Marketing - poor originals
Thread poster: Hermann

Hermann  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:17
English to German
+ ...
Mar 28, 2004

I have been reading with great interest some of the discussions on marketing translations, in particular this thread:

My call for discussion touches a slightly different issue which might have been covered before. So please forgive me if I am repeating what has already been discussed.

I frequently – and not doubt many of you – receive 'marketing' material which wouldn't even make the grade in the source country, yet alone in a translated form.

Quite a few companies don't employ proper copywriters, sometimes with glorious results.

I would be interested to hear how others tackle this challenge. What do you tell your clients?

One client after trying to tell him - as diplomatically as possible - that his copy wouldn't work in the target country once even told me all he wants is just 'a translation', i.e. I shouldn't concern myself with any other details.

Others are so besotted with their own creation they would insist on sticking slavishly to the original.

How diplomatic can you be? Where would you draw the line?




Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:17
German to English
+ ...
Been there, done it, (usually) sorted it Mar 28, 2004

What I do is first read the text to identify potential "issues". (That's putting it politely, if you follow my drifticon_wink.gif.

Then ask who it is targeted at. Is it to be a straight translation for internal purposes (i.e. for the U.K./U.S. office, or do they want an adaptation that their perceived target group is going to read? Who is their perceived target group, who are their competitors?

If adaptation is the case, ask them what degree of latitude they are prepared to grant you in your adaptation. Then suggest you submit 150 or so words as a test. If they are happy with that, then they shouldn't, in theory, have a leg to stand on.

This usually works.

Good luck, Norbert


Hermann  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:17
English to German
+ ...
Thanks Chris Mar 28, 2004

As I imagined this topic has been covered before under:

Though my angle is slightly different. We are dealing here with clients who either don't seem to understand or would not appreciate a translator telling them their copy is simply rubbish.

The previous discussion shows differences in opinion - from eliminating inadequacies to translating the material with warts and all – latter would, of course, require safeguarding oneself.


Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:17
German to English
Sometimes the client just doesn't get it Mar 28, 2004

I recently had a similar situation. A small German company hired a US PR firm to handle its (rather stodgily-written) brochures and other marketing material in the American market. They, in turn, hired a translation agency, who, in turn, hired me. (You can see where this is going). The instructions from the PR firm were to produce something that would be good marketing copy, which I did, but I also maintained elements I knew would be important to the end client. The PR firm streamlined my copy more; their task, after all, was to produce good marketing material. I didn't have a problem with that, as I assumed they were taking responsibility for the final product. The end client, however, insisted upon reviewing the document as it was being translated so they could micromanage the project. Of course, they were upset that (1) the translation used different tenses than the original and (2) that concepts that were either commonplace or alien to the US market were de-emphasized. Although they "did not want a literal translation," they wanted "all the important words translated." The PR company kicked the project back, saying the document had to be redone to include the client's desires.
The client, of course, didn't understand that what was important to the German market wasn't necessarily a selling point in the US. I was paid for the work, but I suspect that in the end the company had the document re-translated in-house by a non-native speaker of English.

Some companies think that because they can sell widgets in their home market, they can use the same techniques / material to sell products abroad.


Local time: 12:17
English to Swedish
+ ...
Agree with Kevin Mar 29, 2004

I agree with Kevin, but funnily/naturally enough from almost the opposite perspective.

The US copy texts I get usually need a great deal of rewriting before being able to make it in the Swedish market (standard US copy will often be perceived as too sweet and oily by Swedes).

Like Hermann, I have also had to translate a few English texts produced by non-native speakers of English, which is a challenge in itself.

The main question though, what to do about customers who don't understand or accept criticism, even when it is nicely presented, is something else.

In fact, in the cases where I specified reasons why the text would not work in the target market, my customers generally perked up their ears and listened.

There is one exception though, an agency just out to make a quick buck on Korean and Japanese IT and electronics translations. The agency told me not to worry about the quality, since "the national offices usually change everything in the end anyway..."icon_frown.gif

Needless to say, I was not very happy to hear that, so out the door with that customer. I find it is better to make a nice retreat from these companies after receiving my pay, than to keep accepting jobs from people who do not give two cents about quality.

Unless you are only in translation for quick money, I recommend this approach. Too much compromising with your principles is no good to anybody, and to be quality-conscious is rewarded by genuine, decent-paying customers.


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