The aim of this paper is to show the significance of product type and potential buyers’ expectations in ad translation for the production of commercially effective target versions. To this end, this study focuses on adverts for computer products as the referent of the advertising message, and computer users as the addressees. The cultural contexts in contact are the USA and the Spanish markets for these products. The source texts (ST) are adverts from popular USA computing magazines, while the target texts (TT) are from the same type of publications published in Spain. In order to measure the relevance of product type in the translation of these ads, a comparison of the STs and the TTs has been carried out in terms of verbal and non-verbal elements. The strategies used in the translation of these two groups of elements have been described and identified. The results obtained through the analysis of this corpus will shed light on (1) whether the shifts produced in the TTs respond to Spanish computer users’ expectations, that is, whether they are in line with the features of computing ads in Spanish, and (2) whether there are shifts clearly related to the product type.
- advertising discourse,
- translation strategies,
- copy adaptation,
- computer products
L’objectif du présent article est de montrer l’importance de la prise en compte du type de produit et des attentes des acheteurs potentiels dans la production, en traduction publicitaire, de versions cibles efficaces sur le plan commercial. L’étude porte sur les messages publicitaires relatifs à des produits informatiques et sur leurs destinataires, les utilisateurs de ces produits. Les contextes culturels en contact sont, d’une part, le marché des États-Unis, et, de l’autre, celui de l’Espagne. Les textes sources consistent en des annonces publicitaires tirées de magazines d’informatique populaires aux États-Unis, et les textes cibles proviennent du même type de publication en Espagne. Afin de mesurer l’importance de la prise en compte du type de produit dans la traduction de ces annonces publicitaires, nous avons comparé la présence des éléments verbaux et non verbaux dans les textes sources et dans les textes cibles, puis nous avons décrit et identifié les stratégies utilisées dans la traduction de ces deux groupes d’éléments. Les résultats de l’analyse permettent de vérifier (1) si les adaptations faites dans les textes cibles répondent aux attentes des utilisateurs espagnols, c’est-à-dire si elles s’alignent sur les caractéristiques des annonces publicitaires de produits informatiques en espagnol, et (2) s’il existe des adaptations qui sont directement liées au type de produit.
- discours publicitaire,
- stratégies de traduction,
- adaptation publicitaire,
- produits informatiques
The main objective of this paper is to show and emphasize the importance of product type as well as the expectations of potential buyers in the translation of advertisements. An analysis of these aspects is required in order to ensure the production of versions that fulfil the requirements and expectations of target addressees (i.e. potential purchasers) and cultures regarding a specific kind of product.
Experts on advertising such as Wells, Burnett and Moriarty (1995) have stressed the consumer-oriented, and thus persuasive, nature of advertisements by saying that a good advertisement is, in strategic terms, consistent and solid: it is carefully addressed to a particular target, it is aimed at specific objectives, and it expresses the main interests of the audience. They add that success in advertising is measured not only in strictly economic terms (its efficiency in achieving its goals, its effect on sales), but also in terms of the addressees’ reaction (whether it benefits memorability or attitude change).
It is widely accepted that advertising attempts to persuade people in a particular culture to act in a particular way (e.g., buying a certain product or service, becoming aware of a social problem, or becoming familiar with a brand name or company). This concept of advertising has led researchers in this field to look at the cultural aspects to be taken into account in the process of translating, the recipients of this text type, the advertising and translation strategies used to achieve the objectives, the constraints imposed by the medium, and the effectiveness of the TT in the target culture (TC) as well as the role of the translator.
However, the product type is also recognised as a relevant aspect when choosing translation strategies and determining the requirements to be met by the translator. This aspect is closely related to Boivineau’s (1972) view that the translator of adverts should have the same knowledge of the product in question as the advertiser in order to be able to express its qualities, meaning that the translator also acts as a seller.
In order to study the role of product type in ad translation, I have carried out a comparative analysis focusing on verbal and non-verbal elements of adverts for computer products addressed to computer users in general. The cultural contexts in contact are the USA and the Spanish markets for this type of product. The results of this comparative study could contribute to research in ad translation by demonstrating that the product type plays an important role in the decision-making process of the translator, and thus constitutes a parameter that must be taken into consideration if an appropriate version is to be achieved. Moreover, the methodology used could be applied to corpora of ads for different products.
In this article, I first offer a short overview of the works by scholars who have more or less directly concluded in their research that the product type affects the decisions made by the translator. The following sections present the general characteristics of computer products and users as well as a description of the corpus studied, together with an outline and brief description of the translation strategies used in the translation of the STs, the analysis, and the results.
2. Product type in advert translation
A number of scholars in advertising and advertising discourse explicitly agree that the type of product influences the way ad discourse is created. This idea that the product type conditions the selection of advertising strategies in the elaboration of the message also emerges from other studies focusing on various aspects of advertising. Schudson (1993: 76), for example, stated that “rules and myths in advertising are said to be product-bound,” placing the type of product among the determining factors in the elaboration of advertising texts. Similarly, Rotzoll (1985) argued that when advertising perfume, cosmetics, beers and liquors, impression is more important than information, thereby establishing a degree of differentiation between these products and others, the difference often lying in non-verbal elements that cause impressions rather than giving specific information. Cortés de los Ríos (2001) studied English corporate adverts in the financial sector, and while focusing on the values transmitted by these adverts through the use of metaphors, metonyms and other iconographic elements, her results show that the type of product promoted –the services offered and the brand name – determines the use of certain linguistic strategies.
Concerned with the effects of globalisation strategies in advertising and aiming to address the link between technology and society, Desavelle and Mäkinen (2006) analysed adverts for technology products such as digital cameras and printers in French and Finnish. Although their aim was to determine differences and similarities in the way different cultures perceive technology, they identified textual features that differ from one culture to the other, especially regarding the way consumers are addressed, and which closely relate to the type of product advertised. A more recent study, by Adams (2010), analysed ads for financial products in English and Spanish in order to determine 1) similarities and differences in discourse between ads in this sector and consumer advertising, and 2) similarities and differences in discourse between the two languages and cultures. Her results revealed that the product type required a specific combination of linguistic resources and that there were differences between the two languages.
The present study pays particular attention to Adam and Bonhomme’s (2000) classification of product types in advertising, in terms of how product type may condition the advertising message and the strategies preferred. They classify products into two main groups: products that are difficult to divide into internal parts or whose parts cannot be detailed (perfumes, jewels, drinks, clothes, pens, etc.) and products that are easy to divide into internal parts or whose parts can be detailed (especially, automobiles and computers). Ads for the first group of products favour global descriptions and a great deal of connotative language (e.g., metaphors, puns and direct appeal to the addressee). Adverts for the second group of products, meanwhile, are based on descriptions and information that is, to some extent, objective, although they can also present global metaphorical descriptions – as in automobile advertising – and sometimes may use a more varied range of strategies. Thus, ads for products in both groups attempt to persuade the potential customer to buy, but use different procedures. For example, perfume ads do not rely on information about chemical composition in order to distinguish one brand from another. They aim to attract the potential buyers’ attention by highlighting the image (i.e., use of non-verbal elements) and adding a certain value to the product, such as sensuality, beauty, freshness, etc. Similarly, when advertising jewels, sometimes the predominant value is prestige, conveyed by the image. On the other hand, when advertising non-luxury automobile brands, potential buyers are particularly interested in the technical details that differentiate a certain brand from others. The explicit inclusion of these details constitutes the persuasive element or strategy used to attract their attention and maintain their interest. Of course, the precise nature of the technical specifications that recipients expect or value will vary from culture to culture.
According to these authors, this classification should be taken into consideration in the selection of suitable strategies for the creation of advertisements, since the strategies may vary in the elaboration of ads depending on the product features and uses. Similarly, research in the field of ad translation has shown examples of products or groups of products whose features and added values in certain cultures may make the translator resort to specific strategies.
Gamal (1995) studied Apple Macintosh adverts in Arabic, concerned with their adaptation to the Egyptian social and cultural context. He observed that the language of the TTs sounded unnatural and was more a direct exercise of translation than effective advertising. Since the commercialisation of information technology has not been a part of the Arab culture to date, the translator was not able to draw on culturally-acceptable translations. This implies that the degree of technological development and the extent to which related terminology has been coined in a specific language and used in a given culture play an important role when promoting this product type.
Sidiropoulou (1998) also suggests that the construction of target ads is influenced by the type of product as witnessed in the use of humour in some product sectors, but not in others. She also posits that cosmetics are the products that allow the translator to make the most modifications. In a later study on the translation of English-Greek business-oriented and cosmetics ad pairs (Sidiropoulou 2008), she found that certain linguistic constructions were favoured depending on the product type, with a special interest in the addresser/addressee interpersonal distance.
In her analysis of ads, Valdés Rodríguez (1998) applied parameters such as text function, addressee, image, design and typography, medium, legal constraints and product type. Although she did not handle the copy adaptation of a particular product type, she argued that perfume ads do not usually focus on textual aspects but on the value of the image. In this way she presented an ad feature common to these products that has to be taken into consideration when selecting translation strategies.
Adab (2000), in turn, compared the source and target versions of a corpus of ads in French and English for a variety of non-essential goods and services (holiday destinations, watches, furniture, drinks, financial services) that promoted lifestyles and were associated to qualities. She aimed to analyse aspects of text production, including professional issues, communicative success, and the possibilities that a translator had to improve the communicative effectiveness in the advertising message. She looked at TTs where adaptations to the TC had taken place and found that some were not target culture-appropriate.
In her study of adverts for cleaning products, Torresi (2004) analysed three corpora of British, Italian and Russian adverts in order to find out to what extent the concept of cleanliness varied from one culture to another. Supporting the idea that much valuable cultural information can be retrieved from advertisements, she focused on this type of product as a means to determine the consumers’ notion of cleanliness and thus their attitude towards the products advertised. The implications of these findings are clearly significant for ad translation.
Rek-Harrop (2010), in her attempt to assess the influence of cultural implications in the translation of ads on international audiences, analyses an advert for Scotch whiskey in English in order to propose a commercially effective version in Polish. Although she does not work with a corpus, but focuses only on one ad, her results and her proposed TT are based on the British and Polish attitudes towards alcohol and the value these cultures have assigned to such a product type.
Finally, in terms of ads for computer products, the study carried out by Cruz García and Adams (2006) on a comparable corpus of ads in this sector underlined a number of differences in discourse and advertising strategies between ads produced and published in the USA and Spain. Among these differences, we found the following: interpersonal distance between addresser and addressee (the frequent use of imperative in English but not in Spanish and the use of the polite second person singular usted, as opposed to the more familiar tú), the use of a neutral and less informal style in Spanish as compared to English, the common use of English loan words in the Spanish texts (but not Spanish words in the English texts).
The works mentioned above support my view that the study of ad translation should necessarily pay attention to the product type as a variable that determines the strategies governing the production of ads, and therefore also their translation. If we neglect this variable we will inevitably draw conclusions of a general nature and may fail to orient the production of effective ads in the target culture.
3. Adverts for computer products
The present study, meanwhile, centres on adverts for computer products, which, according to Adam and Bonhomme’s classification of products, fall into the category of products that can be divided into internal parts or which can be described in detail. When deciding which printer to buy, for example, users are usually interested in aspects such as the type of printer (laser, ink-jet, matrix, etc.); the speed, which is measured in ppm (pages per minute); or the resolution, which influences the precision of the image input and is measured in dpi (dots per inch). When buying a monitor, people pay attention to aspects such as type, size and resolution, among others. Even when dealing with software, a detailed description of the product and its uses and functions is often an essential element in the purchasing decision. The performance of the piece of computer hardware or software will vary depending on all these factors, each of which contributes a specific feature to the computer equipment, viewed as a complete product.
Unlike products such as perfume and jewellery, computer equipment is used in order to carry out a specific task. As a consequence, computer users expect to obtain information about those technical details and functions that make these products different from each other and that can help them determine which model suits their needs.
As far as the addressees are concerned, the computing magazines carrying these ads are aimed at a wide variety of users: from people with some basic knowledge who acquire computer equipment for different purposes (work, entertainment, means of communication, etc.) to experts in the field who seek up-to-date information about what is in the market. Even those who use it for their work have different needs: some need a scanner with OCR, while others require office applications such as spreadsheets or word processors. Dyer (1996) considers them more as users than as customers, regardless of their level of knowledge in the field, since they can usually evaluate aspects such as price, features, use and performance of the product.
3.1. The corpus
For the purposes of the present study, a methodology based on a corpus of parallel texts has been adopted, that is, “a collection of texts, each of which is translated into one or more languages than the original” (Corpas Pastor 1995: 216). As Baker states, this type of corpus, which she calls “parallel corpus” (Baker 1993: 248), helps translation theorists understand the nature of translated texts as mediated communicative acts, and serves to describe the features and particular problems that arise when translating a particular type of text. However, this study is also backed up by a previous analysis of a corpus of comparable texts (Cruz García and Adams 2006), which are not translations but independent entities from different cultures, following Neubert (1992), Baker (1993), and Toury (1995)’s view that this type of corpora [called “comparable corpora” by Baker (1993: 248), McEnery and Wilson (1996: 57) and Hunston (2002: 15)] constitutes reliable material for research into original production preferences, and thus is an important source of information for translators. So, while comparable corpora allow the researcher to analyse and describe linguistic behaviour, parallel corpora provide the researcher with information about translative behaviour (Corpas Pastor 1995).
The comparable corpus referred to for the previous study, mentioned in section 2, was made up of 60 original computer adverts published in computing magazines (30 in the USA and 30 in Spain). This enabled us to draw conclusions about conventions in advertising for this product sector in both cultures, i.e., the conventions used in effective ads in both source cultures. The results of the analysis showed a number of differences between these texts in English and in Spanish: while the register in English was colloquial with the use of contracted verb forms, informal expressions, puns, jokes and, in general, a familiar form of address, in Spanish it tended to be more formal, an aspect which was highlighted by the use of the polite form of the second person singular referring to the reader (usted), especially in ads promoting computer equipment for professionals and companies. The scant use of the informal tú form – commonly found in ads for other product sectors such as cosmetics, food and clothes – establishes a more respectful and distant addresser/addressee relationship. Another important difference, albeit foreseeable, was the high rate of loan words (from English) in the field of computing used in the Spanish texts. Finally, unlike English ads, Spanish ads did not mention competitors’ brands, although comparative advertising is legal in Spain. The importance of this corpus for the present study lies in the fact that its results show the characteristics of the promotion of computer products in English and Spanish and help us to understand the shifts produced in the parallel corpora as well as determining whether or not the shifts made correspond to product type.
Bearing these findings in mind, the study presented here is based on a parallel corpus made up of 28 pairs of printed ads (ST in English and TT in Spanish), making a total of 56 ads analysed. The products (both hardware and software) advertised and their advertisers are as follows: a graphic design program (Corel), a defragmenter program (Executive Software), three printers (two by Xerox and one by Lexmark), two dongles (Aladdin and Rainbow Technologies), a data protection program (McAfee), a set of applications (Microsoft), a visual tool program (Microsoft), two portable computers (HP and Texas Instruments), an optical character recognition program (Caere), an operating system (IBM), three processors (Intel), two partition programs (PowerQuest), three disc drives (two by Seagate and one by Western Digital), an uninterrupted power supply system (APC), mice (Logitech), a network management system (Computer Associates) and a monitor (ViewSonic).
Since most of the computer products sold in Spain are imported from the USA or are American brands, the STs are adverts taken from popular USA computing magazines (PC Magazine, PC World and Byte). Their corresponding target versions have been taken from the same type of publications produced in Spain (PC Actual and the Spanish editions of PC Magazine, PC World and Byte). This type of text is called a “professional and technical advertisement” by Dyer (1996: 4), and is usually published in specialised magazines addressed to experts, professionals and people interested in some sort of entertainment based on computer technology. Unlike advertising in other sectors, the relatively high density of product information provided in these adverts constitutes in itself a persuasion strategy.
3.2. Procedure of analysis
The process of translation involves a series of decisions made by the translator based on a wide range of linguistic and extra-linguistic factors. The nature of these decisions, and the motives that lead translators to adopt them, have been described by a number of scholars, from Vinay and Darbelnet (1958), Reiss (1976), Newmark (1988), Hervey and Higgins (1992) and Klaudy (1995), to Hurtado Albir (2001), many of whom have coined their own terminology. Their efforts to establish a classification of translation strategies has given rise to a wide range of strategy names and descriptions. These strategies, procedures, methods, etc. are adopted in order to achieve the intended aim of the message and adjust it in line with the addressee’s expectations, which, in advertising, are usually determined by market research studies.
Advertising messages, as persuasive forms of discourse based on social and cultural values, have the same purpose in all languages and cultures: that of persuading the addressee to act in a particular way (De Mooij 1998), be it buying the product, changing their attitude or becoming aware of the existence of a new brand or social phenomenon. But what really presents difficulties in the elaboration of adverts, as well as in their translation, is determining which resources help achieve the intended purpose. The translator’s decision to use a particular resource, or combination of resources, is what, in essence, will give rise to a modus operandi, or strategy.
In this study, two types of strategies are considered: those applied to the whole text and those applied to specific elements within the text, which correspond to what Newmark (1988: 45) calls “translation methods” and “translation procedures,” respectively. However, the strategies referred to in this analysis are based on Cómitre Narváez’s (1999) classification for her study of ad translation, which also distinguishes translation methods and translation procedures. She posits that advertising agencies use the four translation methods given below, the first two of which are based on the adequacy to the ST, while the last two focus on the acceptability requirements of the target culture (TC):
Foreignization: the ad is issued in the TC in the source language. Called non-translation (“no traducción”) by Valdés Rodríguez (2004: 178), this strategy imbues the text with the sense of prestige that the foreign language may have in the TC.
Literal translation: this method is understood here as the coincidence between the ST and the TT in terms of format, extension and content to the extent that similarities in discourse structure are observed.
Adaptation: the TT is clearly set in a cultural framework that is acceptable to its addressees, and cultural-specific idiosyncrasies of the ST are eliminated or replaced with cultural-specific idiosyncrasies of the TT.
Creation: a new text is created for the TC with an equivalent pragmatic effect to that of the ST in the SC.
On the other hand, translation procedures, which are applicable at a micro-textual level to specific elements within the text, are the following:
Amplification: an expression from the ST is translated using a larger number of monemes.
Explicitation: elements or facts that are implicit in the ST are made explicit in the TT.
Omission: information from the ST is not present in the TT.
Modulation: the expression of an idea in the TT reflects a change in perspective or emphasis with regard to the ST.
Equivalence: an utterance of the ST is replaced in the TT with one that fulfils the same pragmatic function, although it differs in form and meaning. It is specifically used for the translation of proverbs and idioms.
Compensation: an element of the ST is expressed in a different place in the TT.
In order to cover other types of modifications that were observed in the parallel corpus’ TTs, I have included the following additional strategies:
Addition (as opposed to omission): information is added to the TT that was not present even implicitly in the ST.
Condensation (as opposed to amplification): an expression from the ST is translated using a shorter number of monemes.
Partial foreignization: some element of the ST is kept in English in the TT. This, again, is based on Valdés-Rodríguez’s (2004) non-translation method, but applied to only specific parts of the ST.
Partial adaptation: a ST cultural-specific element is replaced in the TT with a cultural-specific element of the TC.
Partial creation: a new element is created in the TT to replace another one with different meaning in the ST.
As aforementioned, this analysis considers not only verbal, but also non-verbal elements, since the image (together with music and sound effects in broadcast ads), the format and the size of the adverts are sometimes changed to adapt to the target context or the specific conditions of the publications (e.g., advertising space). Although, with the evolution of ad translation, translators in this field are today increasingly involved in the different stages of the process of copy adaptation (Guidère 2009), it is not always the translator who makes decisions in this respect. However, any such decisions influence the process of translation as both verbal and non-verbal elements contribute together to the transmission of the message, which is much in line with the use of the term copy adaptation to imply that not only words are translated (Cook 1992). For this reason, and taking into account that the modifications in the images are of a different nature than those produced in the verbal elements, I have adopted the image-oriented strategy introduced by Valdés Rodríguez (2004: 345): non-verbal element transformation (transformación del componente no verbal). Since these transformations may affect the whole image or only part of it, I have included two possibilities: global transformation and partial transformation. Observing how the images are modified in the TTs will enable us to determine whether the corresponding shifts in this type of non-verbal element respond to the product type.
4. The analysis and results
In this section, examples from the corpus will be presented in order to observe the shifts made in the TTs and the strategies used in the translation. Through the analysis carried out it will be possible to determine whether or not the shifts produced and the strategies used in the TTs respond to the need to adapt the product type to the target market. These results, in turn, will help determine whether the TTs are in accordance with the results of the previous study (Cruz García and Adams 2006).
The results are structured in terms of the translation methods and the translation procedures used. The examples are given by providing the original version in English and the target version in Spanish, which is back-translated into English.
4.1. Translation methods
Literal translation is the most widely used method in the corpus: in the 28 pairs of texts, no cases of foreignization and creation were found, and there were only three cases of adaptation. That is, three texts have been produced in Spanish conveying the same ideas as their corresponding STs, but resorting to TT culturally-acceptable elements or removing SC elements. However, a wide range of strategies were used at the micro-textual level.
The ad for a partition program is a good example of literal translation. The image, the format, the extension, the information given and even the structure of the content of the TT are the same as those of the ST. The image of broken eggs can be seen in both ads together with the title and subtitle in the same layout. The main body is organized in two columns situated in the same areas of the ad. Although at a microtextual level some translation strategies have been used, the general method has been that of literal translation.
As an example of adaptation, let us take the ad for an operating system. The image in the ST, a picture of basketball coach Phil Jackson, was replaced in the TT by a picture of the famous Spanish actor Antonio Resines. This constitutes an advertising strategy that may make the Spanish recipient feel familiar with the person and, consequently, feel closer to the product and, to some extent, the advertiser. At the linguistic level, the content was adapted in line with the picture, as we can observe in the following example, where (1a) is the ST, and (1b), the TT.
Thus, in order to promote the idea that the operating system allows the user to multitask, the TT refers to several activities that one might expect an actor to do while the ST referred to basketball match-related activities. The message of both adverts is identical: this famous person can do several things at the same time thanks to this product. The types of activities have been adapted in line with the celebrity featured.
4.2. Translation procedures
In terms of non-verbal elements, although 21 TTs (75%) kept the original image with no alterations, two types of transformation were produced in the image of seven ads: partial (four cases: 15%) and global (three cases: 10%). Although some modifications seem to be arbitrary, two of them result in the use of Spanish cultural elements. For example, one of the STs shows an image of three toilet bowls against a wall of white tiles without a base on the floor. The image has been partially changed in the TT by replacing the original bowls with bowls standing on the floor on a visible base. Although nowadays toilet bowls the likes of the ones found in the ST are increasingly present in the Spanish context (especially in airports), this format is not the commonest one in Spain.
In order to understand the importance of the image in the analysis and translation of ads, it is of great significance to note that most of the changes produced in the image give rise to shifts of different kinds in the text, especially in the title (four times), which usually refers to the image. For example, while the original image in one of the ST was that of an illuminated printer on a black blurred background, the TT presented a more iconographic image displaying the head of an eagle. The following are the titles of the corresponding versions:
The image and title were changed to highlight a specific product feature. Although the first sentence was translated literally, the creation strategy was used in the second part of the TT title, which refers to the accurate vision of an eagle. Thus, a parallelism is established between the sharp vision of the eagle and the image quality perceived by the user of a Lexmark printer. So no shift made in the image responded specifically to the product type, since the images are general and applicable to any advertising idea. Hence, the changes in images used are not product specific.
The few changes produced in the format of ads in the corpus are related to changes in the size of the ads in the TC. TTs are frequently smaller than their ST counterparts. Of the 28 TTs, 12 have been reduced (42%). Some of these size reductions have brought about modifications in the format, especially in the layout of elements, and even significant omissions in the content of TTs. The remaining size reductions consist mainly in presenting the ad on one page instead of two, while American ads usually present the image on one page and the verbal component on the following. Typographical changes were found only in five TTs (17%), so the format tends to remain unaltered.
As for the verbal elements, the modifications produced in the TTs are varied but it is possible to state that the translation strategies used to adapt the STs to the TC and their corresponding advertising functions result in what I consider to be the (1) reduction (omission and condensation); (2) extension (amplification, addition and explicitation); (3) substitution (equivalence, partial adaptation and partial creation); (4) focalisation, or change of focus (compensation and modulation); and (5) non-translation (partial foreignization) of linguistic elements.
The following table presents quantitative data as to the number of cases observed for each strategy.
4.2.1. Reduction strategies
The reduction strategy used most frequently in the translation of the texts in the corpus is omission (20 cases), which has produced the following effects: avoidance of the use of comparative advertising, all the references to the competitors mentioned in the STs having been omitted in the TTs; the reduction in size of the adverts in Spanish; the use of a neutral style (e.g., less informal and exalting than the U.S. one); and the elimination of cultural references from STs.
As an example of the elimination of comparative advertising in TTs, let us look at example (3). The body of the ST ad, promoting the product Unicenter TNG, refers repeatedly to some of the competitor brands.
However, only the translation of the beginning of the first sentence of the ST has been included in the Spanish version, while the rest of the paragraph mentioning and undermining competitors has been omitted.
In order to adapt to the limited advertising space in the Spanish magazines, which is usually no larger than a page, the information offered by the STs has been reduced in some TTs. For example, a ST promoting visual tools provides information about the products and uses:
However, the twenty lines that make up the body of the ST have gone down to eight in the TT, and some of the information found in ST (4) has been completely omitted in the TT. As we can observe in (5), only the information related to how to get the offer is kept:
This could show a tendency in Spanish to emphasize the basic and more practical information about the offer rather than the technical features or functions of the product when it is necessary to choose.
As for the style used, an example of colloquialism is found in ST (6):
The colloquial form of addressing the reader has simply been omitted in the TT (PowerQuest January 1999b; see note 6), even though there is a colloquial equivalent for the expression don’t get caught with your pants down in Spanish.
Regarding the use of exalting or exaggerated statements, compare ST (7a) and TT (7b):
The use of the exalting expression the world’s leading makes the ST more expressive and appellative than the TT, since no reference to the product’s supremacy is made in the latter.
As for the omission of cultural references, in one of the STs analysed there is a metaphor related to the illustration (broken eggs), made with scrambled eggs, a dish that is not as common in the Spanish culture as it is in the American one:
Instead of finding or devising a Spanish reference for the English expression, the option adopted in the TT was the omission of the metaphor (and thus the omission of the humorous effect).
Also, within this group of reduction strategies, condensation is used (6 times), especially in those cases where the TTs seem to have been reduced due to space restrictions in Spanish magazines. Through this strategy, an idea that was expressed in different parts of the ST (e.g., title and subtitle) was summarised and presented in the TT only in a short one (e.g., the title). In (9), we can observe that the title and subtitle of the ST were condensed to form the title of the TT:
The image played a fundamental role in the TT, helping the reader understand the information conveyed and also facilitating the condensation of the message replacing the brand names of a series of products.
4.2.2. Extension strategies
Sixteen additions were found, of which only four are relevant to this study, since twelve were due to commercial reasons (commercial offers and conditions applicable in the TC). They were used to add an advantage not mentioned in the ST (3 cases) and to address the reader in a more polite form (1 case).
In the OCR ad (Caere 22 February 2000; see note 13), there is no allusion to the fact that the software can correct spelling mistakes in 13 languages, as can be seen in the TT (10):
The addition of this advantage in the TT could constitute a persuasive element for the Spanish consumer.
In order to address the reader in a more polite way, the TT has added the expression si lo prefiere (if you prefer).
Explicitation was used in 12 cases, when some information implicit in the STs was made explicit in the TTs. This strategy was used to facilitate the understanding of certain complex technical concepts, as well as to highlight an inherent advantage of the product that was not mentioned explicitly in the ST.
As an example of the way some technical features are clarified in Spanish computing ads, let us take ST (12a) and TT (12b):
The TT keeps the expression Real World Interface in English, since it is the registered name of the technological application, but the translation is given in Spanish:
Supplying the translation into Spanish of the expression Real World Interface and keeping the English expression in brackets could help the user understand the passage better. The reverse procedure is also common, that is, keeping the term in English and providing a Spanish version in brackets.
The next example shows how a characteristic use of the product is highlighted through explicitation. At the end of the Spanish version, we find en un mismo PC (in the same PC), which is implicit in the ST. This explicitation in Spanish clarifies or exalts the feature or advantage for the Spanish recipient.
Among the extension strategies we can also find seven amplifications, which have been applied when trying to express computer-related concepts in Spanish that are synthesized in English. Thus, in ST (14a) promoting different types of mice, we find:
Since it is difficult to synthesize in Spanish all the information given in the ST, the solution adopted for the TT was the following:
In this case, the nature of the Spanish language has forced the translator to extend the text in order make the statements natural and understandable in this language.
4.2.3. Focalisation strategies
Among these strategies, which change the focus of attention, there are 10 cases of modulation, which produced the following three effects in the TTs: some aspects of the product that are secondary in the ST become predominant in the TT; the focus shifts from the addressee in the ST to the uses and functions of the computer product in the TT, causing a depersonalisation of the message; and the addressee is given a more distant and formal treatment. This may imply that the Spanish recipient requires persuasion strategies (e.g., highlighting specific product features that are valued by Spanish potential consumers, as well as depersonalising the message) that are different from those of the ST audience for this type of product.
In Example (15) below, taken from an advert for a laptop, we can observe that some features of the product have acquired more importance in the TT. In the ST the structure consists of two blocks of information organised as follows:
The first block presents information about the more technical aspects of the product: 6-way modular bay, unparalleled storage, memory capabilities. In the second block, we find the popular advantages: brighter screen, low electricity consumption and low weight. In TT (15b), however, the structure has been altered. The blocks have been interchanged.
Thus, the first block in the TT refers to the features related to the most popular and basic advantages for the user: power, weight, quality, monitor size and battery autonomy. And the most technical characteristics are given later, which could imply information preferences on the part of the TT readers.
In order to depersonalise the message and focus on the uses and functions of the product, the use of pronouns referring to the addressee is avoided in the TT in different ways, as we can see in ST (16a) and TT (16b):
The personal pronoun you and the possessive article your addressing the reader directly in the ST has been replaced with an impersonal expression in the TT, shifting the focus from the reader to the uses, or from what the user can get by using the product to what the product can do. Thus, the addresser/addressee relationship in the TT is more distant than in the ST; an effect that can be achieved also through the use of the Spanish impersonal passive:
Again, the possessive article your in all your data disappears in favour of a more general expression, all data, and an impersonal passive sentence is used, avoiding therefore the use of the second person pronoun, which occurs throughout the ST.
Also within the group of focalisation strategies, three uses of compensation have been found, which served the purpose of restructuring the information in the TT changing the progression of the information given. Excerpt ST (18a) can be found at the beginning of a very long ad:
However, in TT (18b) this information appears at the end of the body of the text:
This may be regarded as another way of highlighting information, as in the case of modulation. Waiting until the end of the text to mention this product’s advantag may constitute a voluntary choice aiming to exalt this particular feature.
4.2.4. Substitution strategies
With regard to substitution strategies, 18 partial creations have been found in the TTs, giving rise to a series of effects: highlighting the idea of ease of use, attenuating a categorical statement of the ST, avoiding informality by means of the use of a neutral style, replacing the ST references to the image when the image is no longer the same in the TT, handling translation problems in some wordplays, and avoiding comparative advertising.
In the advert for a scanner already mentioned in example (7), the title of the ST promotes the OCR (optical character recognition) accuracy. However, the TT text has a completely different title:
The words OCR and ACCURACY are typographically highlighted in the ST, while in the TT, it is the words ESCRIBIR (write) and ESCÁNER (scanner) that are emphasised, also using alliteration. The advanced technology is mentioned in the ST, while in the TT this aspect is substituted by the idea of comfort and convenience of the use of the scanner since if you have a scanner you do not need to retype printed information. In order to highlight this effect, a new sentence in the TT replaces the title in the ST.
The avoidance or attenuation of categorical statements can be seen in another pair of texts promoting notebooks:
The ST expression the world’s is replaced with del mercado (in the market) in the TT, thereby reducing the force of the product claim. With the same aim, the adverb probablemente (probably) is added. Partial creation and addition have been combined to achieve the same goal. Again, more categorical expressions are employed in the ST, which contributes to the more expressive or exaggerated tone of these texts in English.
In Example 21 below, we can observe that a neutral expression is used in the TT (21a), replacing an informal one in the ST (21b). Thus, the expression ¿Por qué conformarse con […]? [Why settle for […]?] in the TT is substituting the colloquial one, What’s the fun of […]? in the ST, where the colloquial style is also conveyed through the use of the contracted verb form.
For an example of the way a reference to an image in the ST is replaced in the TT through the creation strategy, when the image is no longer the same, see ST (2a) and TT (2b) above.
As for the problem posed by the translation of a wordplay in the ST, let us see example (22):
The wordplay with drive, as a verb and as a noun, with two meanings in the ST title and subtitle, cannot be maintained in the TT. In Spanish, drive as a verb means impulsar, while as a noun refers to unidad or unidad de disco duro. This problem has been solved by means of creation.
In some STs, comparative charts have been found that show the advantages of the product brand advertised over competitors’ brands. One of the examples consists of a chart showing the results from a test conducted by NSTL (National Software Testing Laboratories). It shows the comparison between the product advertised, HASP, by Aladdin, and its competitor Sentinel, by Rainbow Technologies. The aspects compared appear in the first column: security, ease of learning, ease of use, versatility, and compatibility, among others. There are two other columns: one for the product promoted and one for the competitor brand. The values assigned show that the best scores are achieved by the advertiser’s brand. However, the chart and its contents have been substituted in the TT, as follows:
Thus, through the strategy of partial creation, competitors are not mentioned, mirroring the convention in Spanish advertising (see also examples (3) a. and b. above).
Among the substitution strategies, partial adaptations have also been found, their use being limited to the translation of measures and currency – when the price of the product has been stated – from one system to the other (5 cases), quotations (2 cases), and forms of addressing the reader.
Quotations exalting the quality of the product advertised that were substituted by quotations in Spanish have been found in two STs.
The quotation in the ST is attributed to the magazine PC Computing, and in the TT, to PC Actual. While in the ST the subject is the name of the product (OmniPage Pro), in the TT it is the name of the company (Caere).
The issue of the creation of interpersonal distance addressed in ST and TT (17) above is extended here through the use of partial adaptation. The distant or more respectful relationship between the addresser and the addressee observed in 24 of the 28 TTs has been established by the use of the polite second person: usted versus tú (you as the subject); su versus tu (your); and le versus te (you as the object). In fact, these are the commonest pronouns in this type of ad in Spanish when referring to the recipient – unless they are specifically oriented towards young users. While this distinction does not exist in English, the translator has to decide whether to use one or other form in Spanish. See the following example:
The possessive modifier su and the object pronoun le provide the ad with a formal register.
On the other hand, only two cases of equivalence have been found, which dealt with idiomatic expressions, as in ST and TT (26):
The Spanish expression estar a pan y agua (to be on bread and water) has been referred to in the TT, although with a slight modification.
4.2.5. Non-translation strategy
Partial foreignization has been applied to 15 slogans, 14 technical terms (acronyms), 10 computer-related terms of popular use, and the internationally-known expression free, all of which remain in English in the TTs. Since the names of technological applications and advances act as proper product names and thus are kept in their original language (e.g. Set it and forget it”® / Smart SchedulingTM in the ST (Executive Software 6 February 2001; see note 23) and the TT (Executive Software January 2001; see note 24), they have not been taken into account.
This strategy is especially recurrent in slogans reflecting the wish of technological corporations to export an international or global brand image. The following are a few of the many examples of slogans kept in English in the TTs:
Some TTs use computer-related vocabulary in English (notebook, inkjet, software, PC and driver), rather than the existing Spanish expressions (ordenador portátil, chorro de tinta, programa, ordenador and controlador). Thus in the following example we can see the title where the term inkjet has been kept in English in the TT, despite the fact that an exact Spanish term exists for this kind of printer (chorro de tinta).
This is only one example of the tendency, on the part of Spanish users, to accept and use anglicisms in the field of computing as a sign of technological progress and prestige (Guerrero Ramos 1995).
Of the 18 different computer-related acronyms found in the STs, 14 (77%) remained in English in the TTs and only four (22.2%) were translated into Spanish. This is especially due to the fact that, on the one hand, acronyms such as SNMP, which is the official name for a protocol, are commonly used. On the other hand, although there is a Spanish version for CPU (Central Processing Unit), for example, which is UPC (Unidad Central de Procesamiento), the English term is more widely used.
As we have observed, although the images play an important role and all the modifications made affect the verbal component, the shifts produced in the images in this study have not shown any clear or direct relation to the product type.
As for the translation method used, in general, literal translation was the most common global method. However, in terms of translation procedures, at a microtextual level, a variety of strategies were employed in order to adjust the ST to the Spanish computer users’ expectations, that is, to insert these computer products into the Spanish market and culture. Among these procedures, as we can see in Table 1, partial foreignization, partial adaptation and omission were the most frequently used.
Partial foreignization responded to the difficulty in finding Spanish terms for certain technical concepts, the tendency of international companies to spread a globalized brand image, and the fact that Spanish computer users tend to consider the English language as the language of technology and prestige. As we have seen above, the use of partial adaptation was mainly limited to instances concerning measures and currency, quotations and, especially, forms of addressing the reader. As far as omissions are concerned, two tendencies stand out: on the one hand, Spanish advertising avoids comparative advertising, in spite of the fact that it is allowed in Spain, whereas English ads make considerable use of direct comparisons. On the other hand, although changes have been produced in order to orient the message to the target addressee, linguistic references to the Spanish culture are not found in the TT when the ST presents a cultural reference, because these references are always omitted. The only explicit cultural reference to the TC is observed in a non-verbal element: the image. However, the use of a culturally-dependant image was not accompanied by verbal references to elements of Spanish culture.
The results obtained from the ST/TT comparison show that the shifts produced in the TTs at a linguistic level through the use of the strategies aforementioned reflect the following discourse features favoured in the Spanish translations of the original US ads for computer products: (a) shortening of ads (through omission and condensation), (b) depersonalisation of the message by avoiding any reference to the reader (through modulation), (c) use of neutral and less informal style with less categorical and exalting statements (through omission and partial creation), (d) keeping of slogans, computing terms and computer-related expressions in English (through partial foreignization), (e) avoidance of comparative advertising (through omission and partial creation), (f) emphasis on the advantages of the product rather than on its technical details (partial creation), (g) highlighting or expressing advantages resulting from the use of the product (through addition, explicitation, modulation and compensation), (h) use of a more formal register and a more formal way of addressing the reader (through omission, addition, modulation, partial creation, and partial adaptation), (i) clarification of technical information (through explicitation, amplification), (j) scant use of references to the Spanish culture (through omission).
In the following table, I have presented the effects produced and their corresponding strategies and suggest the possible underlying motive for employing said strategies. Effects (b), (c), (d), (e) and (h) and their reasons correspond to the findings presented in Cruz Gracía and Adams (2006).
Of the features mentioned, at least (b), (c), (d), (f), (h) and (i) can be said to have a direct relation to the product type parameter. As I have already said, (b), (c), (d) and (h) have proved to be representative of the discourse of computer adverts in Spanish – although they may not be limited to this product sector – as opposed to Spanish advertising in general. On the other hand, although points (f) and (i) were not considered in the previous study, they are obviously linked to the technological nature of these products since they refer to the technical information contained in these ads. Although (e), the avoidance of comparative advertising, was found to be a feature of computer adverts in Spanish, it is not possible to limit it to this product sector since it is a tendency in Spanish advertising, as cases of this advertising strategy in Spain are rare.
In short, aspects such as interpersonal distance between addresser and addressee, neutral and less informal style, frequent use of English loan words, use of a more formal register and a more formal way of addressing the reader, the importance of the advantages of the product against its technical characteristics, and the tendency to clarify technical information can be identified as representative of adverts for this product sector in Spanish. They are closely related to the nature of computing products, the values assigned to them by Spanish consumers and the linguistic preferences for the advertising of this product type in Spanish. This implies that at least some of the shifts made in the TTs respond to Spanish computer users’ expectations.
However, in the light of the results of the present study, features not considered initially in the study of the comparable corpus have emerged: points (a), (f), (g), (i) and (j) above. Although (f) and (i) are linked to the nature of computer products, research is needed in order to find out whether these effects produced in the TT can be considered as real tendencies or conventions in Spanish. It is worth pointing out that points (f) and (g) refer to the lesser use of technical specifications as a persuasive strategy in the TTs than in the STs, while point (i) alludes to the explanation of technical concepts in the TTs. Further research on the comparable corpus is now required in order to study these features in depth. Only through such analysis will it be possible to determine whether the use of shorter ads, as compared to the US ads, and Spanish cultural references could be considered representative of the promotion of computer products in Spain.
If, as stated, the nature of products has led Adam and Bonhomme (2000) to establish a classification in the two groups mentioned in section 2, adverts need to be handled differently by the creator of advertising messages and, subsequently, by the translator, depending on which group they belong to, since the consumers’ expectations will vary according to the product advertised. This fact affects translator training in the field of copy adaptation, where the following types of expertise or knowledge are required: linguistic competence, knowledge of terminology, the product and the persuasion strategies that benefit the promotion of specific products among the potential buyers of different cultures. Computer equipment, for example, is not sold the same way in every culture, since the differences in level of technological development and social values play a determining role.
The present paper has evinced a series of translation strategies in a corpus of ST/TT computing adverts in English and Spanish. These strategies have proved to be used in order to favour a number of characteristics or conventions of adverts for this product type in Spanish. Moreover, the findings reveal that some of these conventions are directly related to the product type and the values attributed in particular socio-cultural contexts.
More research in this field could be done through the compilation and analysis of a more recent corpus of texts of the same type, the results of which could provide insight into the ways the characteristics found in this study may be changing. This would contribute to the diachronic study of text types oriented towards translation. Moreover, the same study could be applied to ads in other product sectors in order to determine the specificities of the promotion of other product types across cultures.
I would like to thank Dr. Heather Adams and Dr. Richard Clouet, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, for checking and correcting the English version of this manuscript and the French abstract, respectively.
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