Shall I compare thee to a summer's day...?

February 4, 2015

 

As advertisers in the Arab world, more particularly in a multicultural society such as Dubai, we are faced with the task of bridging the gap that exists between one language and another and between one culture and another in order to preserve the communicativeness of advertisements. Be it those to be translated and adapted for international brands across cultures, or local brands that need to reach a cross-section of consumers that are multicultural to say the least.

 

Armed with an understanding that communication varies to a certain degree between individuals within the same culture and the same society, within the same culture and language but within a different society, between different cultures and languages but with some shared similarities, and between different cultures and languages with no similarities at all; we find ourselves in a society that includes all the previously mentioned scenarios. Communication becomes more challenging as we are talking about people of completely different cultures, languages, environments and religious beliefs.

 

Without question, a standardization strategy of any international advertising campaign across cultures is unsuccessful in the case of Arabic and English. Not only because of the huge differences already existing between the two languages and cultures, but also because of the different strategies used by copywriters incorporating various elements of humor, irony, persuasion, taboos (sexual connotations), and sarcasm, which are aimed at particular audiences. The translation of the work is then determined by the understanding of the creative mind implementing the adaptation into the target language.  The translation of advertisements, involves not only interpreting dimensions of the text, but also an understanding of forms of communication within cultural contexts and how they produce meaning for it to be successful.

 

As a result localization of advertisements through dynamic translation, according to the characteristics of the local market will likely give the best results for successful cross-cultural advertising. When adapting or translating ads we should take into consideration:

 

(1) Translation does not always ensure that every word used in the target language is equivalent to every word used in the source language;

(2) Translation does not ensure that the target reader from a different culture will have the same experience as the source reader.

 

On this basis, we do not aim to claim a 100% translation, but a translation where we are able preserve the real meaning and create a similar experience. To do that it is necessary to have more than a simple grasp of both the target and source language, but also a thorough understanding of the languages and cultures of the source ad and target market. In essence reaching a point in the result where it does not sound like a translation. Rather than trying to reach a formal (or literal) equivalence where attention is focused on the words, we aim for a dynamic equivalence.

 

To illustrate the idea of dynamic equivalence, we can use an example of poetry "shall I compare thee to a summer's day". An Arabic literal translation of this sentence causes some problems because in the Arab world, a summer day would be very hot and undesirable versus Europe where it would be pleasant. So in Arabic we would not use 'summer’ to compliment and attract a girl, it would be much better to use ‘spring’. The environment, and the geographical differences have effects in one way or another on the culture of every society and what is welcome in a particular society might not be in another. With dynamic equivalence we can keep the positive image by substituting ‘spring’. In this case, we are substituting in order to preserve the original message, as well as to transfer the real meaning, yet localize the message to the target audience.

 

Our focus is to ensure that these elements are taken into consideration both while working on adapting international advertisements as well as creating concepts for local brands that need to reach a multitude of cultures locally in the UAE, and in some cases on international levels.

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