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What are the main translation methods and techniques?

The process of translation may seem like a mere exchange of words and phrases from one language to another but as any quality freelance translator will tell you, there is a lot more to it than that. A good translator will use a variety of translation techniques and methods depending on the language it’s being translated into and the target market it’s aiming to reach.

Translation’s beginnings

The Gilgamesh on a partially broken tablet

A section of ‘The Gilgamesh’ on a partially broken tablet – Wikimedia

In history, the translation of writing goes back as far as the Mesopotamian era and is believed to have started with the epic Sumerian poem, The Gilgamesh, which was translated into a variety of Asian languages around the second millennium BC. The need for translation began to increase with the development of religious texts and theories. The word translation is derived from a Latin term that means “to bring or carry across”. The word metaphrasis in Ancient Greek, which means “to speak across” created the word metaphrase which was the first term for a “word-to-word” translation. As translation and translation studies became more common, defined techniques and methods took form. 

Translation methods and techniques

Vinay and Darbelnet Translation Technique

Vinay and Darbelnet – Time Toast

J.P. Vinay and J.Darbelnet were pioneers of translation studies as they created and published formalised translation procedures in 1958 with their book titled, Comparative Stylistics of French and English: A Methodology for Translation. It was one of the first times translation methods had been categorised and since it has become the basis of technique for modern multilingual translation services

Vinay and Darbelnet’s methods and techniques

While a translation method can be applied to an entire translated text, translation techniques and types of translation vary based on what elements will be translated. Vinay and Darbelnet detailed seven different techniques within two methods of translation.

Direct or literal translation method

This method is used when similar concepts and structures of the source language can be used in the translated language. Languages need to be similar in a variety of ways for these techniques to work as these types of translation techniques are not able to capture a lot of nuances found in language.

Borrowing technique  is a technique that involves borrowing a word from one language and using it in another. So the translator will make the conscious choice to retain a word while translating the rest of the sentence. You’ll often see this with English as the English language tends to borrow many words from other languages. While not explicitly a translation technique it is common with globally familiar words. 

Borrowing examples: sombrero, café, kimono, hamburger, kimchi

Calque technique  Many words don’t translate well into other languages, the calque technique is used by translators in this instance. A translator will coin and come up with a new word or term in the translated language. 

Calque examples: gratte-ciel in French is a calque of ‘skyscraper’.  An ‘Adam’s apple’ is calque of the French phase pomme d’Adam. Beer garden is a calque of the German biergarten

Literal translation technique – This technique is the most straightforward in that each word is translated directly. This is generally ineffective for languages that are not closely related and is generally only used with select legal or corporate translation.

Indirect or Oblique translation method

This method is most often used when languages and cultures are substantially different, such as English to Chinese translation. This method will usually change the structural or conceptual elements of the text to preserve its meaning.

Transposition – This technique involves a shift from one grammatical structure to another, usually with languages that have different grammar structures. 

Transposition example: Rendering a French noun with an English verb, Je l’ai vu avant la rentrée can be directly translated to English as  “I saw her before school started”, this changes the noun la rentrée into a verb.

Modulation – The modulation technique is extremely common in marketing when localizing into a new market. Modulation changes and adjusts the original text completely but it preserves the same meaning and patterns so that it is recognisable in target translated language. 

Modulation examples: Lebensgefahr in German means danger to life, whereas in English we would say “danger of death”. A literal translation of this phrase from English to German would sound odd and confusing to a German person. Another example is how French speakers refer to the top floor of a building as dernier étage which translates as “last stage” in English. A literal translation of this phrase from French to English would baffle many prospective English apartment buyers and renters.

Equivalence/reformulation  – Similar to modulation and also an essential technique for any localization strategy, this technique preserves the meaning of an expression or proverb by using something equivalent in the translated language. 

Equivalence/reformulation examples: The English phrase “It’s pouring,” which refers to a downpour of rain doesn’t translate into German but the meaning can be altered to give the same effect, es regnet in Strömen (It rains in streams).

Adaptive – This technique is a sort of cultural substitution or equivalent in that one cultural element is replaced with one that will be better suited and understood in the language and region it’s being translated to. 

Adaptive examples: Baseball or NFL football in the US 🡪Football in England

Choosing the best translation technique 

Out of these basic and common techniques, how do you know what translation tools, translation techniques or methods are the best for your business or localization strategy? Every business, strategy and approach is different so the best way to get a return on your investment is to use certified translation services. Quality translators will assess your documents, software, website, eLearning platform or eCommerce software to ensure that your business successfully reaches your target market and audience. 

Into23 offers high quality translation services in any language your business needs. Contact us today for a free quote so we can help your business enter new global markets and enterprises.

Top 8 best advertising transcreation examples

Advertising transcreation vs. localization

What is advertising transcreation and how can you use it effectively for your global business? 

What is transcreation and how does it differ from translation? With your standard literal translation, it’s all too easy to make blunders as it doesn’t consider the cultural and societal complexities of a language, something that can wreck even the largest company’s marketing strategy.  You could address this problem with cultural localization but sometimes a more flexible approach is needed to adapt the message. This is where advertising transcreation comes in.

What is transcreation?


Image from Pxfuel – Transcreation changes and adapts a text so that it is in line with the language, tone, style, and culture of the market it is targeting

Think of transcreation as elevating translation to another level. Transcreation changes and adapts a text so that it is in line with the language, tone, style, and culture of the market it is targeting. So it’s not a literal translation, as it won’t read or say the same thing, but rather it will carry the same meaning or context. 

Ways transcreation differs from translation

  1. Translation tries to preserve the exact meaning of the text whereas transcreation adapts and changes that meaning to suit a different cultural context.

    Transcreation is used when there are major culture adaptations required to make the content relevant to a culture or region where it is going to be marketed.

  2. Transcreation requires more than just one skill set.

    It requires a quality translation as well as copywriting and copy editing to ensure that the translated work is relevant to the marketing strategy for its target market. That is why it’s important to have linguistic testing & localization services for your global marketing strategy.

  3. The content of your brand or business will determine whether creative translation or regular translation is the best choice for your marketing strategy.

    For example, legal documents might require a literal translation whereas advertising content, such as website localization or eLearning translation is often best suited for transcreation. 

8 effective advertising transcreation examples

While there are many examples of how translation and transcreation can go wrong, what about the ways it’s been done right? If you’re looking for inspiration here are eight exceptional examples of successful transcreations.

Esso

 

Esso image from My Numi – caption: Put a Tiger in The Engine

“Put a Tiger in Your Tank.”

This is one of Esso’s original slogans and it’s still popular today despite it originally appearing in 1959. It was a massive campaign that was immensely successful. What made waves was the innovative ways this slogan was marketed internationally. For example, Esso used transcreation in a creative way for the Italian market. While they initially wanted to try and stay literal with the translation, which would have had the slogan appearing like this,

 “Metti una tigre nel tuo carro armato” (Put a tiger in your tank)

However, this literal translation lost the alliteration from the English slogan so to give it more impact, Esso opted to change the slogan to,

Metti una tigre nel motore (Put a tiger in the engine)

This was a clever move from the interpreter translator as the word engine translates as motore and the “or” sound mimics the roar of an engine. It also managed to keep the catchy alliteration that was present in the English slogan too. 

Apple iPod Shuffle

Small Talk.

While iPod shuffles are no longer relevant to today’s fast-changing technology, they were very popular at the time of their release. The tiny MP3 player carried a simple but effective slogan, “Small Talk”. The slogan emphasised how small the device was but also its effectiveness. While it would be easy to assume that this simple slogan would be a basic one to translate, it created a lot of trouble for Apple as the phrase itself is an idiom in the English language. Idioms are generally specific to one culture or language and carry a figurative meaning, so they’re not easily literally translated, and, in this case, the slogan often lost all meaning when directly translated. 

Wanting to ensure the same message reached the world, Apple decided to transcreate their slogan for each individual market. Here are some of the best examples of Apple’s transcreation process,

  • European Spanish: “Ya sabe hablar” (Already knows how to talk). 
  • French: “Donnez-liu de la voix”  (Let him speak)
  • Canadian French (Québécois): “Petit parleur, grand faiseur”  (Says little, does much)

Each slogan sounds completely different but they all conveyed the iPod shuffle’s capabilities while maintaining the brief and simple tone of the original English slogan. 

Swiffer – Procter & Gamble

When Swiffer’s the one, consider it done.

The use of rhyming couplets in this slogan made Swiffer’s slogan catchy and memorable while also emphasizing its cleaning power. To maintain the rhyming scheme in this slogan, transcreation was needed for a variety of global markets. Here’s a great example from the Italian transcreation, 

La polvere non dura, perché Swiffer la cattura” 
(The dust doesn’t last, because Swiffer catches it)

The rhyming portion was maintained and shifted to the second part of the slogan and it still emphasised the effectiveness of the product. 

Nike

Just do it.”

Arguably one of the most memorable and successful marketing slogans of all time is Nike’s “Just do it”. Another simple slogan that, sadly, does not translate very well. While Nike’s slogan is so well recognized now, its English translation will often be included in Nike’s advertising along with additional transcreated slogans that convey the brand’s meaning for that region.

In 2011, Nike used 用运动 in one of its advertisements which roughly translates to “make sport” or “have sport” and it was a much more culturally relevant way of conveying the same brand meaning to the Chinese market. 

Haribo

 

Gummy candies – Photo by Jonathan J. Castellon on Unsplash – caption: “Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso”

“Haribo makes children happy, and adults too.”

These delicious German gummy sweets can be found just about anywhere in the world thanks to their successful advertising transcreation. The original German slogan is,

Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso

This translates to English as “Haribo makes children happy, and adults too”. While this literal translation worked for the English speaking market it needed to be transcreated for other languages and areas. For example, in Italian its slogan says,

Haribo è la bontà che si gusta ad ogni età” 
(Haribo is the goodness that can be tasted at any age)

This brilliant transcreation created a playful and nostalgic slogan that was easy to say and remember. 

Red Bull

Selling an image…

Red Bull is another product that can be found just about anywhere. Yet how did this product become so successful? Red Bull isn’t exactly known for its taste and it doesn’t have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, so what is it about this product that makes it irresistible for consumers? 

It’s not the product that sells or even its catchy slogan, it’s the creative image that Red Bull has created for it. Red Bull exudes a larger-than-life image and has associated itself with promoting extreme sports, events, and athletes. The slogan, “Red Bull gives you wings” is meant to instill a sense of self-worth and the belief that you can do anything. 

Red Bull is so effective at transcreation that it even altered its branding and product when launching in mainland China. If you buy a Red Bull on the mainland you will find it’s likely not carbonated and that it will be in red and gold packaging, auspicious colours within Chinese culture. 

McDonald’s

Mcdonald’s image – Photo by Polina Tankilevitch  from Pexels – caption: “I’m lovin’ it”

I’m lovin’ it.”

The top contender for the most memorable advertising jingle would have to be McDonald’s’ “I’m lovin’ it.” I bet you’re singing it right now… However, this masterful slogan wasn’t the easiest to translate when McDonald’s took it globally. The biggest issue is the word ‘love’ as there are many other languages in which it does not translate the same way, isn’t used the same way, or just doesn’t even exist, like in China. To address this in China McDonald’s went with,

               “我就喜歡” (I just like it)

This Chinese slogan is the same loving message about McDonald’s food while catering to the cultural nuances of the Chinese market.  

Intel

Sponsors of tomorrow

Intel created this slogan to show their commitment to pushing the boundaries of new technology, however they encountered issues in translating it for the Brazilian market as it didn’t carry the same meaning. Intel transcreated their slogan to,

Apaixonados pelo futuro” (In love with the future)

While not quite the same as the English version it still highlights Intel’s innovative aims for technology. 

Want to transcreate your business as well as these ones have? Into23 has all your international translation solutions to help take your marketing strategy to the next level. Whether it’s localization and translation services, marketing translation services, eLearning translation services or more, Into23 has the translation professionals you need to help convey your brand’s message. Get a free quote today!