The language of love: When content localization gets emotional

Global loveChocolates. Teddy bears. Pink and red roses. Yes, it is Valentine’s Day – the time of year when our hearts are pulsing with love and emotions are riding high.

Anyone who’s ever been in love knows emotions are complex. And anyone who’s been tasked with content localization knows that some written pieces are inherently emotional. Novels, speech transcripts or depositions for a court case all may be raging with jealousy, ardent love, heart-wrenching guilt or despair.

But the complexity doesn’t end there. People in different countries have unique cultural assumptions around emotions and how they’re expressed and understood. Emotional content localization is all about the subtlety and the evocative nature of the message—which will undoubtedly be interpreted differently from culture to culture.

So, how do you translate content that conveys strong emotions while retaining the core emotional component?

It’s important to understand what linguists have to take into account with emotional content localization to be sure the essential message shines through in the right way for the right audience.

Staying faithful to the source content

As with all translations, the goal is to carry over the source content to the target language without losing the message. However, when emotions are at the core of the content localization, faithfully carrying over the message is much more difficult and requires a specialized linguist. In a case like this, we would line up an experienced linguist who is a native of the target country and understands the culture-specific sensibilities around how humor, joy and other emotions are expressed in the target language.

The linguist uses images and expressions that match not only the meaning of the message, but also the emotional and evocative content of the original document as well. Only someone with a profound understanding of the culture—how a certain audience within it would interpret and express given emotions—can determine how the source text should be translated so it resonates with the target audience.

Translating emotions without losing the message

Translating expressions word-for-word surely won’t capture the evocative meaning or subtlety of expression that was originally intended. During content localization, there are several aspects to consider when dealing with a highly emotional piece that may need to be taken into account:

  • Tone

It can be very challenging to recapture the tone of a piece, which is the style or mode of expression—the overall mood or atmosphere that the text exudes. In other words, it’s the way the piece affects the reader. A bittersweet tone in the original language might come across as simply bitter if not translated properly.

  • Slang and/or cursing

Translating slang and swear words can be one of the trickiest and most difficult tasks because often there is no equivalent term in the target language. Since slang differs from culture to culture, it usually requires additional research by the linguist or possibly rephrasing the term by reworking the surrounding words to stay true to the original text.

  • Sentence style and length

Every language is unique in the way sentences are structured. Does the source text make use of long, flowery sentences with multiple synonyms to evoke romance? Or does it use stilted, not-fully-formed sentences to get across anger? When a sentence is restructured to work for the style of a different language, the linguist will need to make sure that changing the sentence around doesn’t change the meaning at all. Proper content localization requires conveying the same meaning even when a sentence is structured differently.

  • Imagery

Some pieces of content contain striking images in word form, which require something akin to a poetic sensibility when translating. To convey the strong image of a passionate but difficult romance, a writer may use the phrase “prickling-thorned rose.” Simply translating this as the classic “red rose” doesn’t capture the intended image. A linguist needs to be sensitive to the subtleties of imagistic language. For this reason, be prepared for your source content to be adapted as the linguist sees fit during content localization.

  • Idioms

There are no two ways about it. Idioms are culture-specific, and their meaning is metaphorical rather than literal; hence literal translation will not adequately convey the same meaning in other cultures and languages.

Wherefore art thou, accurate emotional translation?

Emotions are complex and will be interpreted and expressed differently from culture to culture. This type of content can be very tricky to translate, but certainly not impossible if you have the right resources.

Understanding how translating emotional content differs from literal translation is very important. The work will vary from project to project, and translating emotional content may require more leniencies. Changes in your content will certainly be needed since different cultures express emotions in different ways.

To ensure the impact you desire, make sure you’ve got the right team by your side to perform your content localization.

By pairing with a language service provider such as Indopak, who has access to linguists that are specially trained and experienced in your industry—and who are able to construe and translate emotional content—you’re already off to a good start.

Give us a call or email us today so we can ensure you always fall in love with your translated content!

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