Thanks to everyone who came to see us over the three days of Internet World 2013 at Earls Court 2. It was great to speak to all the visitors to our stand keen to take their businesses into Europe, South America and Asia and helping answer questions about building and executing online strategies for these […]
Wordbank was founded in 1988 and has been transcreating ever since. We launched a formal transcreation service in 1996 called Conquest. Why - because I found out that we had been doing favours for various ad. agencies who just wanted us to 'check a couple of tag lines out in a few languages' to see how they would play. A value add service to my mind.
Click on the Wordbank link above to find out more.
Well, I am kind of left speechless by this one. You need to watch the German TV ad first, then read my piece – hopefully it’s self-explanatory.
I think we all appreciate the sentiment expressed by the lady doing the voice-over and you have to admire her direct approach. But I doubt very much she knew what she was saying – always a danger when you slip a few words of a foreign lingo into your spiel, chica!
In case the message was not reaching enough of an audience they were also (and still are?) giving a out a badge with the unabridged version of ”F*** the Diet” still on it. Happily now the Facebook site has been updated and the badge censored, much to the disappointment of German lads everywhere!
However, the website where you can download the badge is still there in all its glory as this goes to press!
Well, this year’s Gala Conference in Monaco was a blast and certainly the biggest one yet for all us globalizers, localizers and international marketers. The contributors were great, the wit as sharp as ever and the sessions engrossing. And, oh yes, did I say the weather and location were rather amazing?
Great time of year to visit Monaco: no crowds, no hassle and very relaxed. Plus, for all F1 fans, there was the joy of being able to walk some of the best turns and stretches of the Monaco Grand Prix up to the Casino.
The event is evolving into something for every taste: standards and processes for the ‘process-oriented’, technology for the tech-heads and SEO and social media for the marketers.
I particularly enjoyed the session with Matthew Ogden of Lego, entitled ‘Building Digital Lego Bricks’. A great case study, warts and all, of how to take your digital presence global, for a well-known and well-loved brand.
Indeed, social media, although double-edged, is becoming an increasingly important part of international brand management for brands large and small. Social media is one of those things that kind of feels distant from real business or real marketing. In other words, not for grown-ups.
But while you or I may not be updating Facebook every hour or tweeting every 10 minutes, there is a huge spectrum of consumers out there that sees this as an integral part of modern life.
Anyway, this is something that I tried to put into perspective in the ‘Social Media Super Session’, run by Rebecca Petras, on Monday 26 March. Current digital marketing is so far away from the old days of brochures, technical specs, user manuals, product catalogues etc. The result is smaller, more context-specific chunks of content (and often not even words), required faster and in a variety of technical wrappers. I believe that this will have far-reaching effects on the whole translation and localization industry and how it is defined in the future.
For now, here is a slightly abridged version of my presentation with voice-over. I will add links to both Garry Muddyman’s and Marcella Jenney-Reyes’ presentations when they are posted. Many questions still to be answered!
As mentioned in last week’s post, the Applied Language Solutions Court fiasco continues to run. Fired up and angry interpreters across the UK are now finding their voice and fighting back. In a topic centred around justice, it appears that the interpreters’ anger is justified.
However, dispelling in any way the thought that the interpreters might just be a bunch of insignificant whingers, they have come up with a biting and incisive parody based on no less a figure than a certain A. Hitler, as featured in the acclaimed film Downfall.
Hijacking the classic scene where Hitler launches a humiliating tirade against the perceived ineptitude of his Generals and advisers, the parody succeeds in capturing and highlighting the key facts of the ‘case’. The humour is infectious and deadly, and appears to have a huge insight and detailed knowledge of the goings on.
Reminds me of that line about ’a lover scorned‘.
Watch the video below and see for yourself. For any German speakers, try to ignore the soundtrack: a basic premise of this parody is that we Brits rarely speak a foreign language – hard to believe, eh?
Finally, this also serves to remind us all of the range of media options open to everyone and how quickly and creatively a community can respond to a perceived wrong.
For those interested in digging into the detail of the issue and finding out what ALS had to say, you will find, not surprisingly, an excellent piece on The Lawyer website. A quick browse of the comments gives a good idea of the depth of feeling in the intepreter community.
Humour and ridicule, as ever, prove to be deadly counter-measures.
It’s not often that the Translation and Localization industry gets lots of media coverage. However, when events contrive to combine the words ”Court”, “Lithuanian”, “Google Translate” and a £300m ($480m) Government contract, even Joe Public’s curiosity can be stirred.
Unfortunately, in this case, the furore is largely negative and involves not only interpreters not turning up in court to aid court proceedings, but also revolt in the freelance interpreter community amid accusations of interpreter fee and expense slashing.
The latest comment by the UK Ministry of Justice in the Sunday Times on 4 March does not bode well for the contractor, ALS: “There have been an unacceptable number of problems in the first weeks of the contract and we have asked the contractor to take urgent steps to improve performance.”
Anyone in business can rapidly make their own “interpretation” of what the MoJ really said to ALS behind closed doors. So what’s going on and does it matter?
Up until recently, courts in England and Wales (Scotland has a different legal system) hired freelance interpreters from a national register. However, as part of a cost-cutting exercise (what would be called a vendor consolidation programme in corporate speak), the contract was awarded by the UK Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to a single agency, Applied Language Solutions (ALS), which has promised to cut the annual £60m translation bill by a third.
What adds a certain piquancy to this is that Gavin Wheeldon, the founder of ALS, appeared on the BBC TV venture capital programme Dragons’ Den back in 2007 to appeal for financial backing. He failed to get any but carried on regardless selling the company to Capita. In the programme, he does get a slightly unfair handbagging from the Dragons over the valuation he put on his company, but then if you can’t stand the heat, don’t go near the Dragons’ kitchen.
The difference this time is that he did not go looking for the publicity, but that did not stop the media coming looking for him when things started to go pear-shaped. Given the virtual invisibility of the T&L sector, maybe any publicity is good publicity for our industry in general.
I guess it depends on how ALS deal with it, for deal with it they must, both publicly and privately.
As I write there is nothing relevant on the ALS homepage, except a potentially embarrassing content block stating that “Registration is open for linguists wishing to be considered for MoJ work through ALS.“
Twitter has not exactly been burning with comment either, although I noticed that the ATA tweeted the BBC news link back on 12 February. Clearly there is an opportunity for ALS to do some online damage limitation and start making the right noises publicly, which they are no doubt already making directly to the MoJ.
Channel 4 News certainly wanted to get ALS in the dock, inviting Peter Beeke, chairman of Peterborough Magistrates Court, to give evidence on just how bad things were at his court. Bear in mind that these are low level offences such as traffic and local labour law infringements etc. But with a high level of immigration from the newer Eastern European EU member countries and beyond, there is a steady stream of cases requiring language assistance to be dealt with. Mr. Beeke paints a poignant picture of indignant judiciary and sundry legal eagles standing about bemoaning the impact on British justice of the lack of interpreters.
Making dramatic cost-saving claims when you are highly dependent on a freelance, and in this case specialist, community who owe you no allegiance is always going to be tricky, and this is compounded by the fact that the skills of linguist, translator and interpreter are not necessarily readily interchangeable.
A wry observer might note that if you are working for the MoJ it is probably a good idea to turn up in court when expected to avoid receiving a different type of summons!
Is it possible to combine transcreation with a Christmas theme and create an entertaining pastime?
Well I hope so, because that is exactly what we have tried to do this year. I am a great believer in using real transcreation examples when discussing the finer points of international marketing communications and culture. So that is why we have incorporated some common idioms into our Christmas 2011 challenge.
We all use clichés and idiom everyday, peppering our normal conversation with metaphors and sayings. This is a common human trait and indeed an inherent aspect of the evolution of language. How often do you hear phrases like “let’s suck it and see” or “let’s throw mud at the wall and see what sticks“. Never? Then what about “finding a needle in a haystack” or ” a snowball in hell“?
Over a glass of mulled wine, of a winter’s evening, get a group of family or friends together and see how many clichés, proverbs and sayings you can squeeze into a conversation. It’s fun and you will no doubt be amazed at how many you can come up with. But then try explaining to your friends exactly what you mean by things such as letting sleeping dogs lie. What do dogs have to do with the price of butter anyway?
We trawled the deepest, darkest depths of our staff’s linguistic expertise and asked them to come up with as many sayings in their own language as possible. Then we translated them literally into English. Can you work out what the equivalent saying should be in English by solving the puzzle? There will be a prize for the top scorer.
Culture and environment
Culture and environment can directly influence idiom. Take the following euphemisms to imply someone is stupid:
“He’s dumber than a box of rocks” and “He’s as thick as two short planks“. No prizes for guessing which one is British English and which one is American. Whereas, if you are from Oz, you are more likely just to say “He’s thick as a brick“.
Many creative treatments do mine clichés and euphemisms for ideas and often use puns and a play on words to create an impact. And why not? The role of translation and transcreation is not to strangle creativity at birth. However, it does require a good brief, attention to detail and imagination to ensure a suitable and appropriate local version is found. For example, look at the following US English alternatives for “all talk, no action“:
all booster, no payload
all hat, no cattle
all foam, no beer
all hammer, no nail
all icing, no cake
all lime and salt, no tequila.
all missile, no warhead
all shot, no powder
all sizzle, no steak
all wax and no wick
Some of these alternatives would clearly not resonate with vegetarians, teetotallers, pacifists and non-rednecks.
On that note I sign off in anticipation of tasty mince pies, rich and moist Christmas pudding, a turkey with four breasts and six legs, a solution to the euro crisis and other such miracles in 2012!
This high-trending viral ad for the Fiat 500 Abarth needs absolutely no translation, even though the monologue is in Italian. The target demographic is very clearly boys. Entitled “You’ll never forget the first time you see one “, the ad plays on every heterosexual young man’s fantasy, and probably the nostalgic older man’s as well.
The buzz started mid-week on 14th November, peaking on the 17th but not tailing off until the weekend. What is really interesting is how this buzz was reflected in language, as can be seen in this graphic.
Not surprisingly, the Italians picked it up quite quickly, but there was also sizeable interest in Romania and Spain. While these two countries share Latin as a common language root, I doubt whether language was the basis of the appeal. Indeed, as it turns out, the model/actress is actually Romanian – Catrinel Menghia. Maybe she’s famous in Spain as well?
According to PRNewswire, “this digital spot made its debut at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show to hundreds of journalists and then was posted to the FIAT brand’s YouTube site. Without having ever been aired on television or cable networks, it has rapidly spread through the web and gained global attention.”
If you want to know what she’s saying, see below, but in my opinion subtitling or a voice-over on this ad would be doubly redundant, although I notice the blogosphere was quickly filled with people (guys) asking what she was saying – Oye vay!
“What are you looking at? Huh!? What are you looking at?! Are you undressing me with your eyes? Poor guy… you cannot help it? Is your heart beating? Is your head spinning? Do you feel lost thinking that I could be yours forever?”
Actually, the car does look rather better in the flesh than it appears in this photograph, but then again, the objective of the ad is to sell the cachet now and the car later.
Clearly, retaining the Italian without subtitles can work for Western Europe and probably most Latin countries. However, for markets like China, Japan, Russia and the Gulf, some sensitive and creative subtitling will be necessary. But even in these markets, the whole Italian character of the brand would be lost without the Italian voice and gestures. Even if the actress is Romanian.
Can the perception of global brands vary dramatically across different cultures?
You betcha! Once again, China proves that it is not a homogeneous part of the global marketplace.
Which car brand has the most cachet in China?
Well, according to a recent article in the New York Times, unless you are a retired pensioner, it is best to avoid a Mercedes-Benz in China if you want to make a statement of subtle and assured power. To add insult to injury for German car makers, despite improving sales, the BMW has acquired a reputation as the car for the arrogant and rash, rather than as a status symbol of the successful, upwardly mobile business executive of the West.
On the other hand, General Motor’s Buick brand – largely unknown outside of North America and once acknowledged by GM as ‘damaged’ in the US – has amazingly positioned itself in China as a top-tier luxury car.
However, in a country under the firm control of the political elite underpinned by a Byzantine bureaucracy, any brand bestowed with the patronage of all-powerful government officials is likely to be the one with the highest cachet.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, if you are an up-and-coming bureaucrat in China, the only car for you is the Audi A6 – Jeremy Clarkson, eat your hat!
Finally, a recent post on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular social media site, appositely sums up the current state of car demographics:
“A gathering of Mercedes indicates a get-together for old folks”, the writer said. “A group of BMWs means young nouveau riche are about to run someone over and have a party; several Audis, and you know it’s a government meeting.”
So don’t forget when promoting your product in a new locale, make sure your brief clearly and explicitly identifies your target demographic. And don’t make assumptions about their behaviour based on domestic perceptions.
Remember, any narrative-type content will require adaptation: “Clint, driving his ’98 Caddy down Highway 101, clutching a Starbuck’s latte in one hand with ZZ-Top blasting out of his iPod” will need a light touch to ensure that the message gets across in Shanghai, Novosibirsk or Doha.
In my company – Wordbank – and many other places, real transcreation is quietly going on every day, often unheralded. However, it is not a mass-market offering that should be applied to every marketing or advertising campaign element every time. Certainly it should not be confused with or applied interchangeably with what tends to be called ‘marketing translation’ or even with ‘translation’.
Transcreation is a service that should be applied with the same selectivity that is typically applied to Business Class travel, luxury hotel accommodation or choosing to use a toll road rather than the public highway.
For us normal human beings, not yet in the Abramovich or Soros class, there will always be times when we have sound reasons for using any one of the above, but sparingly rather than every day. The obvious exception would be a pure play advertising company where 90% of output is creative, making transcreation a necessity for any international activity.
So how, then, should we define ‘marketing translation’? What is its scope and when should it be applied?
All marketing campaigns have a marketing communications (marcoms) objective, usually couched in terms of getting a specific demographic to take a desired action as a result of seeing a marcom piece. For example: call a number, subscribe to a newsletter, select one product or brand over another.
What we buy and how we buy it is very rarely a logical decision-making process. It is influenced by our psychology, previous experiences, awareness and brand perception among other things.
For most purchases outside of the Snickers and soap powder arena, there is a common buying cycle which broadly requires more detail as we approach the point of purchase. Starting with, ” Oh what a funky, cool brand Apple is” down to, “Do I really want to splurge my hard-earned cash on an iPad2 with 3G or shall I go for the new Kindle? Or I could just upgrade my laptop“. The final decision requires answers to several questions not satisfied by a punchy tag line (apart from for the raging, must-have-the-latest-gadget freak).
Gordon’s Guidelines for the transcreation decision
So here are my guidelines on how to decide when to use transcreation for international marketing communications:
Slogans – You should transcreate slogans, banners, ad headlines, tag lines and strap lines, which are all high visibility and need to generate an impact – often an emotional one and where the response is highly subjective. For example, McDonald’s is running a series of coffee promotions on UK TV channels which have a hint of Starbucks about them. The creative itself is pretty good and not ‘cheesy’, but the inevitable McDonald’s tag line “I’m lovin’ it” and the whistle at the end of the advert is very American, very cheesy and grates on my more sober, British nerves. In other words, it provokes a very subjective response on my part. I know they won’t, but maybe McDonald’s should consider transcreating “I’m lovin’ it”.
Body Text – After the glitzy, catchy, compelling headline comes the descriptive body text, which must expand, explain and substantiate the claims made by the tag lines and headlines. This copy may run to a few hundred words and requires idiomatic, resonant ‘marketing’ translation. It is also important that consistency in messaging is maintained over the many instances where the same message may appear across marketing collateral and content. This requires a process, a well-established approach and relevant, skilled resources. A sound marketing translation based on well-established style guides and approved local terminology should suffice 80% of the time.
Disclaimers and Ts & Cs – Most advertising, offers and promotions also involve some informational, technical or legal copy such as technical features, where to buy, prices, discounts, how to select the right option etc. This requires an accurate, often literal translation combined with appropriate terminology and is generally covered by the basic translation-proofreading service you get when you buy ‘translation’ or post-edited machine translation.
It is never a good idea to confuse any of the above or to try to do category 1 with category 3 resources and processes.
A few additional categories:
- Jokes always need careful transcreation and may not be culturally appropriate, so be prepared for a major dilution of your side-splitters.
- Film dialogue tracks, poetry and lyrics require a very special talent in excess of transcreation.
- Video/TV ad scripts require a combination of a good transcreation and proper, skilled voice-over talent.
If you have any questions feel free to contact me – I’m the one on the left.
Finally, as the old saying goes: a picture paints a thousand words. Therefore, to better make my point, I have added a full new page to the blog site wherein ‘real examples’ of transcreation in action can be found.
Browsing Twitter feeds to see if transcreation was a subject that was generating any interesting debate or insight, I was quickly disappointed. Was I expecting too much of the micro-blogosphere?
Yes, there is a #transcreation tag and a #copywriter, but it didn’t take much effort to find out how boring and repetitive said transcreation tweets were. Well, the ones that I could find.
You can be creative and funny
Surely if lawyers are connected to the law and tennis professionals to tennis, the transcreative people should be, well, sort of CREATIVE? A modicum of creativity, innovation or even imagination?
Don’t we owe it to the world to practise what we preach?
With barely a second’s hesitation I sent out the call, and lo! a hero emerged from the depths of the blogosphere. There is a small but hopefully not lone outpost of creativity attached to transcreation.
Get thee to Twitter and follow @eltcblogger and #transcreationjokes for a bit of a larf!
Here’s one to get you started:
”Hear about the dyslexic who thought transcreation was an art director with gender issues? Boom boom!”