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Translation fails: Why content localisation is essential for your business

I am sure most of you will have heard about ‘translation fails’ in certain advertising campaigns.

What happened with Coca-Cola is fairly well-known – they exported their brand to China for the first time and realised the meaning of the labels they had been printing off for a while was “bite the wax tadpole” and “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect in which “Ke-ke-ken-la”, -Chinese for Coca-Cola- was pronounced.  It was also interesting to find out that the Spanish translation of “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” – the slogan adopted by Parker pen to sponsor their campaign – was “no te embarazará chorreándose en tu bolsillo”, meaning “it won’t make you pregnant by leaking in your pocket”.

When marketing your product and services abroad, being able to communicate to your customers in their own language will always give you the edge over your competitors. However as all professional translators will confirm,  this communication involves more than simply transposing words from one language to another, and this is where localisation is employed to add meaning to your message.

You may be surprised that companies the size of Coca Cola were able to make such obvious cultural mistakes with their advertising. What we can learn from the mistakes of Coca Cola is that when translating marketing materials, every single word needs to be chosen and placed according to its specific linguistic, social and cultural context in order for the marketing message to be delivered.

Professional linguists are of paramount importance to businesses who want to gain an international voice and expand their customer base in a foreign country. As cultural experts they will also have a deep knowledge of your customers, your competitors and your market.

If you are selling your products and services abroad and would rather not to be the latest entry in our “mistranslationary”, be sure to get advice from a professional translation agency who can source you reliable linguists. For a free translation quote click here.


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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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