Many are familiar with the iconic phrase from the Batman movies when asked by a bewildered witness as to his identity, the famous superhero responds with a testosterone-laden reply “I’m Batman”!
For those unfamiliar with, or simply longing to revisit this fan-favorite, a quick inducer of this memory can be found here: “I’m Batman” video clip on YouTube.
Translation or Transcreation?
I’ve often wondered how similar phrases might be understood, either translated, transcreated, or even preferably left untouched in different parts of the world. I thought immediately of Germany where such a phrase would not translate well.
I’m Batman = Ich bin Batman
I’m bat man = Ich bin Schlägermann
I’m Batman = Ich bin Fledermausmensch
Hmmm…..Now that’s what I call getting lost in translation!!!
Movies are obviously often more exception than rule. People often will see a Hollywood blockbuster in English sometimes with their primary language subtitled. Many will imitate the phrase in its original English. This may be because of the stimulation one gets from imitating a famous movie persona. Think of these classic statements:
“Go ahead, make my day!”
“Hasta la vista, baby.”
“You’re the disease, and I’m the cure.”
“Get off my plane.”
“Here’s looking at you kid.”
“You can’t handle the truth!”
“May the force be with you”
“You talkin’ to me?”
“I’m like a bad penny, I always turn up.”
“I’ll be back”
…and even the new Iron Man 3 gets in with “The world will be watching.”
I’m sure some of you even said them in your head or with your office door closed mimicking the same tone or voice of the character who originally uttered them. I did and had a laugh over it as well. But few if any of the above would translate well.
Marketing firms or departments tend to frequently create slogans with play on words and then hope that they work well across borders. They usually do not. One such example was the phrase: “SOLUTIONS MAKING CENTS”.
Just saying the slogan in English, one whose primary language is English would have to sort through options for 2 out of the 3 words. Our minds do this rapidly and, fortunately for us, enable us to assign value to the “play on words” being sought here. But, trying to do such in another country where the target language is different than the source, leaves one frustrated and the slogan valueless. See various options for this particular text string below.
Would that be: “SOLUTIONS (to problems) MAKING CENTS” or money? Or, Chemical “SOLUTIONS MAKING SCENTS”? Or, business “SOLUTIONS MAKING SENSE”, a play on words?
Science or Art?
Understanding the difference between the science and the art of translation and when to employ translation, transcreation or neither are an important part of the service professional translation organizations like GlobalVision provide. It is often the case where companies spend millions hiring a marketing firm to create custom logos, slogans, and assist with branding of their company and products. But they’ll send everything they just spent millions developing to an amateur, a translation board populated by non-native translators, or crowdsource it to non-professionals using Google Translate to help them get it done cheap. I’ve never understood how one explains that one to their investors, but “hey, it’s not my company or job on the line.” I would like to suggest that based upon the above that it makes perfect SENSE to use the optimal, proven SOLUTION available when it comes to going global.
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