The Cultural-Added Value of Translation and Localization

September 18th, 2009
The professional translation agent's role in localization has become all the more critical nowadays because globalization has ironically enhanced the feelings of local identity in the international business arena. Let's just say that the role of the translator has evolved from "a person who knows two languages" to "intercultural communications expert" in a relatively short period of time. On that note, what should a translation service firm do in order to adapt to this eventuality? Making its translation staff become more proficient with the cultural codes that "sell" a product is one way of accomplishing this goal; that is, integrating this cultural-added value into one's translation work will help turn a translator into a localizer as well. What the Cultural-Added Value of Translation Entails Because of his semiotic training, linguistic skills, and technical know-how, the professional translation expert or translation service localizer of the twenty-first century should strive to become someone who's able to interpret and make use of cultural symbols within the medium of advertising. To be more precise, the concept of "cultural-added value" covers a variety of heterogeneous issues and matters that a true human translation expert must manage in efficient yet moving outlines. The knowledge that a translator must master in order to make his translations possess cultural-added value involves the following criteria:
  • The locally exclusive clichés and cultural stereotypes that the target market possesses could affect the message of a company's advertisements (e.g., national spirit, religious convictions, ethnic preferences, the representation of oneself and of others, and so forth).
  • The symbolism of architectural and geometrical forms as well as the meaning of colors can become contradictory depending on the region that your human translation is targeting.
  • Adapting addresses, currencies, weights and measures, and dates and hours can also differ from country to country and language to language, although it's become more common for an entire region or continent to adapt some sort of standard.
All of the above cultural elements should not only serve as a translator's prime concerns when attempting to convey his client's advertising message to a foreign locale; they should also play a decisive role in the target market's ultimate acceptance of the intended message. Disregarding the importance of localization has taken its toll on many multinational companies from time immemorial; as such, it's the translator's job to not let this possibility happen to their client. Even though making a translation contain a bit of cultural-added value appears to be a source of continuous problems to translators in terms of localization work, it can also be very beneficial to them because it caters to the target culture's wishes of complicity and identification. Just as individuality is important, so is national identity. ---

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