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Study Finds American Brands Losing Customers And Dollars In Droves Due To Bad Translations

The national survey conducted by TransPerfect Translations and Translations.com, together the leading translation providers in the U.S., indicates that 65% of the respondents believe that poorly translated ads show a lack of caring about the consumer.

Examples of poorly translated words or brands from the English in ads include:

  • "Point" translated into Spanish as "puta" which means prostitute
  • "Census" translated into Spanish as "sesos" which means "brain"
  • "Futball" for soccer-this is known as Spanglish (first half is Spanish, second half is English)-it should be fútbol

Certain products were consistently implicated in the poorly translated ads such as food products at 35%, 20% for drug products and a disturbing 13% for baby products. The respondents said that newspaper ads were the worst offenders at 35%, with 31% saying television ads were poorly translated. But probably the worst concern for corporations is that 32% of respondents said that a mistranslation of an ad would adversely affect their loyalty to a product.

Phil Shawe, President and CEO of Translations.com says, "Global brand management is not as simple as a word-for-word literal translation of ad copy. To manage global brands companies must incorporate the nuances of cultures and market-specific messages into the linguistic process (or transadapting as we often call it)."

Respondents of the survey also indicated that 30% found a translation so bad that it was humorous, while 36% misunderstood what the product was or was used for because the translation was so poor. And it is not just the message or a line in an ad-some brand names just don't translate into another language. For example, Chi Chi's (Restaurant) in Spanish means a woman's chest. Liz Elting, President and CEO of TransPerfect Translations commented, "A thorough knowledge of the target culture, including the use of idiomatic expressions, allows the professional native speaker to communicate the meaning and the message as opposed to a literal rendering of the words." Elting sums up by saying, "Simply put, this is the only way for companies to effectively get their message across to their target audience to achieve the kind of results they want and need from their marketing dollars."

While some of the miscues are humorous, with the meteoric growth of the size and spending clout of minority groups in this country and the globalization of corporate brands, if not corrected the situation will not be a laughing matter for key American brands.

About Translations.com

Translations.com is known worldwide for the quality of its software and website localization, as well as its enterprise language solutions for clients in virtually every major industry. Translations.com's business services meet the strategic needs of organizations seeking to communicate and conduct business in international markets. The company has an established global presence on three continents and continues to pioneer new techniques and technologies for the rapid development of multilingual business solutions.

Translations.com is part of the TransPerfect global group of companies. For more information, please visit www.translations.com, or email the company at info@translations.com.