Posted on May 26, 2016 · Posted in Linguistics, Translation Quality

When entering a new market, it’s a good idea to know what type of translation you need to use. Do you need a standardized translation, or does your work need to be translated more deeply, to take into account local dialect? Making this distinction is essential for ensuring the audience are addressed effectively.

Think about French, for example. We have French as is used in France, and we also have Canadian French which is widely spoken in Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick. A standardized translation in French may not be as useful as you may think when addressing a French-speaking Canadian audience. A great example is the word ‘gosse’. In French, ‘gosse’ means ‘kid’ or ‘child’, but if you ask your male Quebecois coworker how his ‘gosses’ are… well, let’s just say someone is going to end up with a red face! We often see similar problems whenever dealing with languages that are used in multiple regions, but have their own unique aspects. German and Swiss German, for example, Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, and even when it comes to British English, Australian English, Caribbean English, and American English, too.

To Standarize or Not?

However, in many cases, although there may be audible differences in dialects, these differences don’t always come through in the written word – rhoticity, for example. So does it really matter whether you’re using the correct language variant or not? Well, this really depends on the sort of work you’re dealing with. For professional, technical, legal, and B2B documents, standardized translations may often suffice. In these types of documents, language is often standardized, and colloquialisms and region-specific language is not commonly utilized. In terms of marketing, however, it’s a completely different story.

When it comes to marketing-related translations, it’s frequently essential to determine the correct language variant that needs to be used. While many companies market their products and services on a global scale, it’s incredibly rare to see the same campaign used across multiple countries. Quite simply, messages don’t always translate well. Companies want their products to appeal, which means that campaigns should feel familiar to the audience, no matter where they are. Some may have different slogans for different regions, incorporate local knowledge, or use a specific dialect. Translation in dialects is really no different to restaurants like McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts offering region-specific menus.

Unfortunately, it’s not always particularly black and white when it comes to figuring out what type of translation is required. If you’re unsure whether you need a standardized version or a localized version, don’t panic – just ask your translation provider. They’ll be able to help you determine whether you need an exact language version (or even if one exists or not), and if so they’ll be able to provide a translator to work on your text who has expert knowledge of the target country, and the required dialect. This is one of the best ways to ensure that there are no unexpected surprises in your final translated piece!