Cultural Adaption: If a Normal Translation is Not Enough

Cultural Adaption

A very important aspect that must be taken into account in translation is cultural adaptation. According to the objective of the translation, all the information of the original text must be kept or adapted to the culture of the recipients.

A context in which one must be faithful to the original is, for example, the legal one. If you are translating a contract, you cannot adapt the information to the culture of the target language as this could affect the terms of the contract, i.e. if you mention amount of money in Chinese Yuan, you cannot exchange for USD or any other currency.

However, this changes in other contexts such as in marketing or literature. If we want to attract attention to attract new customers, sell a product or make them feel identified with the text (message) in question, it is necessary to adapt different concepts to their culture. This way you will not feel alienated from the text or the product.

Is Translation Software Enough?

“With a translation software and a good dictionary, I can translate everything.” With this statement, translators are more frequently confronted. It is also no longer entirely to be dismissed. Although a high error rate still exists, translation software are already able to translate simple texts in such a way that they are nevertheless understood. If the translation thus produced is then read-corrected with consideration of the initial text, the result can be satisfactory to a certain extent. However, for any higher expectations, it is recommended to use the support of a professional translation service provider. Why?

When Do You Need Cultural Adaptation?

  • Products

If product texts are to be translated into new markets, it is not enough for the translation to be correct. Almost as important is the fact that it is adapted to the target country or the target group – which is important in China, does not necessarily work in India. This adaptation is called cultural adaptation or transcreation.

For example, a cooking recipe needs to be translated into Spanish. For a standard translation, the term “rapeseed oil” is translated as “aceite de colza”. On the other hand, the Spanish specialist translator will translate the term “aceite de oliva” (“olive oil”) because rapeseed oil has a very bad reputation in Spain in 1981 due to a massive poisoning by contaminated rapeseed oil.

  • Food

In the food sector, in many countries religious dietary regulations must also be taken into account, which are followed by the majority of the population. Religious and cultural influences, however, also affect other areas: for example, in China, people believe certain numbers bring misfortune. For example, in the translation of a building instruction, the numbers “4”, “13” and “14” should be avoided.

  • Advertising

But advertising is much more important: Advertising texts, product names, claims and slogans are intended to arouse certain positive associations and feelings. Caution is especially recommended for product names. It should be clarified whether these should be retained or transposed. The original product name should not always be maintained when introducing a product into the new market. One example is the Irish Whiskey liquor “Irish Mist”, which should also be introduced in Germany under this product description – understandably with manageable success.

  • Fashion

Let’s say for example that a brand of American clothing wants to distribute its fashion in China. An important factor to keep in mind is that the sizes are different. To a Chinese, for example, it does not tell you much that the size of the shoes is 5, 6 or 7. Another unit that would have to be converted to suit the customer is the coin. To assess whether to buy a product or not, a determining factor is the price; Because it is convenient for the customer to know how much it will cost without having to make calculations to know the price in their currency.

  • Festival

In addition to the units, there are also concepts that require adaptation. As the end of the year approaches, Christmas is often used as marketing to sell toys. If this strategy is chosen, it is better to ensure that culture is celebrated in this tradition.


In order to adequately take cultural peculiarities into translation, it is essential to provide the translation service provider with as much background information as possible about the product and the target consumers. This allows the translator team to tailor the text individually to the target group, thus enabling them to enter the market.