Why is it so important to hire native speakers as translators? And why is it almost a twofold obligation when translating beauty care and cosmetic copy?
New translation buyers may not be aware of this, but professional translators work into their native language only. According to the American Translators Association a “translator who flouts this basic rule is likely to be ignorant of other important quality issues as well”.
If a document needs to be translated into English, it has to be given to native English speakers, and not a French, Spanish or German translator, however skilled a professional he or she may be. Granted, English has become a global lingua franca or a universal language, but that does not mean that non native speakers, even those who have mastered it orally, will be able to write flawless, print-ready copy.
Eventually their language-specific reflexes will gain the upper hand and the produced English translation will irrefutably end up peppered with pesky little inconsistencies and erratic expressions. The end result will be no less than annoying to the intended reader and also potential customer.
A good example from French to English translations involves the very basic word “skin”. In French, it is frequently used in its plural form to point to many different types of skin. So the French refer quite naturally to “les peaux matures” et “les peaux sèches et normales”, while in English “skin” must at all times remain in singular.
A non native translator working into English may, however, get carried away and say “With its unique composition, this spring water is capable of soothing even the most irritated skins” or “sensitive skins often age at a faster rate than other skins”, which, to put it mildly, has a skin-crawling (pardon the pun) effect from all points of view. This is exactly the type of translation faux pas – be it in a website, brochure, product description, press release or other – that raises red flags, tipping your readers off that there just may be something amiss with the broader picture.
Let’s look at the wider ramifications. Cosmetics and beauty care products are designed to bring glamour and luxury to everyday life. As L’Oréal puts it, they “pamper the soul”, influencing the relationship we have with ourselves, improving our self-acceptance and self-image, and not just the way others perceive us. Because of the importance of physical appearance in our developed societies, cosmetics enjoy an increasingly higher status. They represent our striving for excellence, perfection and beauty. It is therefore essential that they reflect equally high standards of quality. And hence we see the enormous strategic implications of product branding, image and positioning.
As an extension of advertising and marketing communication strategy, translation of cosmetic copy cannot afford to be shabby or substandard. Even smaller companies just barely on the verge of breaking into international markets should think carefully about spending a little extra on professional translation services, especially for documents used for publication and likely to reach a greater public.
That money will be well spent; it will prove that they care about their products and their customers. It makes perfect sense. Why should a customer trust a company that claims to have in-depth scientific expertise but is not able or not willing to advertise it in a way that is on a par with its capabilities? First impressions are lasting impressions and people make snap judgments on small details.
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