Culturally fit translations

Culturally fit translations. What does that even mean? Aren’t translators supposed to just convert text from a language into another? Well, we don’t. We do convert the text from one language into another, but it can’t be that black and white. It needs to make sense and be as effective as the original text, otherwise, it won’t be a translation, it would be a mess.

Why is culture so important?

Although we are indeed converting the text into one language into another, doing it literally word by word won’t work. That’s why things like Google Translate give such poor translations. Accuracy can only be achieved by a professional translator that has all factors in mind.

Culture is one of them and certainly, one of the most important ones. Because it influences the way people use the language. If you just translate the text word by word, the translation won’t make sense to the target audience. For many reasons; first, because the structure of the sentences may be different between the two languages, secondly because you will have segments of the text that may present cultural traces, such as idiomatic expressions or other expressions typically used by that particular culture. These may not be known by your target audience and therefore if you translate them word by word they will be lost in translation. Some may even be offensive or inappropriate in the target language. That is why you need to take culture seriously and translate it in a way it will be appropriate and acceptable for the target language.

Localisation is also important

Then you have differences between countries who speak the same language. These are both cultural and linguistic. Because even though they may speak the same language, that language suffered different influences and evolved differently. The cultures are also different and the same cultural problems you may find between your source and target language, you can also find between variants of your target language.

So, it needs to be culturally fit

To comply with all of this you need to balance a few things. First, you need to be loyal to your source text. You shall not forget that it must pass the same message and have exactly the same impact on the target audience. This is part of our Code of Ethics and a fundamental part of our job. To do that, we have to adapt the content to the target language and make it the same, with slight differences. Those differences are what makes it acceptable and culturally fit.

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