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Persuasive vs. Informational Translation

by Chad Richardson

June 26, 2019

In general, most people would agree that the aim of language is to get a certain idea across to the other person. This might be a request or demand e.g., “Could you pass the salt?” Or it could be an explanation e.g., “I am not going to have dinner because I still feel quite full.” Or it could be an attempt to persuade the other person e.g., “Don’t you think it might be better to go out to dinner rather than eating the same old thing as always?”

How People Persuade Each Other with Language

Language often manages to do all the above-mentioned things and more. But there are times when it is not as successful in achieving its aim. For example, if you ask the other person to go out to dinner, they may say, “Well, it’s better to eat at home because it’s healthier” or “I’d rather not spend money on going out to dinner again.” In such a case, the other person is responding and explaining their own point of view to you with a view to persuading you to do what they want.

So the fact is that we often use language for this purpose—to persuade others to our point of view. And they often do the same.

How Businesses Persuade Customers with Language

The same is true for language in the context of a business. Marketing materials usually aim to persuade customers to buy a certain product or service. Business letters might aim at negotiation to get the other person to do what you want.

Language Can also Be Informational

There are also times when the aim of language is merely informational, and there is no other motive behind it. This is, possibly, language in its ideal form; it is used just to share ideas and not to achieve one’s own aim. There is no hidden agenda behind it. As a result, people tend to respond more positively to it. No one wants to be persuaded to do what someone else says.

Persuasive vs. Informational Translation

Even when it comes to translation, it is best to translate a piece of writing without placing too much emphasis on persuasion. As long as you can get the meaning of a piece of writing across in a translation, it has served its purpose. And often, people might even respond more positively to a piece of writing which is not trying to persuade them to do something.

Contact us to learn more about the purposes of language and translation.

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