When it comes to translation and localisation, the difference between an effective and ineffective piece of content often comes down to knowledge of cultural nuances.
Even in an otherwise factually correct piece, brands often lose the attention (and trust) of their audiences where clumsiness creeps in - and this is why the talents of skilled culturally aware linguists can make a real impact.
There are many everyday examples of how this manifests in real life, with individual letters drastically changing meaning.
As an example, between the English and Russian languages, “Silicon Valley” is often mistakenly translated into Russian as “Silicone Valley” (“силиконовая долина”) instead of “кремниевая долина”.
Another example is when a native German speaker says in English that a specific text is "pregnant". "Pregnant" is an English word that looks similar to the German word “prägnant”, which means “concise” and/or “succinct”. When a German speaker makes an error by saying that the text is “pregnant”, this is most likely what they mean - but readers won’t know this.
Such little discrepancies between different languages are endless. That’s why using native-speaking linguists when you want to translate something is so important - only a native speaker can convey all the nuances of your text in the right way - but what are some of the other benefits?
1. Different Meanings
Firstly, every language creates new meanings differently. For example, even a small part of a word can affect its meaning in Russian because internal structures of words (or morphology) in the Russian language is very flexible.
The Russian word “privet” that means “hello” can convey all sorts of emotions: “privetik” (literal meaning: little hello) is cute and friendly way of addressing someone who can be your friend, “privetishe” (literally meaning “a great hello”) is usually used to say that you are very happy to see someone; “privetos” is used among young people to sound cool and very informal.
Each of the suffixes -ik, -ish, -os refers to a certain mood of the addresser and can even show the addresser's relationship to the addressees.
2. Literal Translation Is Not Always Possible
Secondly, word-for-word or literal translation is not always possible or desirable. The problem concerns associations and what norms are in different cultures.
For instance, the phrase “the early bird catches the worm” cannot be translated from English into another language literally.
Each language has its own equivalent for this phrase. For instance, in French the early bird expression would translate as "the day belongs to those who wake up early" (Le jour appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt.).
Arabic speakers say ''الفياق بكري بالدهب مشري'' , which means “the one who wakes up early is with gold bought”. However, for the Russians and Portuguese the phrase is connected with God and has the following meaning: "God helps those who get up early".
Then the Indonesian language has another equivalent for this phrase that is "Be like a bird, get up early to collect your blessings, and come home happy in the evening".
3. Language Is Rooted Into Its Culture
Thirdly, language is rooted into its culture. That is why some of the culture-specific words or expressions simply do not have any sense for a person who is not familiar with the traditions of this culture.
Thus, excellent knowledge of grammar and punctuation does not guarantee a high quality of translated texts, or an end result that brings audiences closer to your brand.
Problems of understanding a foreign language are not easy to solve using just a dictionary or grammar book. In fact, the language is closely connected with the cultural aspect of people’s lives.
At ICS-translate we work with in-house translators and proof readers whose language of translation is their mother tongue - and we’re fully ISO 17100-accredited.
Our linguists know how to create clear, informative and relevant texts targeted at a specific country and certain group of people (e.g., age).
Just get in touch here, or send an email to email@example.com and we will make your texts speak the voice of your customers.