In this globalised world, businesses are keen to tap into any market that has the money to buy their products. This means translation advertising and doing it accurately in the languages targeted. The well-know poorly translated Pepsi ad certainly didn’t endear customers in China to buy Pepsi. Its adverts promised customers that drinking Pepsi will bring back their ancestors.

Advertising Translation Fails

This translation fail is one of many and takes place when an advert is literally translated from one language to another without considering any colloquialisms or special meanings that might be given to the words in the translated text. Translation for advertising is a specific skill as the translator looks carefully into any possibility of a translation fail taking place which could bring about a negative effect on a marketing campaign.

Be Wary of Direct Translations

Direct translations are rarely correct so should be avoided. One could call Google Translate an example of a direct translation tool that’s rarely accurate. It can be used for quick translations of conversations and unimportant text but it usually only translates at the lowest possible level. It doesn’t account for language nuances and colloquialisms in the source language. It’s basically a guessing game when it undertakes translations.

If you translate “Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe erschlagen” into English, its literal translation will be “two flies slapped with one flap”. This is barely understandable and is likely to be a translation fail if it is translated in this way by an inexperienced translator.

Language meanings differ even within the same language. An example of this is the word ‘football,’ which in America means a team of highly padded sportspeople who play with a ball that’s oval in shape, while in England the game is played with a round ball and is usually called soccer.

A good translation in advertising is not just vocabulary but the translation must reflect the likely customers. Not so long ago the mega baby food company Gerber was trying to sell its products in Africa, but no one was tempted to buy them. This it was eventually discovered was due to the way a cute baby was a feature of the label.

In Africa what is on the label normally represents what is inside the packaging. The baby image it seems gave the impression that Gerber was selling baby parts not baby food. A similar situation with the same company in France took place but this was related to the word Gerber which in French meant “vomit”. A bit of relabelling had to take place in order for the product to be accepted by customers.