Non native translators, no matter how intelligent and knowledgeable about the language, are no substitute for a true native.
For starters, any translator translates, but only native translators can choose the best combination of words to give the right effect.
Non native translators would not know any recent new words or references, such as from commercials or TV shows, that a native in the country where the language is used would know and see everyday. Translators who translate into a language learned later in life would not know little jokes or puns because they only know a fraction of the language. Non native translators would not know slang or hidden meanings of seemingly innocent words.
Therefore they are not the best choice for marketing and may ruin a business.
How non native translators can ruin a marketing campaign
- Coors Brewing’s “Turn it loose” was supposed to mean “Go wild” or “Party”. Something else was let loose when they tried to translate it to Spanish because it became “Suffer from Diarrhea”.
- Colgate introduced a toothpaste brand called “Cue” in France. Only a native living there would know that it is also the name of an adult magazine.
- The slogan “Pepsi will bring you back to life” was used for China. Unfortunately instead of “rejuvenate” the word “resurrect” was used. So in Chinese it read “Pepsi will bring back your ancestors from the grave.”
- KFC’s “Finger-lickin good” became “Eat your fingers off” in Chinese.
- For its Belgium campaign, Ford’s “Every car has a high quality body” became “Every car has a high quality corpse.”
- When they entered the American market Electrolux from Sweden had their slogan translated to “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”. Nothing sucks like a translation gone wrong.
You would expect that big brand companies would know better than to use unexperienced translators. They are big enough to recover from a hit but this sort of mistake may ruin a business. Don’t scrimp on using native, professional translators.
When you don’t know much about a service, you can end up making the wrong choices. Two doctors are not the same. A heart specialist is a still a doctor, but they cannot treat brain diseases. A neurosurgeon cannot perform a bypass, but that doesn’t make them any less of a doctor. They are both experts in their fields. The same rule applies to translators. Two translators may be very good at their job, but that doesn’t mean both of them can translate the same languages.
Native translators are better because they, like heart surgeons, understand a language and all its intricacies. Non-native translators, no matter how good they are at their job, can mess up a simple translation task because they don’t understand the native language well. Hiring non-native translators for business translation can land you in a big mess, and your business will also suffer if there are blunders in the translation. So it is better to avoid non-native translators for business translations.