Pitfalls of Advertising in an Unfamiliar Language

by brenton

When advertising in a foreign language, advertising translation services are absolutely indispensable. Whole websites exist purely to highlight hilarious missteps by those who miss language nuances when advertising in an unfamiliar language. While they say that no publicity is bad publicity, it’s best to avoid becoming a punch line.

Effective marketing combines pleasing images, clever language, cultural and social awareness, and a hefty dose of psychology. Any one of these aspects, if done poorly, can kill a campaign before it starts. A full and comprehensive understanding of the language and culture of the target market allows campaigns to run seamlessly across language barriers.

English alone has a multitude of words and phrases which seem interchangeable to those who are new to the language. For example, the phrase “in case of emergency, break glass.” This notice, found on fire extinguishers and fire alarms, is perfectly clear. If someone is not familiar with the language, though, that phrase can very easily be mangled into something like, “caution: if fire, break wind.” Hilarious, but entirely unhelpful.

It can take years to accurately navigate an unfamiliar language’s synonyms, homonyms, and homographs. People often get these mixed up even in their own languages. You can find examples of this everywhere. “Their”, “there”, and “they’re”; “your” and “you’re”; these words alone wreak havoc with native English speakers, not to mention people who have English as their second or third language. Language is a delicate thing, prone to misuse and disaster. For this reason, excellent translation services are crucial for good business.


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