Lost in Translation

Last week there was a full-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal by a company based outside the United States. I don’t know what the WSJ ad rates are, but I am certain that this advertiser invested a large sum of money in reaching out to customers and investors. Unfortunately, the ad contained stilted language when translated into American English. Nothing was actually incorrect, but the phrasing was awkward. Here is one part of the ad:

“For the past 20 years, (company name) has not only served your immediate need, but also brought you a little more satisfactory feeling in the every business and service that we offered. When you smile happily, we know that we are more close to our destination.”

I am not sharing this to poke fun at a foreign company, but just to underscore the principle that an editorial review with a native-speaking editor is worth the investment. In this age of Google translate, it is very simple to take information in another language and get a reasonable idea of the intent through a translation tool. This works for basic understanding of content in other languages, but there is an important next step in creating professional content. The content needs to be edited for syntax and flow. While there is usually much grace in verbal communication for someone making the effort to speak another language, in professional written communication, the expectation is that content is accurately translated for the target audience. One more round of professional editing might have moved this company closer to their destination. The difference between good and great is in the details.

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1 Comment

  1. I’l say it. It had to be an Asian company. (And they should have used “closer” – not “more close.”) 🙂


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