Untranslatable texts - How do you handle them?
Thread poster: Tom Stevens

Tom Stevens
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:24
Chinese to English
+ ...
Aug 21

Does anyone else here receive "untranslatable" texts from time to time? How do you handle them?
Translate as best you can or send it back to the client/agency? Do they usually understand the problem?

I receive Chinese marketing texts from time to time that simply are untranslatable into English.

-An example of a marketing text for a door handle/locking system I once received (literal translation below):

"The elegant, noble, stylish, 6-spring, 2-lock,
... See more
Does anyone else here receive "untranslatable" texts from time to time? How do you handle them?
Translate as best you can or send it back to the client/agency? Do they usually understand the problem?

I receive Chinese marketing texts from time to time that simply are untranslatable into English.

-An example of a marketing text for a door handle/locking system I once received (literal translation below):

"The elegant, noble, stylish, 6-spring, 2-lock, sturdy aluminium SGS-certified handle, with a smooth, independent forward & backwards sliding system allows for easy, nimble and content operability." The text went on like this for 10 pages!

-or another marketing text for an electrical appliance that had flowery descriptions of the colours of the appliances:

"Green, like a midsummer forest at nighttime."

Sometimes I only notice the text is excessively flowery once I've accepted the job and start working on it.

It always seems to stump PMs (who want every segment translated) when I tell them some sections can't be translated or need to be omitted, so I was wondering if anyone has experienced this?
Should these texts be transcreated instead of translated?
Collapse


Dirceu Bunholli
 

The Misha
Local time: 05:24
Russian to English
+ ...
Such texts absolutely do need to be "transcreated," i.e. rewritten for the target audience Aug 21

If your client doesn't understand this, maybe you shouldn't be working for them at all. Personally, I have an unwritten understanding with all my regulars that I am free to do as I please with the original as long as it makes for a better product in the end. Disclaimer: I do not do "elegant, noble, stylish" door knobs or electrical appliances. Maybe that's how I can get away with this blatant "it doesn't matter what the original says" attitude.

Alternatively, just give the buggers
... See more
If your client doesn't understand this, maybe you shouldn't be working for them at all. Personally, I have an unwritten understanding with all my regulars that I am free to do as I please with the original as long as it makes for a better product in the end. Disclaimer: I do not do "elegant, noble, stylish" door knobs or electrical appliances. Maybe that's how I can get away with this blatant "it doesn't matter what the original says" attitude.

Alternatively, just give the buggers what they want and take their money. It would serve them right.
Collapse


Eliza Hall
Sheila Wilson
Philip Lees
Alison Jenner
Teresa Borges
Kunal Jaidka
Philippe Etienne
 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:24
German to English
Impossible tasks Aug 21

Sometimes it's impossible to meet a customer's expectations without transcreation. PMs are often afraid to tell their clients that the source text doesn't lend itself to simple translation, and that the resulting product will have little word-for-word correspondence with the source.

Earlier this year I was tasked to develop (my word) a translated text so that the final product preserved the "clever turns of phrase and light-hearted humor" of the original. The document – a newslet
... See more
Sometimes it's impossible to meet a customer's expectations without transcreation. PMs are often afraid to tell their clients that the source text doesn't lend itself to simple translation, and that the resulting product will have little word-for-word correspondence with the source.

Earlier this year I was tasked to develop (my word) a translated text so that the final product preserved the "clever turns of phrase and light-hearted humor" of the original. The document – a newsletter – was full of mixed metaphors and from my point of view, insultingly trite humor. I sought to unscramble the metaphors by using correspondingly colorful idiomatic turns of phrase, but, as translators know, most humor doesn't translate well. The customer wasn't happy; apparently he felt I didn't appreciate his creativity and took his business elsewhere.

The other trap of impossible tasks is the customer's desire that the text should not "read like a translation." In many cases, I've found that the opposite is true, especially when the customer is not used to buying a translation. Deviation from the literal meaning is frowned upon and creativity causes confusion, especially when the customer decides to check every word in an inexpensive dictionary.

On the other hand, several years ago I was asked to translate a series of descriptions of automotive speaker systems and was encouraged to be as creative as I liked. The customer was pleased.
Collapse


Dan Lucas
Teresa Borges
Christine Andersen
Sanghyo Lee
Joe France
Michele Fauble
Karen Wooddissee
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Untranslatable texts - How do you handle them?

Advanced search







TM-Town
Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

More info »
PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search