Professional Translation Should Consider Cultural Factors

Last Updated On: November 9, 2023

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Professional Translation

The translation is crucial to enabling the understanding of ideas from another culture, so it is important that cultural considerations are integrated when a text is going through the translation process. It is important to realize that language and culture are interlinked and translating culture is as important as translating text. Culture includes various things, such as syntax, literacy, art, language, dialect, ideology, and religion.
A Canadian business that intends to target North American customers needs to use a different strategy than would be used for just the Canadian markets, even though both cultures speak English. Any Canadian business that sounds serious in its intentions would make sure its vocabulary and style fit the targeted American audience. For example, in Canada, the term “athletic shoes” is used, while in the U.S. the expressions used are “running shoes”, “tennis shoes” or “cross-trainers.” These differences need to be considered in translations too.

Cultural Considerations When Translating Content

When performing translations, a consideration of the cultural differences of the groups who speak the two languages is key to the success of a translation. Miscommunication often occurs due to inadequate knowledge about the targeted language and culture. This is why it is so important that professional translators do translations because they should know both the cultures of the two languages they translate. A real professional translator will do everything they can to convey the precise meaning of a text that fits well with both the language and culture of the targeted audience. This is a task that no machine translation tool could ever do successfully.
There are many examples when a translation may be required between English and Portuguese or Spanish. However, the success of these translations will depend on which country is being targeted for the translation. For example, a Spanish person in Spain is likely to have different cultural features than one in Ecuador or Mexico. The translator needs to know about any cultural variations before a translation is finalised. Here are some examples:
Glasses in Mexican Spanish are called ‘lenses but ‘gafas’ in European Spain;
‘Coche’ is the word for ‘car’ in Spain while in Mexico, ‘auto’, ‘carrot or ‘coche’ could be used;
‘Computadora’ means in Mexican Spanish “computer” but in Spain ‘ordinator is the word used;
Peaches when up for sale in Mexico are called ‘duraznos’ while in Spain they are called ‘melocoton;
Potato is ‘patata’ in Spain but ‘papa’ in Mexican;
Remote control in Mexican Spanish is ‘control remote’ but in Spain, its name is ‘Mando a distance.
A pen in Spain is ‘bolígrafo’ but in Mexico, it is ‘pluma’.
If a translator fails to consider these linguistic differences, this could show a lack of respect for the targeted audience and its language and culture. Companies who hire professional translators will benefit since the targeted audience will feel comfortable with a translation that has adapted to their language and culture.
The term ‘localisation’ is used by the translation industry when knowledge of local culture and customs is used by the translator and the translations are adapted to fit the culture and language of the targeted customer.

Why cultural considerations are so important

Translating for an international market must include emphasizing the cultural features in the translation for the potential audience. The translation should not cause offence or harm which could turn away potential customers from purchasing the good or service. You cannot expect the targeted consumer to buy your product if the advertising material has been badly translated.
There are other considerations that make non-verbal communication more convincing. This involves not just making use of content that is culturally appropriate for the targeted audience. It also means using certain features relevant to the targeted culture such as the use of font types, color, images, and videos. In some cases, images portraying dress are important too, so marketing to Moslem countries needs to consider whether images used in marketing material are acceptable.


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    Colour and culture

    Colour often has meaning in different countries. The colour ‘red’ for many Chinese people means happiness, while in the U.K., red is typically related to danger and love. In Japan, red symbolises power, energy, and, vitality. In Egypt and Iran, it is linked with luck. In Iran, it is a symbol of courage as well. In India, red symbolizes purity, sensuality, and spirituality. However, there are a few African countries where red is associated with death.
    In many Western cultures, green represents nature, vitality, and health. In a few Eastern countries, green symbolizes the same things, as well as new life and fertility. Green sometimes means jealousy in the UK, but infidelity in China. Green is disallowed in Indonesia, and in some countries in South America it represents death but it is linked in Mexico to independence while in the Middle East, it is the colour for luck and fertility.
    Translation and localization mean understanding targeted countries-specific features including cultural beliefs and practices.

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