Precision Translation - A Little goes a Long Way!

10 October 2014

K International is a global language management company , currently translating over 1,000 product lines per week for several retail heavyweights. Through this the company has developed an in-depth understanding of the requirements of the international retail sector. Clare Daley provides insight into translation in packaging.

Imagine the scene: as part of your exciting international expansion plans, you've invested in a beautiful, trendsetting concept for the packaging of your products, created a striking brand image and carefully crafted the messages on the front and back of packs.

So now, all you have to do to get it flying off the shelves in your new markets is to translate it...right?

Well, if you think about it, hasn't the process so far taken several different departments, plus various external resources, the better part of a year and the whole of the budget to get the English text just right? Then how can the translation process, which will allow you to communicate directly with maybe millions of new consumers, be merely an afterthought? And how sincere is the brand's aim to truly connect with them?

There are several reasons why, when it comes to translating and localising text for packaging and point of sale, a little planning and forethought given to language and cultural issues before your labels and pack copy are finalised will pay enormous dividends
in the long run.

- Enough space?

English is a very concise language so translations can take up to between 15% to 65% more space on the label so inevitably some hard choices will have to be made - this is clearly best done before finalising artwork to avoid those costly rounds of reworking.

- How compliant is compliant?

Your source text may be fully compliant in English but translation into other languages can change things enough to warrant
rechecking. Plus, bear in mind that, particularly in food retail, each market has its own national regulations on top the latest EU
regulations - so you'd need to have in-country compliance checks of the translated text to make sure there are no nasty surprises once the products are on the shelf.

- Anyone for "Frog in a Ditch"?

What sounds great in English does not always translate so well into different languages and cultures so you should not expect a word for word translation - if that's what you're given, you've got the wrong translation. "Toad in the Hole" was actually translated recently for one retailer we know as "Frog in a Ditch"! So how does a French or Chinese consumer cope with a literal translation of "Coronation Chicken", "Victoria Sandwich" or understand that "Ginger Beer" is meant for kids?

-Your voice in their language?

Also, it takes linguistic skill and creative flair to ensure that the same emotional connection and impact you're aiming for in English
happens with consumers in other markets. Knowing your brand values and who you are targeting enables translators to pitch the
language perfectly and to bring the message home.

- Feeling like Groundhog Day?

You shouldn't be translating the same phrases again and again - and then paying for the privilege. Most professional translation
companies should have the technology to build your unique memory bank of agreed terminologies, phrases and glossaries and then
manage those language assets for you, ultimately saving huge amounts off the original costs.

- How slick is the process?

If no thought is given to integrating translation into your workflow processes, it can be a disjointed process with inefficiencies accumulating at every stage. One major supermarket we work with has reduced their end-to-end translation processes from months
to days by using a bespoke platform which moves everything along smartly, enabling real-time communication between translators, in-country legal reviewers, suppliers and relevant personnel.

Even the biggest brands have famously made costly mistakes when launching new lines in unfamiliar territories: General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova to South America, only to find out that "nova" translates as "it won't go" and Clairol marketed their "Mist Stick" curling iron in Germany, where "mist" is a slang term for manure"!

So, if you value your nascent global reputation, make sure you resist the all too easy appeal of Google Translate and other machine translators. No matter how clever the algorithms, they can't understand brand values, textual context and the cultural
idiosyncrasies of each individual market - at least, not yet...

Instead, as early on in the process as possible, you can benefit significantly from taking a moment to consider the language implications of your plans. Get some professional translation advice and support and devise a clear language strategy to make sure that your products arrive on shelves across the globe, beautifully packaged - and making perfect sense.

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