Don’t Make This Rookie Error with Your Marketing Translator

Last updated Jan 22, 2024
By Gwenydd Jones

You’ve invested in a professional copywriter to produce your marketing texts. Now the time has come to get your marketing translator. You may think the hard part is over. But lots of clients make a rookie error at this stage that destroys all their hard work. Read on to make sure you don’t do this.

“In a recent article published on this blog, Lucy explained “Why Copywriting is a Key part of Marketing Translation”. She said that “marketing translators who understand copywriting create materials that motivate customers”.

This relates to one of the biggest misconceptions clients have when they start buying translations. They often ask the question: why do you need to understand everything about the text to be able to translate it?

Don’t make this rookie error with your #translator. Click To Tweet

This issue applies to all text types, not just marketing

Academic translation has some extreme examples. Take a text written by a world specialist in some obscure disease. They make the rookie error of believing that an amateur translator with no medical training can just look up all the words in the dictionary. But knowing the words isn’t enough to enable them to write a quality academic text in the new language.

In marketing translation, customers often consider their texts to be easy. This is because they don’t normally contain difficult terminology. When they choose their translator, they assume that anybody who can understand the text can write it just as well in the new language. They’re under the misconception that translation is no more than mindless copying.

Translation isn’t a simple question of transferring all the words in a phrase

The translator has to write a new version of the text, in their own words. To be able to do that they need to know what the original writer knew. Otherwise, they won’t be able to understand why they chose certain terms.

The marketing translator also needs to be able to recognise the copywriting techniques the original writer used. Then use equivalent techniques in the translation.

One recent example of this . . .

A good client asked me to translate a short phrase for free (a favour I sometimes do for them). But this time it was a marketing slogan. So, I gave them three options: a literal translation for free; a translation based on 30 minutes of thinking; or three possible translations based on an hour of thinking.

After explaining to them about the rookie error, they chose the 30-minute option. To show them that I wasn’t ripping them off, I decided to make notes on what I was doing while producing the translation.

My process involved visiting their website, to read about the company and the product in question. I then brainstormed about 10 different options. I explored the full meaning of certain Spanish and English terms in the relevant dictionaries. I visited a thesaurus and brainstormed again. Then I left it to stew for a couple of hours, before going back and looking at it all again.

If they’d given me longer, I would have produced a better translation than the one they got. But one thing’s for sure, they did much better than they would have had if they’d taken the free literal option.

In the end, this was their product slogan. How long must they have taken to come up with it in the first place? In retrospect, they must have seen how putting a literal translation on their branding materials would have been an act of self-harm. (Like this story? Check out this transcreation example).

This rookie error is understandable

Of course translation clients would think that producing a translation is easier than it actually is. I make the same mistake all the time, with professionals who work in areas that I know nothing about. I’ve found that once clients understand what their marketing translator is doing, they see where their money is going. Then the misconception becomes a thing of the past.

Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter in the column to the right. Each month, we’ll send you a summary of our main blog articles. We’ll also let you know what we’re focussing on in the worlds of translation, copywriting and freelancing.

Written by Gwenydd Jones

Gwenydd Jones is a Spanish- and French-to-English translator, an SEO blogger and a course creator. She is the founder of The Translator's Studio and the lead teacher on its courses. Connect with Gwenydd on LinkedIn or contact her through this website.

You may also like …


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *