Brand names and idioms - challenges in localization

ยท 5 min read
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Localization projects can be a challenge for professionals, especially when it comes to brand names and idioms. In this blog article, I will talk about these two topics and how to properly deal with them. If you follow this guide, your localization projects will avoid the pitfalls other (global) companies already fell into. We also talked about this in a previous post, regarding a wax tadpole.

Brand names and slogans

Localizing brand names and slogans is no easy task, you should ask Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Schweppes about it. All three brands faced troubles while introducing their product to a new market. This is also the reason for our bottled-up header image.

When Coca-Cola first moved to the Chinese market, they translated the phonetic sound of their English brand name to similar sounding words in Mandarin. This process can be called homophonic translation. For Coca-Cola, this did not work too well, and resulted in the hilarious sentence don't be a wax tadpole.

Pepsi on the other hand wanted to localize their slogan Pepsi brings you back to life, but ended up with Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave due to an improper translation. While it does contain caffeine, I am sure it was not their intended effect. We would not want a zombie apocalypse right in the middle of a pandemic, do we?

Schweppes, a company from the GSA-region, wanted to introduce their popular tonic water to Italy, but due to a wrong translation, they advertised toilet water instead.

As a last example, I want to tell you about Mercedes-Benz, a renowned, global company. Mercedes-Benz is a car manufacturer, advertising and emphasizing the safety of their cars in multiple ways. When they originally entered the Chinese market under the name Bensi however, local customers recognized the brand name as rush to die. It was soon changed to Benchi which translates to to run quickly as if like flying.

Localization of brand names and slogans can have many perils, as illustrated above. Extensive research, and knowledge about your future target group and market are a necessity. This is why professional translators and proofreading are essential when localizing. Otherwise, your brand might not become popular in foreign, or not so foreign markets. And with LingoHub, you have professional translators, and all the necessary tools at your disposal.

Idioms

Have you ever heard about a referee's view blocked by tomatoes? Maybe you have, if someone literally translated the German idiom Tomaten auf den Augen haben. This idiom is often used in Germany in context with football matches, when a referee does not react to foul play.

In a future blog article, I will talk more about loan translations, called calques, that result from the literal word-by-word translation of phrases. So be sure to check back soon! But today, let's explore how to best handle idioms.

The Oxford Dictionary defines the term idiom as a group of words whose meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words.

To localize idioms, there are three ways:

  • Find a matching counterpart idiom in your target language.
  • Do not translate an idiom.
  • Remove the idiom.

Find a matching counterpart in your target language

When you have professional translators at your disposal, or are utilizing translation orders through LingoHub, finding a suitable idiom counterpart in target languages is easily done. At least, most of the time. The translators definitely know about the nuances and how idioms between languages can differ. Let's look at an easy example: In the English language, putting a lid on something refers to the final act or event that causes your plans or hopes to fail, as the Oxford Dictionary states. In Germany, however, instead of the lid, it is the crown that is put on something.

Using and localizing idioms is a good way to really show your target audiences that you are going the extra mile to properly localize your software. You are addressing them in a way that incorporates cultural references. This will ensure customer happiness as they are more directly involved.

Do not translate the idiom

A simple way to deal with idiom localization is to not translate them at all. This approach however might be another pitfall for your localization efforts. Without translating them, target audiences might not understand the metaphorical meaning idioms can have. They will most likely translate the idiom themselves, word-by-word, into their mother tongue, and not understand anything at all.

This method is not very suitable for global audiences. Therefore, we would advise you not to skip idiom localization.

Remove the idiom

While localizing an idiom might prove challenging, removing it altogether might leave you with an application that lacks something.

The easy way out is to always skip idioms and not use any at all. As I have mentioned before, this might cause a stir in your target audiences. Therefore, we would advise you to use idioms and localize them properly. Target audiences will surely appreciate it, if you go the extra mile and add some cultural references that idioms often convey. They will feel much more recognized by your application.


As you can see, many perils await you when localizing your content. There are pitfalls you might not have thought of when expanding into new markets. Therefore, you need a professional to help and guide you along the way. We at LingoHub got you covered with professional translators at your disposal.


Are you not using LingoHub yet? Try it out; it's entirely free for 14 days and all features are available to you during your trial. Feel also free to book a demo, or reach out to us anytime, simply contact our support.


Source: [1] https://www.think.cz/english/culture/globalization-bites-the-wax-tadpole

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