Opting for English Communications is the Cat’s Meow, Striking the Right Note is of the Essence
The growing need to communicate in English has driven demand for translating and copywriting services. For many translation agencies translating from or into English accounts for the bulk of their business. That said, corporate communication requires more than matching German with English words. Key concepts here are specialisation and localisation.
Specialisation is self-explanatory, implying that you do best what you do most. Localisation means the adaptation of a source text – beyond the actual translation – to the cultural paradigm of the target audience. With software, it involves adjusting American UI terminology to German standards, for instance. Software vendors regularly update their style guides to ensure pinpoint branding in each country. It is positioning at its finest in a discursively constructed reality. Thus, any translation of corporate copy should live up to the corporate identity that defines the German source. Having no English website at all is better than having one that fails to engage the target audience on it own terms. As linguist de Saussure pointed out, “pain” in French is not the same as “bread” in English. Each carries the weight of its cultural heritage.
One distinction between German and English communications is the importance of rhetoric. Germans tend to emphasise facts and figures – track record, competence, returns – in the belief that performance and positioning are two faces of the same medal, and communication little more than panache. Anglo-Saxons take a causal approach, feeling that the success of your business depends on your ability to position it. They take pride in their penmanship and in “dressing” their language. This may be an oversimplification, but the argument stands: English translations of German copy constitute a stylistic challenge.
The point is qualified by the fact that English translations need not necessarily address an An- glophone audience. Your English homepage will be read by any international lead who speaks no German. So while the translation should be elo- quent enough to please a native readership, it needs to make sense to all the other readers too. Luckily, simple verbiage and rhetorical ambition are perfectly compatible, especially in a language whose simple grammar is its claim to fame, and whose Latinisms have equivalents in all European languages.
The foregoing was written with all of this in mind. Addressed to German readers, it makes one point: If you understood this article and feel up to par, you ought to produce your own English homepage and Good Luck to you. If, however, you liked what you read, but have a hard time talking business with a client who speaks English only, you should let those handle your English communications who do nothing else.