The Dangers of Poor Slogan Translation

Chances are that at least once or twice during your life, you have come across a translated slogan that’s been nothing short of hilarious. Company slogans, disclaimers, warnings signs and so on are routinely translated into foreign languages – often with disastrous results.  The reason being that when you go about any kind of business translation, you need to focus more on culture-specific concepts than converting words verbatim.

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The Dangers of Poor Slogan Translation

One famous example of a slogan translation that went disastrously wrong was that of a 2011 campaign by the American Dairy Association. Their “Got Milk?” slogan was translated word-for-word for Spanish speakers, which resulted in a slogan which literally read “Are you lactating?”. Likewise, Coors Light went about a Spanish translation of their “Turn it Loose!” slogan, which came out as “You will get diarrhea!” to Spanish-speakers.

From Spanish website translations to French marketing translations and so on, you have to have your wits about you when it comes to producing a desirable result. So when the time comes to have your own business slogan translation carried out, ensure it is done in accordance with the following five rules:

  1. Do not under any circumstances attempt to translate the slogan literally. If you focus on word-for-word translations, you are almost guaranteed to come out with a nonsensical or catastrophic result.
  2. Consider the underlying premise and focus on this while going about the translation. You need to think about what it is you were trying to convey in the first place with your slogan – as in the meaning and relevance of the slogan, rather than the words it is comprised of.
  3. It’s also important to think about phonetics and the way in which the sounds of the words you use have the potential to carry unintended meanings in different languages.
  4. The same also goes for slang, as unless your translation factors in the colloquialisms, innuendos, swear words and so on from the required target language, your slogan translation could prove to be anything from misleading to offensive.
  5. Last but not least, ensure you only ever work with professional translation services with extensive experience in these kinds of projects. If you go about the translation alone or work with a freelancer, it is highly recommended that you have the finished translation thoroughly checked over by a leading expert or native speaker, before going ahead and using it.

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