Monthly Archives: July 2012

IKEA Shows How To Successfully Launch in a Foreign Language Market

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Last year IKEA, the Swedish furniture maker, opened its first store in Bangkok, Thailand.  But unlike so many other Fortune 500 companies, IKEA actually did their homework.  A special language team spent four years checking to make sure that the names of IKEA’s products would work fine in Thai, and not cause any embarrassment for the Swedish giant.

A few examples, the “Redalen” bed is similar sounding to a Thai word for sex, same with the “Jattebra” plant pot.  Neither of which are appropriate for business dealings.

According to a member of the language team, they would try to keep the Thai word as close as possible to the original, often only changing one letter.

This is a great example of a company being truly concerned about the translation of their products, and more importantly about localization, ensuring a successful and sensitive translation.

The Ways of Translating Movie Titles

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Have you ever noticed why when you see movies in a foreign country they have such different names? It seems odd that the titles should be so different from their English counterparts.  This post should help explain the different ways of and reasons for not just straight translating a movie title.

The first option is the obvious one, which is just transliterating a movie’s title, so Star Wars becomes La Guerre des Etoiles.  This was the most common way to do it in the past.  This is most often used when more complex or esoteric words are used, such as the Deathly Hallows, les Reliques de la Mort.

Another option is to simply leave the title as English.  This was done in the case of the Matrix.  It is common to do this with one word titles that are more symbolic than descriptive, though it was also done recently with The Hunger Games.

Sometimes titles are changed because a transliterated French title may have cultural implications not present in the original English. This was the case for the French version of Two and a Half Men, which was changed to Mon Oncle Charlie to avoid anybody think the shows involved two guys and a dwarf.

The key thing to remember about these changes is also the key thing about translation.  That is that translating is nothing if you don’t keep in mind the intended audience, not just the intended language.  And sometimes the message isn’t best translated with a transliterated title.

Read more about translating movie titles here.

Apple Learns a Hard Lesson About Localization

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After launching iTunes in twelve new Asian markets, Apple received complaints from its new Hong Kong users.  The company had used Mandarin pinyin, a system to write Chinese characters in phonetic Latin script, instead of Cantonese pinyin characters for some of the songs listed on the store, including some songs by native Hong Kong pop stars.

This is a classic case of translating but not localizing.  Localizing takes into account the important cultural and social situation that the translation is presented in.  If Apple had localized it would have known that in Hong Kong, 96% of the population speak Cantonese, not Mandarin.  And while most Cantonese speakers could have understood the Mandarin; they resent it none the less.

Ever since Hong Kong reverted back to being under mainland Chinese rule, locals have tried to hold on to their Cantonese heritage, resenting the government’s use of Mandarin.  Apple seems to have offended Cantonese pride with these translations.

AZ World specializes in providing high quality and localized translations, so that embarrassing situations like this don’t happen to your company.  Request a quote here.

Google Translate Lets Users Edit Machine Translations

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For a while now, Google has allowed websites to use its Translate service to translate entire websites.  The Malaysian Ministry of Defence infamously used it, with predictable results.  Well now Google has released a plugin for their website translation service that allows any user to edit a page’s text if they believe the translation can be approved.  This is similar to the crowdsourcing that Facebook and Twitter have done.  Once a website user has made a change, the website manager must then approve it before the change is published.

While this addition to Google Translate makes it a better product, even crowdsourcing can’t and won’t replace professional human translation.  You can read more about the changes to Google Translate here and more about crowdsourcing translations here.

AZ World offers professional website translation to request a quote please use this page.