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Zibrant LIVE! Our World | November 20, 2017

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Lost In Translation

Lost In Translation
Our World

We have all been victims of the phrase ‘lost in translation’. Whether it has been a failed attempt at reading your phrasebook, a mere miss pronunciation, or even a spokesperson with a cold, tackling the language barrier is something in which many organisations have had to learn the hard way.

Over the years large organisations have found themselves in numerous sticky situations when global communications have fallen flat due to a lack of understanding of the correct regional dialect or cultural differences. Within the events industry ensuring that your message is understood correctly is a vital part of your event’s success. It was recently revealed that over 70% of web users do not speak English, therefore there is much more emphasis on presenting information in both the correct language and terminology according to the location of your target audience.

A company who pride themselves on understanding the importance of local knowledge is ‘the world’s local bank’ HSBC. Building their marketing strategy around ‘globalisation’, their adverts depict how important cultural differences are around the world; for example hand gestures in the UK which mean stop are seen as derogatory in parts of Greece and the colour red in China is seen as lucky where as in South Africa it is associated with mourning. For over 10 years HSBC have advocated the significance of embracing and considering cultural differences.

Despite the banking giant getting it so right, it seems many others still haven’t quite grasped the benefits of making sure your message is heard by the right ears. As Virginia Woolf once said;

“Humour is the first gift to perish in a foreign language”

No one understands that statement better than the General Electric Company who teamed up with Plessey to create a new telecommunications giant called GPT however, it was revealed that GPT in France is actually pronounced ‘Jai Pete’ meaning ‘I’ve farted’. GEC will be relieved to know they are not alone, over the years numerous organisations continue to not check their communications. Soda giant Pepsi’s previous slogan ‘Come alive with the Pepsi generation’ realised that in Taiwan it actually means ‘Bring your ancestors back from the dead’.

These marketing mistakes are undeniably entertaining as we ourselves came across a case of ‘attack of the Google translator’ when a Marrakesh restaurant we were using for an event sent over a copy of their menu translated into English (or we think its English). Dishes included:

  • Crystallized tomato Charlotte to the hurried of goat
  • Tagine of veal bend of the knee and his/her/its cream of eggplant accompanied by shabby potatoes
  • Pastilla to the flower of orange tree and his/her/its grout of ginger

Smiles aside, there is indeed an incredibly important lesson to be learnt, when communicating overseas ensure that your translation is correct, otherwise it’s just another case of lost in translation, literally!

Sophia Tirelli, Events Team