The Do’s and Don’ts of Slang Translation

Maintaining your brand image across the global marketplace by using slang translation can be tricky when your company expands into new regions. The past is littered with stories of marketing woes incurred by strong brands who moved too soon into a new marketplace and found that improper slang translation caused their product to flop.

Because language is a large influencer of first impressions, slang should be used carefully and strategically to launch your product while preserving the integrity of your brand. The following are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when crafting your global communications strategy:

Check Your Brand Messaging against Local Language and Culture

Localizing content can make or break your product in a new region. For example, according to Campaign Asia, when Coors began marketing its beverage in Spain, the company translated its slang slogan “Turn it loose” into Spanish. Unfortunately, the American phrase implying freedom translated into “Suffer from diarrhea” for Spanish consumers.

Don’t Overdo It

While making an effort to keep your brand image consistent across geographical regions is important, if you try too hard to make your content sound hip and topical, you may end up as the butt of a joke. Use slang lightly and purposefully so you don’t look like you’re trying too hard.

Use Proper Slang Translation When It Matches Your Brand Voice

Given the care you must put into localizing content, you may be tempted to take an overly safe approach and abandon your unique voice in favor of something simpler. Beware of taking the safe route too far and ending up with a campaign that is incongruous with your other brand messaging.

Mind Your Social Media Etiquette

Some major marketing no-nos have occurred via social media. You don’t want to misuse a hashtag or launch a Facebook campaign that does more harm than good to your brand image. Take social media into account whenever you’re using local vernacular.

Use a Trusted Source for Slang Translation and Localization

Your translation efforts should appeal to your audience. For example, according to Accredited Language Services, when the musical “Mamma Mia!” was translated for a Chinese audience, special effort was made to localize the American jokes and slang in the show into Shanghai slang so that the audience could understand and connect to it. The effort paid off, with the musical premiering to great reviews from critics and audiences alike.

Don’t Use Slang Offensively

This almost goes without saying, but never associate your product or business with language or content that anyone would find derogatory or insulting. Be cautious when you go to translate website content, social media posts, or promotional materials. Each of these are part of your brand messaging, and a mistranslated slang term can ruin the message you’re trying to convey.

Keeping these do’s and don’ts in mind will help your company avoid major marketing blunders when using slang in your global communications strategy.

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