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International Marketing and Informational Fails

June 3, 2021

Interpretation Fails in Japanese Messaging

With over a month till the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, international travelers and our best sports ladies and gents will presumably (Covid-19 restrictions permitting) descend into the world’s largest city and will inevitably come across bad translations. This can often impact the overall experience of an international traveler’s impression (or image) of a culture that did not take the time to thoroughly research how to translate the verbiage. With the 2020 Olympics finally occurring in late July in a city of 35.7 million people, all eyes will be on Japan. Companies and organizations within Japan have a responsibility to do their due diligence on their marketing campaigns as well as the informational messaging for travel logistics. Marketing a business, slogan, tagline, or simply an informational message that directs someone to the bathroom can come with many pitfalls. If the translation is not researched properly, the wrong message or misinformation can be displayed.

Time for the Jet Set to Travel (and Spend Money)

Remember when we could travel the globe freely for work or pleasure? With Covid-19 vaccinations increasing globally and countries loosening up travel restrictions, those days are slowly returning. Soon those stocked up airline miles can be put to purpose and help countries that suffered from a drop in their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) due to loss of tourism.

Translation Blunders from Japanese to English

Why auto-translators don't work on Asian languages

One of the unique aspects of foreign travel is coming across well-intended translations that simply do not translate well. Sometimes those translations can be quite amusing and can illicit little giggles as one peruses the shopping aisles or airport bathrooms. Asian countries like Japan are particularly susceptible to bad wording due to Subject-Object-Verb order vs the English Subject-Verb-Object sentence structure.

Companies and organizations in Japan need to do their due diligence on marketing campaigns. Marketing a business, slogan, tagline, or simply an informational message directing someone to the exit can come with many pitfalls, especially when the translation is not researched properly. For instance, an advertising campaign at a store in Tokyo this Christmas stated, “Stay Positive for Christmas,” Obviously, this was a statement to stay positive in the happy sense, not the dreaded Covid-19 test positive.

Intentional or Unintentional Misworded Marketing

In 2016, the Musee Platinum Hair Salon debuted, “Enjoy the Girl!” which may have been an intentional mistake and fun play on words. “Enjoy, Girls!” was what the tagline should have read. The slogan was promptly replaced with the later and then later, “Girls Power.”  There are many forums and online groups that are dedicated Japanese to English translations. An especially important aspect of staying as accurate as possible, with many international travelers slated to come to Japan, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) must ensure that their Covid-19 regulations are correctly relayed to each attendee from a visiting country.

Some Phrases Do Not Translate Well

Languages like Japanese, which are contextually different than the language they are translating into, often benefit the most from using experienced translation services. Some Japanese words have no English equivalent like “Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.”  This is something one says when meeting another person – it is to convey they hope the relationship will be a favorable one. This should not be confused with the closest English equivalent, “Nice to meet you” which is more of a formality. Another interesting aspect of the Japanese to English translations – often the Japanese are not intending the reader to be English speaking, it is aimed at their own Japanese culture to relay the feeling of being an upscale, cosmopolitan society which harkens back to when Japan was occupied by US forces after surrendering in WW2. Japan needed to prove to its citizens that their country had now joined the global economic race. Today, Japan is at the forefront of the global economy and should take greater strides to reduce the chances of translation blunders. Due to its unique phrasing and cultural protocol, Japan should stop using auto translators and start relying on professional translation services like ProLingo, which can help them differentiate between different contexts for a given situation.

ProLingo Uses The Best Tools and Translators

Whether visiting Japan itself or preparing to backpack around Asia, facilitating interactions and communication between travelers and natives have become more important than ever to amass cultural understanding and growth. Having clear and precise marketing translations and informational messages displayed with proper grammar and syntax is increasingly important as people begin to travel again. Using services provided by companies like ProLingo that are renowned for professional translation services can help to improve messages and help to save “face” (mentsu) in embarrassing situations for cultures like Japan who are known for their stringent etiquette. With the hope of increasing worldwide vaccinations, the globe is at the forefront of renewed travel, so why not make it the best experience possible with clear and understandable messaging. After all, the goal is to make international guests feel as comfortable as possible; then, sell them something that reminds them of their special trip to your country.

Client Spotlight

Everything was well prepared by the ProLingo staff, so we were able to start our meeting promptly. The technician was great to work with and the interpreters were very professional and were positive and engaged even so we ran into some overtime. We will hire ProLingo for all our interpretation needs, no matter where our events take place.
- S. Chung, Harvard Club NYC

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