Social and Cultural Issues That Influence Language Translation

Before entering a foreign market, firms must study all aspects of a nation’s culture, including language, education, social values and religious attitudes.  In India, where many women still cover their bodies from head to toe, Western style advertisements showing women clad in swimsuits or jeans have offended some religious fundamentalists and women’s rights advocates.  In fact, less than 10 years ago the Indian Parliament had proposed a law that would carry a fine of $7,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years for advertisements who indecently portray women.  Since then times have changed in India, yet the portrayal of women in advertising is still closely guarded in many parts of the world.

Because language frequently differs in international markets, firms must take pains to ensure their communications are correctly translated and convey the intended meanings.  Some classic examples of embarrassing mistakes in language translation include the following:

Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery, “Fly in leather,” it came out in Spanish as “Fly naked.”

PepsiCo’s theme “Come Alive with Pepsi,” was mistranslated to “Come out of the grave.”

Kentucky Fried Chicken’s slogan “Finger Licking Good” was interpreted in China as “Fingers taste good so bite them off.”

According to New York Portuguese Translation companies,many products from U.S. manufacturers sometimes face consumer resistance abroad.  American automobiles, for example traditionally have been rejected by European drivers, who complain of poor styling, low gasoline mileage and inferior handling.  But smaller from Ford and General Motors, developed by American producers for European markets have made modest inroads.  This reversal suggests that it is not always possible to determine the precise impact of cultural, economic and societal factors prior to entering a foreign market.  Boston Japanese Translation experts also claim that for centuries, Japanese tea drinkers have preferred natural tea, but Boston Tea Company’s blended, spiced and herbal teas now sell well in Japan.

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