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Cultural Considerations Needed For a Professional Translation

A good translation doesn’t just involve word-for-word translation but cultural considerations do play a key role in putting a translation into the right context. While a certain phrase might be quite acceptable in a particular country, it may cause embarrassment in another. Religion and sexual orientation are two of the most sensitive factors when any slight miscommunication or misinterpretation could have disastrous consequences if wrongfully conveyed in a translation targeting a certain audience. To ensure any translation meets cultural requirements, it should be localized first.

How Localisation May Affect Translation

Localization is the process of adapting translations so that they fit in with the targeted audiences’ expectations, local customs, and culture. For example, when it comes to the clothes that women wear western world women can choose exactly what they want to wear but many countries expect women to adhere to strict rules when it comes to dressing protocols.


    A business that intends to run an ad campaign that includes a slogan like this “Feel the breeze in your hair” should get the advert localized to suit the Middle Eastern market because women (and at times even men) are required to cover their hair or head. If the advert suggests that the audience should avoid the custom then the advertising campaign may be completely ignored. The business needs to adapt the ad to suit the cultural preferences or rules of the targeted culture as well as its language.

    Saving Face

    In China, the concept of one’s ‘face’ is extremely important. It is important to treat someone with the right level of respect which is dependent on the position they hold in their family, their workplace, and society as a whole. In the US, it may be quite acceptable to cause an audience to laugh when someone else is facing an embarrassing situation, but this is really quite a big taboo in Chinese culture.\

    Family values

    The concept of the family varies from one culture to another. In India, a family might be referring to the complete extended family which may include all in-laws with extended families included. But in the US, it may be simply referring to just the two parents and a child.

    Using Colour

    If color is being used to attract the attention it is important to localize it in the marketing message too. For example, in China, the color red refers to happiness while in both Iran and Egypt red is associated with luck. But in some African countries, red is a symbol of aggression and death. It is important that a translation and its localization consider what appears to be quite minor like the color before completing a translation and localization.

    Most good translation services make sure that localization does play a key role in guiding their translations services so that the message and meaning are translated in the most culturally suitable way.

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