Translation vs. transliteration in converting brand names to Chinese

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Ambrose Li  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:03
Chinese to English
+ ...
This is a strange viewpoint Oct 10, 2011

Transliteration is, of course, not what is required. What is required is a branding strategy that works in the context. Sometimes it will be translation. Sometimes it will be transliteration. Sometimes it will be something else.

It’s not exactly a response, but I’ve written something about something like this four years ago. Personally I don’t touch branding because I don’t feel qualified to touch it, so you probably want to take what I wrote with a grain of salt.


 

njweatherdon
Canada
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Chinese brand translations are always interesting, but are not really translations Oct 10, 2011

I always find it fascinating when in China to discover the ways that they manage to find some sort of brand name that loosely relates to the foreign pronunciation, but more importance is given to finding a way to make it say something cool in Chinese than in finding a way to copy the sound.

Carrefour may be the most well-known example: 家乐福,or jialefu, which means prosperous family or some such thing.


 

Ambrose Li  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:03
Chinese to English
+ ...
Carrefour Feb 9, 2012

家樂福 is actually quite an accurate approximation of the French sound, but not in Mandarin. (/ga1 lɔk6 fʊk1/ in Cantonese — the Carrefour brand initially landed in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong.)

Anyway, as I’ve noted elsewhere, in Chinese most brands will try to “say something interesting”, because Chinese characters are not semantically neutral. So rather than just transliterate your name and hope for the best, it’s always desirable (from a marketing viewpoint) to proactively find a name with a nice meaning.

[Edited at 2012-02-09 18:11 GMT]


 


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Translation vs. transliteration in converting brand names to Chinese

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