The Dos and Don’t of Translation

Even the most unconventional content creation methods require a certain organization, with rules and standards set to achieve optimal potential. We’ve compiled a list of basic translation dos and don’ts to help you out.

At Commanine, we’ve always been firm advocates of creative content and have continuously encouraged spontaneous and organic translation, transcreation and content writing processes. However, we also understand that even the most unconventional methods require a certain organization, with rules and standards set to achieve optimal potential. We’ve compiled a list of basic translation dos and don’ts to help you out:

Do – Tailor each and every process to the topic and context. Since no two translation jobs are ever alike, it is important to establish a systematic work ethic and fine-tune it to relate directly to the job at hand early on in the process.

Don’t – Use one model for all your projects. One of the most common rookie mistakes in translation is the use of a single general guideline for every project no matter the difference. This can typically result in gaps and inconsistencies. The nature and type of the project should guide the approach.

Do – Learn about your audience. By understanding the audience and the target market, you’re ensuring your content is at once culturally aware and sensitive.

Don’t – Blindly translate word for word. In some cases, the literal translation of certain elements does not resonate the same way in different languages. For instance, mentioning typically American food chains such as In-N-Out will fall on deaf ears almost anywhere outside the USA, and as such, should be adapted to resonate with each different culture, for example with the use of Wimpy’s in the UK or The Cheesecake Factory in Dubai.

There is fine line between good and bad translation. The key to staying on the right side of the line lies in the understanding of the content’s nature and context.

Do – Become familiar with the topic / client. One of the most basic and influential steps for any kind of translation calls for the mastering of the subject / client being treated. By learning about the brand, you’re ensuring your content is both relevant and thoughtful.

Don’t – Generalize. Once again, the default option of generalizing can fall flat and ruin the project. Even if you believe you’ve worked on similar projects before, it is important not to assume that the result will be the same. Even when subjects are similar, clients often tend to ask for different angles and approaches and fresh takes on the material to distinguish themselves.

Do – Adapt your style. Just because you have a preferred writing style, doesn’t mean that the client is going to approve of it nor that you should automatically use it. Finding the right tone of voice is just as relevant to the translation process as choosing the most suitable words.

Don’t – Steer away from the brand’s core message. At the end of the day, achieving uniformity in the essence is key. It is important that the content feels similar in core and content in as many languages as the client requires.

Editorial Team