Cultural Influences of Translation and Consumer Behavior

People are social animals.  They often buy products and services that will enable them to project a favorable image to others.  These influences may result from three categories of interpersonal determinants of consumption behavior: cultural influences, social influences and family influences.  In this blog entry, we will be focusing on the cultural influences of consumption behavior as it relate to the field of language translation.

Culture is the broadest environmental determinant of consumption behavior.  Language translation professionals sometimes have difficulty overcoming cultural barriers in their localization efforts.  As one San Francisco Portuguese Translation consultant states, “Many errors in translating advertising messages result from failure to understand another culture’s colloquialisms and words and phrases with double meanings.”  Consequently, we are all familiar with humorous and embarrassing mistakes in the translation of product names and advertising slogans.

Culture can be defined as the “the complex of values, ideas, attitudes and other meaningful symbols that serve humans to communicate, interpret and evaluate as members of society.”  It is the completely learned and handed-down way of life that gives each society its unique flavor of values.

While cultural values change over time, there are always some basic core values that are slow to change.  For example, New York Portuguese Translation consultants believe that the work ethic and the accumulation of wealth have always played a big part in the development of American society.  Of course, we now see this in the development of the new Chinese society and other developing economies too.  Other American core values include efficiency, practicality, individualism, freedom, youthfulness, activity, and humanitarianism.  Each of these values influences consumer behavior.  Americans’ value of activity-the notion that keeping busy is healthy and natural-stimulates consumer interest in products that save time and enhance leisure-time activities.  The values of youthfulness stimulate consumers to accept products and services that provide the illusion of maintaining or fostering youth.

Cultural differences are particularly important to language translation workers.  Our Milwaukee German Translation workers will explore this later, for now it is important to note that cultural differences result in different attitudes, morals, and folkways, all of which affect the world of translation services.  Consider the case of the candy company that introduced a new chocolate bar with peanuts in Japan.  The candy bar failed because Japanese folklore suggests that eating chocolate with peanuts leads to nosebleeds.

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