Tuesday, February 16, 2010

French to English: Store Flyers, Part 1

store flyers pix When I moved to Montreal, I was astonished at the number of store flyers that landed in our mailboxes.  Not only are they placed in individual mailboxes, they are also displayed on wooden or metallic stands at the entrance of every apartment building.  These store flyers are kept neatly in one plastic bag called a Publi-Sac.  I've been living here for over 20 years and guess what?  These publi-sacs are still around.

Store flyers are the "literature" you browse while you're having your morning cup of coffee or taking a lunch break.  I devoured them when I was a student at McGill and learning translation.  They're the ideal vocabulary builder, but they also serve another purpose:  some of the ads are translated in imaginative ways.  Depending on how ads are worded, they can be translated literally (without losing anything in the translation) or translated with a wee-bit stretch of the imagination. 

That's why I love translation.  When you're translating a document on civil engineering, there isn't much room to be creative; you have to use the appropriate terminology that civil engineers use.  Advertising is different.  It's one field where translators are allowed to let their creative juices flow - as long as the translation is not off-tangent.

Let me give you your baker's dozen of terms first.  After that, we'll look at some of these catchy lines. 

This first set comes from supermarket flyers:

store flyers, part 1

So, what kinds of adverts hook your attention?  The ones with 50% off, free delivery, 2-for-1, or those that offer discount coupons?  I hardly use coupons (they're cumbersome to insert into your wallet), but I wouldn't mind reduced prices.  Some people buy only  recognized brands; I tend to go for no-name brands especially when there's no discernible difference in quality.

How about those store flyer adverts?  I took these from two of my favorite supermarkets:  Mourelatos and Loblaws.  Most of the adverts below are from the recent flyer of Loblaws where they featured their "Blue Menu" products.

store flyers 1.1

If you read some of the lines, you'll notice that the translator exercised her "editorial" privileges. 

Take "le vrai bon goût du gruau":  an inexperienced translator who does not have copywriting skills would have translated that as "the true and good taste of oatmeal." In this case, "the way oatmeal should taste" is much better.  It captures the spirit of the original.

Next, read how the translator rendered "une salade débordante de couleurs et de saveurs" into "valuable heirlooms by the tub."  That's a good one!  Another translator would probably say "a salad rich in color and flavor" which is also correct and probably more faithful to the original, but "valuable heirlooms by the tub" shows the translator's creativity and imagination.  Not all clients will probably approve this translation because they prefer to preserve the "flavor and color" concepts.

My friendly reminder:  translation - while it needs to reflect the meaning of the original - is very subjective, particularly in fields like advertising, music and the arts.  Translation's been called a science and an art.  There are documents that have to be translated the way the original reads, but sometimes, you'll get a document that calls on another part of your brain - the creative side.

My advice?  Go with what your clients want!

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