This post was originally published by Wibke Sonderkamp on the GlobalCom PR Network blog.
Working in international PR, translations belong to our daily tasks. To make sure the content and correct meaning of articles, press releases or comments is transferred into another language we differentiate between translation and localization – meaning we expect our consultants to understand each paragraph and message and express it in their local language.
This also means restructuring texts due to the preferences of the local media and audience as well as adapting the wording accordingly.
If the client already has documents in the respective language we also make sure the corporate wording is consistent. If a client expands into a new market we support the creation of corporate wording in the new language.
Most of the translations for actual PR texts are done in-house as the consultants have an in-depth knowledge about their client’s offering, messaging and corporate wording. If we cooperate with professional translation services for specific translations (e.g. for websites or a full portfolio of marketing material) we make sure that the necessary background knowledge is transferred and texts go through an approval process to assure they are technically correct and in compliance with corporate wording and other standards.
While the translation of technical topics is one of the most challenging tasks and an area of expertise for the GlobalCom PR Network teams around the world, the difficulties of bridging cultural gaps in translations can be demonstrated particularly well with the use of Idioms. The translation agency Tongue Tied Manchester Ltd. shared some examples in their current newsletter:
Idioms are closely related to their respective cultures and whilst in the Norwegian and Czech language you are “walking around hot porridge”, in German you “speak around hot mush” and in English you are “beating around the bush” – all these idioms refer to “not getting to the point.”
More idiom examples from around the world include:
- To seize the moon by the teeth: to try the impossible (French)
- To reheat cabbage: to rekindle an old flame (Italian)
- When the crayfish sings in the mountain: never (Russian)
- Cleaner than a frog’s armpit: to be poor, broke (Spanish)
- To think one is the last suck of the mango: to be conceited (South American Spanish)
Many cultures have an individual way of saying it is raining:
- In English, it would be “raining cats and dogs”
- In some African countries, people might say “it’s raining old women with clubs”
- In Norway it’s on the other hand “raining female trolls”
- and in Ireland you would say “it’s throwing cobblers knives”
A language is a living substance, which continuously evolves under the influence of different factors. English, just like other languages, constantly enriches its vocabulary with words invented by the respective speakers, making it more colorful with new idiomatic expressions and, over time, refills its stocks with these borrowings and neologisms.