Idiomatic Phrases: The Importance of Localization in Translation

Innovative communicators are constantly searching for new ways to turn a phrase; some phrases are used once and never heard again, while other phrases become so popular they long outlive the author.

Over time, these sticky phrases take on a meaning of their own, becoming separate from the words of which they’re comprised. In English, we refer to these phrases as idiomatic expressions, categorized as “having meaning not deductible from those of the individual words.

Some common idioms in the English language include:

             Beat Around the Bush
             Couch Potato
             Spill the Beans

To native English speakers, these phrases are understood with the same fluency as the individual words themselves. To a non-native speaker, however, the concept of a potato specifically grown between the cushions of a couch might seem foreign.

But what about other languages?

English is not unique in their use of idiomatic expressions – they’re used around the world. Every language has their own collection of idioms that grow from popular phrases and other cultural influences. In France, one might encounter one or more of these idiomatic expressions:

Avoir un poil dans la main
Literal Translation: To have a hair in the hand
Contextual Meaning: To be lazy or to avoid hard work

Tomber dans les pommes
Literal Translation: To fall in the apples
Contextual Meaning: To faint or to pass out

Etre soupe au lait
Literal Translation: To be milky soup
Contextual Meaning: To be quick-tempered

             Appuyer sur le champignon
             Literal Translation: To push on the onion
             Contextual Meaning: To drive very fast, to accelerate

To find more French idiomatic expressions, click here

Why does it matter?

When trying to establish a relationship with any audience, especially a foreign one, it is important to communicate clearly and effectively. When phrases are taken out of context the intended meaning becomes muddled and misunderstandings occur. After experiencing difficulty understanding a message, many audience members are likely to search elsewhere to fulfill their needs in order to avoid any difficulties in communication.

For businesses who are looking to connect to foreign markets without compromising the quality of the message or perceived ethos of the company, Lionbridge has a solution.

Human Translation and Localization services are the most efficient, effective means of preserving the contextual integrity of a message. Lionbridge’s network of more than 22,000 in-country linguists provides reliable translations that are guaranteed to communicate your message in a way that maintains the original intent.

Unlike machine translation, which lacks the ability to process cultural nuances embedded within a text, human translation is able to intuitively manage the meaning communicated through the message.

Have a project that needs translating? Click here to get an instant quote from Lionbridge’s onDemand Portal.

 

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