Friday, October 3, 2014


A reader in Prince Edward Island sent in this great example to show why it's important to use a professional translator. You may think you can get the job done less expensively using an online translation tool, but if there are more than one meaning for a word, or if your English word doesn't have a direct translation in the target language, you could get into trouble.

Whoever wanted to translate "brownies" for this packaging was likely unaware either that there isn't a direct translation for the word in French (all the francophone-Canadians in my world call them "brownies," even when speaking French), and likely didn't consider that "brownie" has another meaning in English.

This is the kind of brownie you could accurately translate as a "jeannette."

Photo from Girl Guides of Canada 
There are other spelling errors visible in the French on this packaging, too -- which is too bad, because the company was making a specific effort to be inclusive with its packaging.

Translation is sometimes a secondary consideration, especially when the vast majority of the target market prefers the primary language. But if you're going to do it at all, it's worth having an expert make it right. Good translators don't just translate each word into its other-language counterpart -- they are gifted writers, too, who can ensure the subtext, tone, rhythm and emotion of your text carry through.

On a brownie package, of course, we're really just looking for the words... but a good translator can ensure you get those right, too.