Brand Ambassador, Content Editor, Content Localizer, Social Media, Translation

Culture and Translation

Hi everyone!

Today I want to talk about culture and translation. It is not always possible to directly translate words, phrases, or even concepts. What works in one culture, might make little to no sense in another. And, in many cases, single words have no direct translation into other languages.    

In many cases, there are no replacements for certain words, phrases, or sayings. In cases such as this, translators need to find alternative routes to try and represent the source content as best they can. This usually comes in the form of transcreation (an amalgamation of translation and creative repurposing). It allows translators to use more creative license and cultural awareness to create something that will ultimately make a lot more sense in the chosen market. 

Photo by Genaro Servu00edn on

But, depending on how different the cultures are that you are translating for, it can be a very difficult process. Cultural stretch, in this context, refers to Hofstede’s model, which identifies six social dilemmas that all societies face. The model identifies how different countries resolve these social dilemmas and gives us a language to understand cultural differences.

These are:

  • How do we deal with power inequality in society?
  • How do we relate to the group?
  • What drives our motivation? 
  • How do we relate to uncertainty? 
  • What is our relationship to time?
  • How do we relate to pleasure?

Understanding how far removed you are from the cultural status-quo of another market is very important when embarking on a new project. It could be the difference between opting for simple translation, transcreation, or a total overhaul of the campaign.

What can we do to better incorporate culture into translation?

Involve culture from the beginning. Though navigating the nuances of different cultures is fraught with complexity, there are plenty of things you can do to simplify it when taking on a translation task. The best and most simple way is to bring culture into the conversation right from the start, to ensure – long before translation even takes place – that the idea itself will land across borders.

Get creative. One of the most useful things you can do to try and incorporate culture into the translation process is to stop seeing translation as a technical thing and start to see it as a creative practice.

Photo by Darius Krause on

Adapting and catering to other cultures is, in a sense, an exercise in letting go of what we believe to be normal. This, in turn, offers us an excellent chance to be creative and also become much more global in our thinking. Let’s face it, that’s no bad thing!

Let me know in the comments if this information is helpful, and don’t forget to hit the subscribe button!

Thank you to Day Translations for sponsoring this post. You can learn more about their services by clicking on the link to their website.

Until next time, take care and stay safe!



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