translation is really about the ability to communicate meaning in spite of differences that may exist between languages.  Ideally, language skills are complemented by other essential skills involving a target language: cultural/ historical awareness of the community of speakers, mastery of the language’s grammatical & linguistic rules, knowing how to use and where to find reference material, literacy in online research and last but not least, courage to use creativity in language.  After all, languages are alive and incessantly evolving, just as its speakers. Do you want to know more on how to avoid literal translations?  Visit our pages on Direct translations and Literal translation to learn more!

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