A vast majority of people do not spend their free time questioning linguistic accuracy and factors affecting the reliability of a translation. Nonetheless, especially true within the business environment, the chances are that you will come across a document or material at some point, which needs to be converted into another language to either approach the target audience or consumers or understand its content fully.
When such a scenario finally arises, somewhat of a more comprehensive understanding of the translation industry and the factors which directly or indirectly affect the accuracy of a translation can give you a great advantage within your workplace. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at a factor, which in the eyes of a vast majority of translation experts, plays an absolutely crucial part during the translation process, and which can directly affect the suitability of the translated content, and that’s the culture of a target market and consumers within it.
What exactly is ‘culture’ within the translation process?
Generally speaking, culture and the cultural aspects are comprehensive concepts. Nonetheless, within the translation process itself, the idea of culture limits any aspect that may directly or indirectly affect how the target audience perceives the converted materials. And so, factors such as religion, customs, socio-demographics, history, superstitions, or even the country’s current political situation are some of the most important cultural considerations, which quite simply must be taken into account when converting documents from one language into another. Aspects such as the ones mentioned above can be especially substantial when translating business or marketing materials. An accurate and highly suitable translation will create a professional, considerate, and customer-oriented brand image, whilst any cultural gaffs in the final content may, unfortunately, negatively affect your company’s efforts.
Crucial but often overlooked.
A recent survey revealed that, when asked, UK-based respondents do not necessarily list the target audience’s culture as a factor, which can directly affect how the translated materials are received within a chosen market. Unsurprisingly, they believe that the reliability of a translation can be predominantly measured in linguistic terms – for example, whether the converted message truthfully embodies the original and whether the appropriate words were used to reflect the message in another language.
Nonetheless, when speaking with experts from the translation industry, we can clearly understand just how important culture is during the translation process. To present this in this article, we have asked a representative of one of the leading UK translation agencies specializing in translations for the African market, Africa Ready, to explain how the culture of the target audience and market as a whole affects their work.
“From a professional point of view, culture, right after the linguistic characteristics, is perhaps the most important factor when it comes to translating business, corporate, or marketing materials. Socio-cultural aspects play such an important part during the translation and localization processes that our agency works solely with the native speakers of the target languages.
This allows our translations to be extremely reliable, accurate, and culturally suitable as the person converting the materials fully understands what the audience expects. Ultimately, they are themselves a part of the market.” He said and added, “Socio-cultural aspects such as religion, customs, history or even political situation within the given market can directly affect how the target audience receives the translated materials, and so it’s essential to bear such factors in mind during the translation process.”
What better way to understand something than by looking at real-life examples? Appreciating the importance of culture and social aspects when translating materials is no different. Looking at foreign markets with strong, unique cultures deeply imprinted within their societies, we can clearly discover patterns applicable across countries. In China, for example, cultural aspects are so firmly embedded in society that a standard translation often isn’t quite good enough, and a localization service must be applied instead when approaching this market.
Here, history and superstitions are extremely relevant so that a reliable translation will take them into account. Colors, images, or symbols must be carefully adjusted when translating content for this market, as any faux pas concerning any of such aspects can be extremely damaging to your brand. Middle Eastern countries are also great examples of markets where a simple word-for-word translation doesn’t always cut. As religious factors play a key part in this region of the world, before translating any materials intended for audiences within this market, content must be carefully checked to ensure that it is in fact fully suitable and that it adheres to all of the socio-cultural norms, for example, any references to alcohol consumption are removed.
Where to find a translation provider?
If, at any point, you find yourself in need of a professional translation, whether for personal or business reasons, you have a few potential options to choose from; for example, free online tools such as Google Translate, which is an ideal solution for communicating with friends or family. You can also find a freelance linguist who can translate your required languages.
As this article describes, however, the importance of culture when approaching foreign audiences and its significance within the translation process itself, we’ll focus on a solution that is the ultimate choice in the eyes of many experts, and that’s working directly with translations agency. For instance, a professional translation agency, the London-based Translation Services UK, will offer expert translations in several languages due to their extensive network of native linguists. Additionally, a translation company usually focuses on a particular business sector. So as an additional advantage, your materials will not only meet any cultural and linguistic standards but will also guarantee sector expertise.
Arguably, combining these factors makes approaching a translation agency directly the best possible option, regardless of which type of documents or content you need to convert into another language. Nonetheless, when exploring the market for a potential translation provider, it is essential to ensure that the company of your choice meets rigorous criteria. For example, ensure that the agency in question is a member of an official translation body, such as the ATC UK (Association of Translation Companies in the United Kingdom) and that it had previously worked with clients and documents from your particular business industry.
All in all
By this point, you hopefully better understand how cultural and social aspects can affect the reliability of a translation and what approach to take to translate content into another language accurately. Whether you decide to work with a freelance linguist translator, a professional, translation company, or by simply using one of the widely available free online tools, making sure that your materials are translated by someone who isn’t only a linguistic expert, but who at the same time fully understands the customs and culture of the target market can be the difference between success and failure abroad.