When you’re expanding into international markets and planning to launch a product in a foreign country, you’re probably going to translate your content at one point or another. Keep in mind that when it comes to translation during the product development and launch process, you should always engage in culturally sensitive translation. So, what is culturally sensitive translation? Here is everything that you need to know.

What it is

Culturally sensitive translation isn’t just words that change between languages — it also includes cultures. Each society on the planet has different sociocultural norms, traditions, and values. Translation therefore not only needs to reflect changes in words, they also need to reflect any cultural differences.

Why it matters

When you translate literally, you’re asking for trouble. Just ask the American Dairy Association. Several years ago the ADA, famous for their “Got Milk?” campaign, decided to translate their popular slogan into Spanish. The problem? When literally translated, “got milk?” (tienes leche?”) refers to lactating mothers. As if that translation blunder wasn’t error enough, the ADA campaign also proved to be offensive to the Latino community. Latino mothers interpreted the campaign as insinuating they weren’t providing enough milk, and subsequently that they were failing in their motherly duties. No one is going to buy a product from you if they feel your slogan is insulting them.

It doesn’t just apply to words

You also need to make sure any imagery or visuals on your product or in your marketing materials are also culturally appropriate. When the US firm Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they placed a picture of a baby on the label. Sales flopped and nobody could quite figure out why, until someone pointed out that in Africa companies typically label products with a picture of their contents. The cultural clash was marked—after all, nobody wants to buy a product they think is made from babies.

What it means for product development

When it comes to product development for a foreign country, it is most definitely in your best interest to hire local support who is fully equipped to engage in culturally sensitive translation. That way, you can avoid any potentially catastrophic mishaps.

Pivot International is a product design, development, and manufacturing firm with extensive experience in the medtech industry. If you are interested in engineering a new product or updating an existing product, contact us at 1-877-206-5001 or request your free consultation today.