For a first-time translation buyer, the complexity of translation pricing can be daunting, especially when it comes to highly creative material used for marketing and advertising purposes. How can a three-word slogan cost more to translate than a 200-word document?
I get it—it’s a valid concern. After all, most of us are careful with how we spend our money, and you have every right to question why your translation budget may end up running short for what you want accomplished.
So, without further ado, let’s discuss the 4 main reasons why marketing translation is worth the higher price:
1. It is more than just a word-for-word translation.
Literal translations, although frowned upon for lacking natural flow and for reading like a translation, can still get their message across without major consequences (hopefully!). However, when it comes to highly creative material, a word-for-word translation has the potential of deeply damaging a marketing campaign and affecting a client’s reputation of quality.
To give you an example, let me share an advertising translation that I did for one of my clients– a 15-second audio campaign:
You’re a fighter
Until flu season throws you a sucker punch.
Beat flu to the punch with a vaccine today.
The campaign was based on a boxing theme; their social media images, radio promotions, flyers, brochures, calendars, you name it—referred to boxing. However, phrases such as “sucker punch” and “beat the flu to the punch” don’t have a direct Spanish translation that in parallel means the same thing. Sure, I could’ve translated the words “sucker” and “punch” separately, but it would’ve certainly distorted the intended message. So, I went online to look up information about boxing terminology. I read a few articles, searched several dictionaries, until I felt comfortable to attempt a good equivalent for this radio campaign. Once I understood the intent of the phrases used, I was able to translate, not just the phrase itself, but its true meaning. I replaced “sucker punch” with “until it hits you without warning,” which perfectly defines what a sucker punch is. Although it took some time and several different attempts, this is the Spanish translation I ended up keeping:
Eres un luchador
Hasta que la temporada de gripe te golpee sin avisar.
Dale un golpe a la gripe vacunándote hoy.
Had I translated the two words literally, it would’ve presented a very confusing message to the US Spanish audience, and second, it would’ve damaged my client’s reputation—and mine! —terribly. So, this example goes to show how, for any marketing translation, creating something that’ll still incorporate the original theme without sounding foreign or strange to your new audience can be challenging. A marketing translator must understand the desired outcome thoroughly, and be given the freedom to not only translate the original, but to also make significant changes to it, if needed, in the process.
2. It takes more time.
The translation described above, although short and rather simple, took longer to complete than a regular translation with the same amount of words. Shocking, right?
This is true for two reasons. First off, computer-aided translation (CAT) tools, which most translators use to speed up translation time through the use of glossaries and translation memories (TM’s), may work great with many types of translation (such as legal, medical, social, etc.) but often aren’t helpful when dealing with slogans or other types of creative material. Since each marketing campaign is very unique, the translator is basically relying on his own understanding and experience with the source language and any other sources found online that could provide some extra light about the intent of the original message.
Also, translation work of this nature can’t be given a time limit for its completion based on other types of translation. For example, it would be unwise for a client to assume that a translator who took 2 hours to finish a 1,000-word document should be able to finish a 10-word marketing slogan in significantly less time. The length of time to complete a creative translation will be dependent on the translator’s ability to effectively come up with something that’ll have the same impact and resonance as the original. To achieve this, most marketing translators will do research on the subject, come up with different alternatives–and sometimes sleep on it until the next day–to finalize what they find to be the most effective translation for the original content.
So, as a translation buyer, you want a professional translator to take the time that’s necessary to provide you with a quality product, one that’ll speak positively of your business and make you proud. Simply put, a translation of this kind can’t be a rushed process. Pushing for a short term deadline may compromise the quality of your final translation, which is something you would never allow of an English marketing campaign that represents you as a business. Whether in English or any other language, it’s still your image that’s on the line.
3. It requires an understanding of culture.
I still remember when the Disney movie “Bugs” came out. In Spanish, there are several ways to translate the word “bugs,” but some of them are more culturally appropriate to use than others, depending on the Spanish audience. Because of this, Disney’s marketing team had to come up with two different titles; the first one, “Bichos,” was used in Mexico, a great choice for that audience, but not so great for the Caribbean, where the word “bicho” has a vulgar connotation. Therefore, the title “Animalitos,” was used to meet the cultural demands of the Caribbean audience.
Most translations used for marketing and advertising purposes–including website copy, brochures, slogans, name brands, quotes, and content copy—must be carefully studied to develop a marketing plan that’ll fit the new audience culturally. In other words, a translator, aside from having great language skills and being a good writer, must also be a language consultant and culture expert, offering skills that are vital to providing well-executed translations of this nature.
So, the importance of choosing a professional translator who’s familiar with who you’re trying to reach, who understands your audience’s cultural nuances, and is familiar with regional terminology can’t be stressed enough. Just like your English-written business documents are expected to be error-free and professional, you should also be as unwavering in choosing a translator that can provide you the same level of perfection of your international marketing materials.These are the elements that’ll ultimately provide you with a translation that’ll speak positively of your business and effectively help you to establish your brand globally.
4. It demands a creative mind.
If you’re a client working with an advertising agency wanting to reach out to a specific audience in their native language, you’ll need to trust that the translator will provide a correct, non-literal equivalent that’ll still be in tune with your marketing plan.
Just recently I read an article that clearly illustrates the difficult task of slogan translation. The article, Inside the nearly impossible quest to translate “Make America Great Again” into Spanish, shares how several translators were asked to translate Donald Trump’s slogan and how more than sixteen versions were provided. In spite their efforts, none of the versions encapsulated the essence and meaning of such grand message. The article pointed out that, “slogans rarely translate well into another language, because a good one packs so much into so little.” And I couldn’t agree more. Very rarely a translated slogan carries the same rhyming and punch that the original provides. Trump’s slogan is a great example of this. “The assonance between make and –meric-, and between great and –gain, as well as in the emphasized pairs of vowels: make/great and America/again,” are lost in translation, which is why, in many cases, a new slogan must be created to fit its new audience.
In conclusion, translating marketing and advertising materials is hard work! It’s the art of finding the right words and addressing readers appropriately; it’s adapting a message from one language to another while maintaining its original intent, style, tone, and context; it’s finding the right phrases that make sense for your target audience, their culture, and always keeping your objectives and goals in mind. Although the field of translation will always require a certain level of language proficiency, creativity, and cultural understanding, these factors become more significant when dealing with marketing materials that represent your established brand for a new audience. So, the time and effort that are invested into these kinds of translations are definitely worth the higher price.
About the author:
Beverly Zayas Hayes is an English to Spanish professional translator specializing in translation & website localization in the following areas: social sciences, education, healthcare, marketing, advertising & business. A mother of five, Beverly is the founder/owner of Spanish Connect Translations, a translation agency based in Rexburg, Idaho. She graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah with a Bachelor’s degree in Clinical Laboratory Science, and on December 2015 she completed her Master’s degree in Spanish Linguistics from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Being a stay-at-home mom for most of her life, Beverly has now taken upon herself a new goal–to contribute to the world in a different way by jumping on the entrepreneurship bandwagon. She has the education, the cultural background, and the writing skills that are necessary to succeed in this competitive field and provide a quality product that will stand out among the rest. You may visit her website at spctranslations.com, or contact her via Twitter: MySpanConnect and email: firstname.lastname@example.org.