There’s no getting away from the fact that the translation of marketing texts needs to be done by copywriters and not translators. They’re in the business of ‘concepts’ and the good ones also stay loyal to the original intention of the piece.
It’s been a while since I wrote my last post. Meanwhile I’ve been busy on client work and also found time to write an article for myself entitled ‘English Copywriting – Why having excellent English is not enough’ (read it here). However my primary objective was to publish it in Hebrew.
Even though I’m fluent in Hebrew, it’s not my mother tongue. So I sent the article to a translator who told me that she can translate the concepts, not just the words. That’s what we all want with translation, isn’t it?
Anyway, three drafts later (plus a lot of my annotated notes) the text in many places still didn’t reflect the spirit and the intention of the original text. The translator was trying her best, I’m sure, but she was wedded to her own texts rather than mine and introduced things that I hadn’t mentioned. By contrast, she ignored certain things that I had marked as important. Her justification was that ‘one doesn’t translate word for word’.
True enough! But the key thing is to understand the author’s concepts and find a way to express those concepts in the translated language. For example, if I talk about the need to shape messages in a story and also establish the sequence of those messages, I’d expect to come across the words ‘messages’ and ‘sequence’ in the translation. They never appeared, despite a few alerts on my part.
My point with this post is that it’s difficult to find people who are not only translators but also capable copywriters – whose overriding objective is to preserve and enhance the concepts of the original author. Too often translation becomes somewhat of a Via Dolorosa as we try our best with the chosen translator. We go through several drafts, give up, pay him or her and then take the ‘unfinished’ product to another source for fixing.
Translation is perhaps the wrong word, because it is a mechanical process. The true skill is ‘transliteration’ and those people are hard to find!