Lost in Translation

Lost in translation

Lost in Translation

Over the course of daily life, we have all come across examples of bad translations, especially here in Quebec where two languages co-exist. I recently stayed at a hotel in rural Quebec where, as per COVID-19 protocol, a sign at the front desk instructed guests to “Please let your keys in the basket after usage.”

Another case in point involves a gas station in my neighborhood that advertised “Faites le plein et obtenez un café gratuit.”, which in English became, “Make the full and obtain a free coffee.” Certainly, here in Quebec, we have all come across countless similar examples stemming from French to English translations, and vice-versa.

 

Bad Translation: Good for a Laugh, Bad for Business!

These types of mangled messages can be very amusing when they are compiled on a top-ten list or when you encounter them in passing…and they make great stories to tell at a dinner party. But when they are the first contact that a potential client makes with a company, it’s much less amusing and could make the difference between gaining or losing that client.

I remember once doing a Google search for a company in the business of hauling away junk after a renovations project. In the course of my search, I came upon a company that had as part of its slogan “Don’t waist your time with the other guy, call us instead.” Whereas I found the examples at the start of this article good for a laugh; in this case, I immediately moved on to the next company. It wasn’t even really a conscious choice…it was more of an instinct. If the final version of a business’s print ads or correspondence are error laden, it doesn’t inspire a client’s trust or confidence in that business’s professionalism…and by extension, in its services or products.

The written content by which a company interfaces with the world is an integral part of its image, and right or wrong, clients will draw conclusions based on its quality. In this era of social media, a comically bad translation can quickly trend and forever be associated with your company, making the damage virtually irreparable, which is a shame after all the hard work and dedication that you may have put in to building your business and reputation.

 

The Solution: Professional Translation

The good news is that this type of bad publicity can be so easily avoided by entrusting the right work to the right specialist… in this case, a professional translator. Too often, the translation task is entrusted to the most “bilingual” person on staff, or worse, Google Translate or some other automatic translation generator gets the call. However, translation consists of much more than simply replacing words from the original language with more-or-less equivalent English words. A professional translator must have command of the differing grammatical structures, rhetorical styles, and idiomatic expressions of both the original and target languages. Here in Quebec, that is most often French and English. the translator must also know the regional idiosyncrasies of both languages so that the client’s message retains its intended tone and nuance of meaning.

 

When you invest heavily in the development of an advertising campaign for your business, it seems silly not to invest a few hundred dollars more in the professional translation of your content to get your message across accurately, in any language, and to protect your hard-earned reputation. You certainly don’t want your business to end up on the latest top-ten list of the worst translations.

So, don’t let your company get lost in translation! Make the smart, affordable choice that will make your business stand out… for the right reasons.

 

 

Writer: David Paupelain

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