Rendering a text into another language is not easy; or yes, it can be pretty easy, yet of poor quality. Bad/poor quality is the result of a job done carelessly or by non-experts. And that being the case, there will be fewer, if not zero, chances that the translated text will fulfil its intended communicative effects. As part of the series Translating Is Easy If…, here comes Creating & Translating of a Leaflet, which has been inspired in the marvellous city of Saint Petersburg!
Last year, while I was living in Finland, I visited St. Petersburg, or only Petersburg as Russians say, or even Piter in casual conversation. Like many travellers, once I arrived, I went to the tourist information office to get a few leaflets, brochures and maps. One of the leaflets in Spanish caught my attention: inconsistencies, mistranslations, typos and spelling mistakes hampered readability. As I went through the written piece, I began to feel the need to say something about it. Therefore, a post split in two entries has come to life. This part I includes the following: a short introduction about St. Petersburg and some language tips on creating effective leaflets or brochures. Part II will include some not-recommended uses of Spanish found in the leaflet and a summary. Plus music and pictures in both posts 🙂
Music for Reading
While you continue to read this post, I invite you to listen to Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7. It was written between 1939 and 1941. Also according to Wikipedia, it’s one of Shostakovich’s best-known compositions. It was dedicated to the city of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg.
“Once a desolate swamp, Russia’s imperial capital is today a dazzling metropolis whose sheer grandeur never fails to amaze” (Lonely Planet). St. Petersburg is the second largest city of Russia. It’s located on the Neva River in the delta of the Gulf of Finland, on the Baltic Sea. It’s often described as the most westernised city of Russia, as well as its cultural capital. Also, since in St. Petersburg you’re always surrounded by and close to water, the city has earned the nickname of “The Venice of the North” (Saint-Petersburg.com). It’s the northernmost city in the world with a population of over one million. The Historic Centre of St. Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And as you may already know, nobody can’t leave St. Petersburg without visiting the Hermitage: one of the largest museums of art and culture in the world.
Leaflets and Brochures
The translation of a brochure that aims to be powerful and effective for its target audience should be well-written. “You may not like to hear it but excellent copy is crucial to great brochure design” says Julia Sagar, author of the post Brochure design: 10 top creative tips.
Apart from compelling content, specific information and strategic use of space, a functional brochure that is to stand out from the rest and to attract readers’ attention demands a proper and well-thought use of language. How do you achieve that? With the help of a professional. For graphic design, you need a graphic designer; for getting it right with language, you need a language expert. The creation, design and writing of advertising content requires that you pay close attention to grammar, use of language, vocabulary, spelling, style, etc. Target audience, cultural context and variety of language are crucial too. Unfortunately, “Great copy is often the most undervalued element in brochure design. A lot of people don’t understand that copy needs to be considered as part of the overall design concept” (Julia Sagar).
Therefore, to ensure your copy does meet the requirements of an advertising piece that works, you may want to follow these language related tips:
- Define main goal and target audience: they determine the way you’re going to write. Tone, style, register, all depend on such aspects.
- Produce a catchy title that “grabs your reader’s attention and conveys the essence of what you want to say” (Owen-Spencer Thomas, “Designing a Leaflet”).
- Summarise the most relevant and attractive information: be specific, clear and concise.
- Don’t use long paragraphs. Keep it simple and short. “Use bullet points, text boxes and infographics to organize the information into readable portions” (Harold Fishman, “15 Tips for Writing Effective Flyers“).
- Use exciting, positive and active words.
- Check spelling, typos and consistency.
- Hire a language expert to proofread the copy, and a translator to translate it.
- Test the copy (both original and translated version) to see if it needs modifications.
- Proofread, proofread and proofread.
Remember: “Proofread several times. Not only should you proofread your flyer (leaflet/brochure), but you should have one or two other people proofread it” (Harold Fishman). And I add, if you decide to have the leaflet translated into other languages, make sure the translated version honours the great job done for the original. To achieve that, you’ll need the expertise and experience of a professional translator.
So, this is the end of the first part. As I said, part II will summarise the two entries and will deal with the not-recommended uses of Spanish found in the leaflet:
1. Comma between Subject and Verb
2. Capitalisation of Days of the Week, and Names of Months and Seasons
3. The Gerund 😀
4. Use of Pronouns: “le”
5. An All-Inclusive Point Five: Sentences that Could Be Improved (Some, Desperately Need to Be)
A Promise Is a Promise
Here are a few pics from the trip. I hope you like them!
Thank you for visiting the blog! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this entry, but most of all, I hope you’ve found it somehow useful. Any comments? Have you ever read a translated leaflet that doesn’t do justice to its original? I’m almost sure you have 😉
References & Further Readings