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Understanding the difference between translation and adaptation can end the disappointment with project results

It happens all too often:

A prospective client brings us translated content from a translation vendor and tells us it “won’t work.” Comments like “It’s awful! I can’t understand what it’s saying!” or “How will I ever present this?!” are vocalized. We’re, of course, sympathetic. But the frustration is often the result of the client misunderstanding the functional difference between translation vs. adaptation.  

When “Translation Quality” Doesn’t Translate 

Maybe the prospective client has a PowerPoint deck they asked translators to translate. And perhaps those translators did translate the deck – and the translation is technically correct. Where, then, is the disconnect? In truth, unrealistic expectations can be a significant downfall when it comes to translated work.

Translate vs. Adapt: Asking for What You Are Actually Asking For  

Clients naturally want their content to be creative and original, and they think that asking for translation will be enough. The reality is that translators are paid (per word) to translate hundreds of strings of words in a short period of time. They are not instructed or paid to creatively approach content in a way that will appeal to the client’s market. They are paid to translate, not to adapt.  

Man’s Search for Meaning – In Any and Every Language  

Adaptation can sometimes be what clients think they’re asking for when they ask for a translation. We recently had a client come to us with a deck that had been translated from French to English. In the final product, some expressions didn’t quite make sense in English, some word choices were confusing, and a few references weren’t resonating. They had paid for a translation, but they needed adaptation – the meaning of the information was lost in the translation.  

So, what is adaptation? It’s transitioning the context and meaning of the words across culture and language. In the example above, the content needed to be translated, but it also needed to be thoroughly vetted for cultural nuances that would dictate an audience’s understanding.  

You can also visualize it this way: British English and American English have different phrases that must be adapted even though the language itself doesn’t need to be translated. “Knocked up” in England means a wake-up time, whereas “knocked up” in America is a pejorative slang for pregnancy.  

All Hail the Creative Brief  

So, how do we avoid unpresentable decks and disappointed clients? Communication is key. We work diligently to understand the client’s goals and expectations. The more transparent our communication, the better. The questions we ask before we get down to business:  

  • Who’s your target audience? 
  • What’s the desired tone of your content? 
  • What are the specific pain points you need us to address? 

What can be especially helpful is when our clients prepare creative briefs in which they outline the following: 

  • Which concepts they like 
  • Which concepts they don’t like 
  • What they’re hoping to gain from our services 

Once we know the answers to these questions and understand the client’s intent, we can match the content we produce to the client’s expectations.  

The Chillistore Promise? We Do Our Part to Get on the Same Page with You  

It’s not just the client’s job to be clear! We also need to openly communicate what we do and how we do it.  

For example, we’ll explain what translations are, what they can and cannot do, and any and all limitations surrounding translations. We’ll then explain what’s necessary for adaptation and how adaptation will elevate their offerings.  

We want to be an extension of your team, which necessitates us understanding your team and its goals as thoroughly as you do. Only once we’ve communicated can we adapt.  

We’re not here to replace your existing translation partner; we’re here to enhance their efforts and ensure that you get the results you’ve been dreaming of. 

Let Chillistore help you achieve your translation goals with ease and transparency. Contact us today to learn more about how we can work together to achieve success.

We’d love to be part of the solution. 

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