Today, the close relationship between translation and advertising is evident, which has led to a certain consensus on considering advertising translation as its own specialty. In this regard, it is striking how both advertising and its language have aroused considerable interest among many specialists in the field of translation, both because of the challenging nature of the advertising language itself and because of the problems of translation practices that arise when translating a particular advertisement or advertising text. Thus, in this short article we will analyze some specific aspects of advertising and the advertising language related to the translation activity.
The first element to take into account is the definition of advertising itself. Advertising, as a communication tool, is responsible for disseminating a message -generally of a commercial nature- to attract potential buyers or users to a specific product or service. In this sense, it is important to distinguish between advertising and marketing: while the latter is defined as an iterative process that encompasses the totality of a comprehensive plan designed to create a specific image of a brand or product, advertising is defined as a single action that is integrated into the final part of marketing, i.e. promotion. Marketing, therefore, is conceived as a long-term strategy, and advertising is an activity that seeks an immediate result. Having made this distinction, there is no doubt that advertising is defined on the basis of a basic communicative function, that of provoking a certain attitude in the receiver so that they purchase a product or wish to make use of a certain service. Therefore, if the persuasive or appealing function is the basic characteristic that defines advertising, we can deduce that advertising is a communication process between the sender (advertiser, publicist, translator) and the receiver (target audience).
In this regard, it should be pointed out that on many occasions the translating activity is made difficult because in advertising language the function that should always predominate is persuasive. Therefore, the most important element to be taken into account is the reaction of the recipient, which is achieved through the suggestive and evocative nature of advertising. Thus, the main objective of advertising translation is not only to communicate, to transfer a series of contents from a source language to a target language, but the translator must also try to produce the same effect in the target language as in the source language, taking cultural aspects into account. Thus, in an advertising text, two main functions can be distinguished: the informative and the emotional. While the first is limited to offering data about a certain product in an objective and formal manner, the second is one that aims to generate emotions in the customer to capture their attention and lead them to purchase a product or service.
Therefore, since there are several elements that condition and determine the creation of an advertising text, the translator must cover different disciplines and methodologies for the correct performance of their work. Among them, we have highlighted the following:
- Marketing and advertising: these provide an essential theoretical background for the translator to understand the role of advertising translation from a communicative perspective.
- Semiotics: this is the science that studies the different signs that allow communication between individuals, so its knowledge is essential for the understanding of the multimedia and linguistic elements of which advertisements are composed.
- Rhetoric: this is in charge of the study of the persuasive resources of advertising communication.
- Pragmatics: allows a better understanding of the set of extra-linguistic elements of the advertising text, focusing on the role of the receiver.
- New technologies: the translator must be aware of the important role played by technology in international advertising, which can certainly be related to issues such as the format, transmission and reception of advertisements.
Having said that, we will now discuss some of the characteristics of advertising copy from the translator’s point of view. First of all, it is necessary to underline the complexity inherent to the nature of the advertising text, insofar as it exceeds the limits of the textual itself, integrating the visual as a fundamental element. Thus, as far as the non-verbal component of advertising language is concerned, the image becomes in many cases the central element of advertisements. The images are intended to make the consumer identify the product and internalize it. Therefore, in no way can the image be considered as a secondary or subordinate element to the text, but rather as a fundamental part of the overall meaning of the message. Likewise, another important element within the non-verbal code in the field of advertising is typography, since the creators of advertising content often resort to this resource to attract the reader’s attention.
On the other hand, with regard to the textual or verbal component, there are several elements to be taken into account. One of the main difficulties faced by a translator of advertising texts is the headline of the advertisement, since this part of the message must retain the same informative and persuasive content as in the original, but adapted to the characteristics of the target culture. To this end, it is usual to resort to resources such as irony, rhetorical questions or word games. In this regard, the most difficult elements to translate are slogans and headlines, due to the wide variety of resources used. Another characteristic of the verbal code in advertising language is brevity and conciseness of expression. The message must be clear enough to attract the reader and create a bond with them, but it must also be complete enough to explain the advantages of the product or service being sold. Therefore, the verbal component of advertisements is usually highly influenced by both the economy of language and psychosocial factors, since the message conveyed must be built around the effects it is to have on the recipient.
Finally, it is important to mention that, in order to undertake a good translation of advertising texts, it is essential to have an understanding of society and culture. The relationship between advertising and society is built as an inseparable binomial, since advertisements constitute an exercise of reflection on the future or behavior of a society and, at the same time, have a direct influence on it. In fact, advertising imitates a reality that it itself represents, putting the focus on the product or service, but, at the same time, representing existing social stereotypes. Therefore, the translator will have to give the advertising text in the target language a completely new meaning, thus updating the meaning and persuasive purpose of the original and adapting it to the context for which it is being translated. For this reason, many consider advertising translation as an activity more related to ‘trans-creation’ than to translation itself.
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Carlos Sánchez Luis