in All Things Localization, Language & Culture

Often times in the translation process, words get correctly translated, but meanings don’t. Enter the role of cultural experts. While the translation may be correct, words and phrases may have different nuances and underlying meanings attached to them based on the culture. We asked some CSOFTers what words and phrases may mean one thing in one culture, but are not necessarily appropriate or do not make sense in theirs. For example, in English, we have “fun” and “funny”, which each have a different meaning. However in Korean, both meanings can be included to form one word or expression rooted from, “재미”.

Bruno (Senior Marketing Associate, England): Don’t refer to your trousers as “pants” in the UK because then people will think you’re talking about your underwear!A Dog and Cat discuss their "cultural differences"

Nara (Corporate Graphic Designer, China): In English, people often ask “How are you?” to catch up, but it wouldn’t be natural to ask that directly in Chinese (最近怎么样?). Usually, we ask, “Been busy?”

Alma (International HR Manager, Mexico): People from Spain use “agarrar” to mean “to take”. However if you use that in other Spanish-speaking countries, it has a very aggressive undertone to it, so we use “tomar” instead.

Claudia (Global Resources Manager, Brazil): If you say, “Eu estou usando uma camisola” in Brazilian Portuguese, it means “You are wearing a nightgown.” However, in Portugal Portuguese, it means, “You are wearing a soccer jersey.”

Marie (Product Development Associate, Germany): In German, “Bitte verbessern sie mich, wenn ich falsch liege” is said before a statement meaning “correct me if I’m wrong.” When we say this, we mean it literally and would actually like corrections. However in British English, they say it before a statement more as a filler or to not seem pompous, however, they do not actually want literal corrections. If you do correct a British person when they say this, they may consider you rude.

Related:  From Our Table to Yours: Kitchenware from Around the World

Translations need to encounter a layer of “cultural” translation. Beyond literally translating words or phrases, linguists must also be cultural experts who can examine how a specific group of people will respond to a given word or phrase. At CSOFT, we use both cultural experts and subject matter experts to ensure that every translation is accurate.

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