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Translating Marketing Materials

Transferring words from one language to another…

There is a great myth about translation being simply a matter of “transferring words from one language to another”! However, this myth is definitively debunked in the localisation of marketing collateral. When translating marketing materials, there are many subtle considerations to take into account, from whether certain pictures or phrases would be acceptable in the target language, to how much space you will need for the translated texts. Take Spanish, for example — almost invariably, a Spanish translation will take up 30% more space than the English source text. What sort of effect will this have on your carefully laid-out design? Is there anything you can do to anticipate this sort of problem?

This is compounded by the fact that many language service providers lack an understanding of marketing. Many LSPs are only accustomed to translating from one Word file into another. At QuickSilver, we think of this as the ‘traditional’ approach, we know it can lead to serious problems and — crucially — unnecessary costs.

This is because the translations that emerge from this process are often too literal and lack the desired sales impact. As a result, in-country personnel must revise the translations themselves. This leads to an increased time-to-market, damaged reputations and higher costs. Not to mention the added risks and negative consequences that are often arise when non-professional translators or writers act as unplanned project managers.

An integrated approach

The best way to eliminate these risks is to adopt an integrated approach to translation. At QuickSilver Translate, when it comes to translating marketing materials, we have redefined the role of the translator, and expanded the translator’s involvement in the process. We take care of every aspect of the translation process; from the initial stages of drafting, all the way through to refining the layout of the final product.


An all-too-common translation pitfall is to slip into what we call ‘translationese’. With some kinds of documentation, generally of a more technical nature, accuracy to the original is essential. When it comes to marketing collateral, however, it is fundamentally important to produce a text which reads as if it were written by a native speaker. ‘Translationese’ is when you sacrifice this clarity in order to reproduce the meaning of the original, and end up with something which is probably grammatically correct, but phrased in a way that a native speaker would never use.

One small example illustrates this principle: In conversation, a native of the USA would always say that something cost ‘one-fifty’, but never that it cost ‘one-dollar-fifty-cents’. Now, the second option is perfectly correct, it is just totally unidiomatic. This is the sort of ‘mistake’ which an inadequate or inexperienced (or non-native) translator won’t notice, but any native speaker will recognise as a translation  – classic translationese!

Our solution

For this and other reasons, at Quicksilver we always use translators who are native speakers of the target language. In addition, during the final stage of our review process, we evaluate translations on their own merits; that is, without comparing them to the source text. After editing thoroughly for accuracy; we check that all translations are phrased in a way that a native speaker would use.

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