Red on yellow, deadly fellow

Translating Poems, Songs, Adages, Idioms, Mottos, ...

King SnakeA recent encounter with a King snake reminded me of the rhyme:
Red on yellow, deadly fellow
Red on black, venom lack

Phew! I am safe, I thought to myself. Glad I know the rhyme to tell apart a King snake, which is harmless, from a Coral snake, which has one of the most potent venoms in North America!

As the manufacturer of the Coral snake anti-venom ceased to produce it due to low financial returns, it has become more important for people to remember this rhyme to stay away from Coral snakes.

So, to help our readers south of the border avoid the Coral snake lethal bite, we decided to translate the verses into Spanish using the most popular free machine translation engines. Here we go…

Google Translate
Red de compañeros de amarillo y mortal
Rojo sobre negro, la falta de veneno

Say what?!

Bing Translator
Rojo a amarillo, mortíferos colegas
Rojo sobre negro, falta de veneno

OK, a bit better. But will someone remember it? Absolutely not!

This is why in certain cases, transcreation and not translation (and definitely not machine translation!), is the obvious answer. In Spanish the acronym RANA is used to remind people of the dangerous Coral snake. RANA is the spelling of frog. RANA stands for Rojo, Amarillo, Negro, Amarillo—i.e. Red, Yellow, Black, Yellow. Be aware of RANA!

With transcreation, is the translation literally the same? No. But is the intended effect reached? If done correctly, absolutely!

When engaging translators, you are paying them to translate, not to create. If you need transcreation, such as when you translate your ads, your keywords and your marketing messages, then look into hiring a transcreation firm that can meet your language and creative needs to reach the intended effect in creating a lasting international brand and image.

Keep in mind, hiring the right team can save you from a lethal bite!


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