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Let's talk languages

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Welcome to my first blog post. This one is about Traductions FLB, but watch for more entries on words, languages, translation, communications, marketing, advertising, literature... and maybe some really bad translations. We all love to read those.


What I wish my workspace looked like. A girl can dream.

As you've probably guessed, Traductions FLB is me, Flora-Lee Bendit. Just me.

I've been a translator for 30 years now, in the corporate world, at a translation company, and as a freelancer. I've learned a few lessons in that time, some of which I'll share with you here.

The most valuable is that different languages work in different ways, and if you try to apply the rules of one to another, you're going to wind up hurting the ears of native speakers. So I'm going to talk a lot about why you need a language professional if you want to engage rather than alienate.

That's also the communications and marketing manager in me. Because, yes, I've done that, too. And it's what I choose to focus on at this point in my career. Creative translations and adaptations that play with words, move them around like puzzle pieces, until they fit and feel just right.

Anybody can take French words and make them English. I've had many people tell me they're translators when their only credential is bilingualism. You can probably hear me roll my eyes from where you're sitting. In the words of Pierre Joris, a famous poet, essayist, anthologist and translator, "Knowing two languages doesn't make you a translator any more than having ten fingers makes you a pianist."

To be a real translator, it takes a special touch, an imaginative mind and a remarkable sense of what will make a target audience sit up and take notice. You almost have to forget the source text for a moment, especially in advertising. I call it an "out-of-copy experience."

When it comes to promoting your business, you want the very best. Your bilingual administrative assistant can translate your email, but not your marketing message. Set aside part of your budget for a professional and experienced translator with a background in communications or a related field. If the words "brand strategy" draw a blank expression, run for your life!

We've all seen disastrous translations. One of my favourite examples is a poster my daughter came across during the pandemic, featuring a hand sanitizer bottle and the English words "Aseptisate the hands mandatory." Obviously, the people who created that masterpiece didn't even try Google Translate, which comes up with the much more palatable "Mandatory hand sanitization."

The only way to avoid mishaps—and giggles—is to play it safe and hire someone who knows exactly what they're doing. It doesn't have to be me. I'd like it to be me, but it can be anyone with the right experience and a talent for making all your messages impactful.

And there you have it: lessons I've learned with time. Some of them, anyway.

I hope you'll join me here often. You may notice a touch of humour in my posts. My daughter won't read them otherwise.

Feel free to leave a comment. I'll read anything.

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