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Translating Advertisements: More Difficult Than Advertised

Tutorials » Translating Advertisements: More Difficult Than Advertised

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Whether you’re a seasoned translator or a novice, translating advertisements can be a tricky proposition. While they may seem easy, since they don’t tend to have much text, that facet could be what actually makes it that much more difficult.

The purpose of the advertising translation is not just to transfer the meaning of words, but also to attract potential customers.

So what is the best strategy for translating advertising texts? Since what works in one demographic may not work in another, it’s hard to always know what the proper translation should be. However, it’s safe to note that literal translation is rarely used, since it’s a combination of language and imagery that makes an advertisement successful.

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Most often translators will lean toward use the method of approximate translation while translating advertisements and slogans, since national and cultural characteristics of the audience need to be taken into consideration. Sometimes, however, a slogan may be left in its native language when it is necessary to emphasize its foreign origin and, therefore, the quality of the product. For example: the slogans «Volkswagen. Das Auto» and «Nike. Just do it» were kept in their native languages even in foreign markets.

This method cannot be used for translating long slogans or bylines, however. But it is good for short ones where the meaning can be derived easily and is representational of the brand image.

Another difficulty with translating advertisements is that they often rhyme or at least have a certain rhythm to the language which can be difficult to duplicate in the translated version and still retain the original meaning.

While translating advertisements can be tricky, it is certainly not impossible. Here are some characteristics of advertisements to help you get a good idea of what you should keep in mind when writing your translation:

  • Advertisements tend to use numerous verbs in the imperative mood (buy, see, taste, try, enjoy, feel, discover);
  • They also tend to use a lot of emotive adjectives and adverbs (best, fantastic, super, hyper, fabulous);
  • Always remember, you’re trying to appeal to the buyer, so keep your target audience in mind;
  • Be sure to use various stylistic techniques, such as metaphors, similes, adjectives rhyme, etc.

Advertisements are not like traditional writing. They are more on the creative side, so treat the translation with the same kind of creativity and you will be sure to be successful in your advertisement translation endeavors.


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Tutorials » Translating Advertisements: More Difficult Than Advertised

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