Trapped in Toyland: Effective non-translation in Toy Story

A far cry from last time’s outing, which listed some of the best online resources out there to help you get better acquainted with translation studies as a discipline, today’s post is perhaps a bit more fun.

As one of the defining films of my childhood, Toy Story has always had a special place in my heart and I wanted to look at some of the interesting tidbits that have emerged from its global success – the trials and tribulations of translating such a tale for toy lovers around the world… if you will.

While I’ve tackled the translation of film titles on several occasions in the past and regard it as an extremely interesting topic, the fact that Toy Story has retained its English title quite consistently around the globe seems to suggest that this line of enquiry is one of little merit.

There is the obligatory French translation (Histoire de Jouets) in Quebec, and in Italian the subtitles added to each film seem to follow the formula of dumbing down titles in translation that I discussed in my other posts on the topic (the first becomes Toy Story – Il mondo dei giocattoli [The world of toys], the second adds Woody e Buzz alla riscossa [Woody and Buzz to the rescue] and the third adds La Grande Fuga [The great escape]), but there is little else of note. However, it is precisely this non-translation that counter-intuitively offers some interesting insights that I will look at in more detail later in the post.

Of course, there’s the usual mix of tricky translations to deal with within the film’s narrative. The riddle of Al’s Toy Barn in the second film is one great example that sees the toys struggling with the meaning of the car licence plate LZTYBRN (Al’s Toy Barn with the vowels removed). In French, the translators completely ignored the significance of the licence plate, having selected a fairly literal translation of the shop’s name (La Ferme aux Jouets d’Al) that was impossible to link to the letters available. I’d certainly be interested to know if there are any more creative versions in other languages that manage to incorporate the licence plate.

Furthermore, one interesting point is that the film’s iconic theme tune – Randy Newman’s ‘You’ve Got a Friend in me’ – is actually translated into French (Je suis ton ami – below) and Spanish (Hay un amigo en mi). While the Spanish version is used in conjunction with the ‘Spanish Buzz’ gag in the third film and adopts a flamenco-based orchestration, the French version is something of an oddity as the song’s lyrics have just been translated and played over the existing music, something that is quite rare. Indeed, the entire French soundtrack received this same treatment in a move that is perhaps due to the slightly more Anglo-skeptic nature of French audiences (something to be discussed below) or is perhaps just a challenge that the movie’s producers set themselves…. Either way, it is well worth a listen for the clever transposition of the lyrics.

However, the most interesting insights come from outside of the main storyline and the title of the second film in Italian mentioned above hints at this point of interest – the clue lies in the fact that Woody and Buzz remain untranslated. While Woody’s name, coming from the African-American Western actor Woody Strode, could easily be translated to reflect a similar cultural reference, Woody, Buzz and several of the more minor characters’ names are consistently left unchanged or, if altered, are translated simply to reflect to real-life toy that they depict (e.g. M. Patate / Señor Patata – Mr. Potato Head). This retention of the same names is particularly true of cultures that are more accepting of English – such as Italian, where all of the characters’ names remain untranslated – and it is a clear indication of the powerful marketing strategies operating on a wider scale.

In the case of France, meanwhile, where there is more pride associated with the native language and a less favourable opinion towards Anglicisms, there has been more of an effort to rebrand the names (Buzz Lightyear becomes Buzz l’Eclair, for example, and Wheezy is renamed Siffli in an attempt to match the pun – an opportunity that is not taken in Italian or Spanish) but ultimately the importance afforded to the core marketing terms (Woody, Buzz, Toy Story etc.) overrides this cultural trait.

Furthermore, the names that are translated in French are themselves equally concerned with positive marketing as they are always well thought-out, catchy and in-keeping with general naming trends among toys: Slinky becomes Zigzag, Stinky Pete becomes Papi Pépite [Grandpa Nugget – using the mining reference], Bullseye becomes Pile-Poil [spot-on, exactly] and Hamm becomes Bayonne (a famous ham-making region in France).

The memorable nature of these names and the repeated use of rhyme and alliteration mark these out as something beyond the ordinary translation. Indeed, the translation of names in France was not only a tool to provide a small touch of humour to viewers but also a means of marketing the toys to the general public, a clever opportunity that was perhaps slightly ignored by the Italian translators (although the merchandise still undoubtedly sold well in Italy under the English branding). Ultimately, it’s not surprising that all of the toys were successfully marketed in France (anyone want a Pile-Poil doll?).

So what can Toy Story tell us about translation? Above all, both the translation and non-translation of various elements within and surrounding the films demonstrate that the power of global marketing consistency can be more influential than linguistic considerations when mediating between cultures, particularly when the source language enjoys the kind of global hegemony that English does. Toy Story is quite unique in its marketing potential (how many children could resist the lure of wanting a Woody or Buzz of their own after watching the film?) but this is a choice that is reflected in many translations these days, where a brand must choose between comprehension and consistency in their branding.

In this particular case, even the decision to leave the title as untouched as possible is a strategic one (rather than being the result of laziness). The film’s logo and distinctive colour scheme are now instantly recognisable and this greater consistency has ensured unrivalled brand value on a global scale rather than fragmenting international markets.

Ultimately, aside from the lovable characters, enjoyable storylines and clever marketing, it seems that the strategic translation choices (or the lack of translation all together) made along the way have been one of the key factors in the series’ continuing success that saw the first film alone make $361 million worldwide.

To infinity and beyond / Vers l’infini et au-delà / Verso l’infinito…e oltre! / Hasta el infinito… ¡y más allá!

– Buzz Lightyear

Guest Post: Mastering LinkedIn with Sara Colombo

HOW TO BE YOURSELF, ATTRACT THE RIGHT PEOPLE AND USE LINKEDIN EFFECTIVELY

Hello all and thank you for having me here today. How are you? Joseph invited me to write a guest post for his blog and I am glad today we’ll be talking about LinkedIn. Yes, the once professional network that became a social utility and is now functioning as a professional social network… a sort of in-between platform.

“But social media are a waste of time for freelancers!” you might think. And you are right. Social media won’t lead you far if used only to play games, share selfies and chat about cats, soups, cars etc.

However, if used for business purposes, social media can really help you to get in touch with potential clients (agencies as well as direct clients), discover new niches, turn followers into customers and establish yourself as a leader.

The only thing you have to do is clarify who you are to attract the right people – the people you get on with who will be happy to work with you (and will also benefit from your translation services) –  which, to be honest, is not exactly an easy task.

Keep in mind that people work with people, not nice brands. They want to see the human behind the digital surface. And when I say this, I mean that they want to connect with a nice human, someone they like, find interesting, someone they would hire because they understand their business and can help them. In other words, when you create a LinkedIn profile, you have to be human, personal, find out what your values are and who might benefit from those values/skills.

Why? Well, because (a) you don’t want to attract all the random bonkers annoyingly hanging out around your contacts and (b) why the heck would you waste time to create a very general and anonymous profile, a universal washout, when you could spend the same amount of time on a clear, effective, specific profile? You tell me.

We need to understand this: creating general profiles to please the whole world and attract all the damn clients we can think of is tiring, pointless, useless. You need to attract the perfect client for you, not thousands of pests.

Think about it: isn’t it better to be a business that solves problems rather than being just another business? And who can you help if not the people experiencing the problems your skills and expertise can solve?

The solution? Be yourself, learn to value your skills, know who you want to talk to, understand what they want to hear from you, and create a specific, clear, effective, LinkedIn profile.

Let’s put it this way: use LinkedIn to attract the right people.

IF I HAVE TO BE SPECIFIC, HOW CAN I DO IT?

Many people think that specialization is something that comes with their brand, as if colours and logos could tell the whole story of your life at first glance. Failures and milestones included.

Wrong. As I say in my book: you are your brand. A brand might be cool and definitely an important part of your business, but this is the time to show your personality and talent to the world. Because this is how you will build your career and attract the right people.

So, to create a great LinkedIn profile, forget rules and fixed CV standards and learn to interact, be true and tell your story. Here are some ideas:

  1. Use your picture, not your logo. People want to work with real people, and unless you come from Mars, you should be one nice, interesting person.
  2. When writing your summary, be focused, clear and personal. Use your creativity to link all the steps and create a compelling presentation: show your love, motivation and share your areas of interest or your specialisations. As I have said, being specific helps you attract the right client, but it is also the only way to tell people more about your values, opinions and, as a consequence, stand out from the crowd. Because you don’t want to be just ‘another translator’…right? Great. Then ‘neutral’ should not be in your vocabulary, especially when it comes to describing your career. On the contrary highlight your skills, specify the important milestones or steps that led you to where you are now, charm people with your lovely wink and (finally!) close the deal. Use that damn ‘call to action’ to bring people to your blog, website, to contact you… to work with you!
  3. Add multimedia content to personalise the profile and give more details about you as a freelancer. Specifically, there are two elements that could work for you: an infographic and a presentation of your company. Visual content is really popular these days because it can help you shrink a lot into a tiny digital surface. Create a fun, personal, memorable infographic to show your CV or skills. Alternatively, and especially if you run a blog related to your field of specialisation or simply a blog about translation, link it to the profile to attract traffic and let potential clients explore your website.
  4. Don’t link Twitter to LinkedIn and don’t spam people with posts and updates that have nothing to do with your profile. Yes, I have told you to be yourself, but I meant the best professional version of you (who said professional can’t be fun, witty or interesting?!). Despite being a social platform, LinkedIn is still a professional network. If you really want to share a post on all of your social media, make sure the content is right and it won’t damage your reputation or make your prospects run away from your initial promise.
  5. Connect properly: when sending a message to someone, specify why you want to connect with them and add a couple of details about yourself as well. I keep on receiving invitations from people I have never heard of and sometimes find myself declining them as the profile looks incomplete, unclear or simply unprofessional. Why should your ideal client work with you if you don’t even know how to introduce yourself in a catchy way?

Finally, two more tips you might find useful:

  1. Update your profile regularly and remember to check LinkedIn updates too. Social media change quickly; keeping your profile updated and fresh is the only way to stand out.
  2. Use keywords all around your profile: from the tag line to the summary, the description of your educational background and your interests. If you want your prospects to find you, you need to be clear about what you do.

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE: YOUR DAILY SOCIAL MEDIA WORKOUT

Apologies for the fitness reminder, but the subtle connection is easily understandable: just like training regularly, you also need to use social media on regular basis. That is, on a daily basis. First of all because engaging people often enhances your visibility and, secondly, because if you want to find clients, establish a connection and lead them to your website or even close a deal, then you will have to take steps, connect and be present. Ultimately, it will take time to negotiate the deal, just as it would offline.

So, here are some things you can do every day:

  1. Research LinkedIn to find potential clients. Or do some online/offline market research and then go to LinkedIn to find those people/companies.
  2. Connect with two-three new people and do it in a pleasant way (aka: see point 5 above!)
  3. Update your profile: tell people what you are working on, share an interesting business story, ask a question, post a valuable blog post/video.
  4. Follow one or more companies. Weren’t you looking for potential clients?! Then stalk freely. Which brings us to the next point…
  5. Turn your LinkedIn contacts into potential clients and do market research to examine their websites, services, reputation… Anything you might need before contacting them and introducing your services as a freelance translator. How? Well, that’s a different story!
  6. Join a group/conversation and contribute by giving your opinion or asking a question. This, I’ll be honest, is something I used to do a lot in the past but that I have recently dropped because my schedule doesn’t allow me to do so anymore. It worked though. Or at least it helped me to get noticed within certain marketing groups. I am not saying chatting brought me clients, but it did garner a few connections and, eventually, a couple of projects as well.

Heres another of my tiny secrets: if you want to be noticed, engaged and contacted, you have to be personal, clear and engaging rather than screaming to the whole world about your slogan and spamming people with annoying stuff like self-promoting posts, it’s-all-about-me updates and very low comments based on your personal frustration. People hate haters and they find your obsessive advertising vain and arrogant.

If you’ve recently contacted a potential client through LinkedIn but he/she never replied after accepting your request, then start asking yourself what went wrong and how you could introduce yourself properly, rather than persistently posting your CV, the link to your ‘services’ page or showing off how great you are. This is not a TV commercial, this is a social platform based on conversations, engaging people and using your positive skills to attract and connect with the right people.

If that person simply ignored your request or you are still waiting for him/her to call you, then take the first step and send another message, let them know that there is a reason why you connected with them (which is not just because you were desperate to share your new CV). Make them feel like a valuable connection.

Do you want me to be honest? Alright then, let’s face it: not everyone is interested in working with you and repeatedly sharing your CV is of NO use whatsoever. Believe me. I mean, I am happy to know you’re a great professional, someone always available to help with a new project, but stop it because after the fifth time we all know that you are.

You have to work your ass off and put your motivation on the table to overcome the digital surface and bring your negotiation to the next level. This is why being specific and choosing the right people is mandatory. Because they are the clients who will be happy to work with you, they will find your profile interesting, your projects an example of your skills and your values similar to theirs.

Want to know more? Get in touch? Of course!

Find me on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to my newsletter!

Oh, and remember to #balanceyourwords!

Joseph: All that remains is to thank Sara for such a brilliant post. I myself have been looking for ways to make LinkedIn more effective recently but didn’t know where to start. As such, I hugely enjoyed reading such expert insight into the topic and I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did! Ciao.

Selling Cars with Sex and Lies

On the back of looking at translating film titles, I thought that it would make sense to stick close by and have a look at another massive area for translation: advertising.

Here is an area that epitomises certain aspects of translation while, at least in the example I want to look at, often involving very little actual translation. Similarly to film titling, the key concern is to catch the attention of the target audience, whose hugely different cultural settings, social statuses and ideological viewpoints mean that wholesale changes are usually necessary.

Rather than picking up on translation disasters in marketing (maybe something like the introduction of sling rucksacks in German as Body Bags…), the example I wanted to use is actually quite successful and is useful in that it clearly shows how far a brand will tailor its marketing in an attempt to appeal to their desired audience.

Fiat1

All of the clips are recent adverts from renowned Italian car manufacturer Fiat, well known for their long history and tradition in Italian culture, and it is this sense of tradition that they have often looked to build upon in the past in their marketing, with the typical UK advert highlighting the Italian tradition behind the cars. This was also replicated in their domestic marketing strategy, with Italian Fiat adverts equating to patriotic celebrations of cultural tradition and of the company itself (this being an extremely apt example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seJmEb0fcBA).

However, more recently, the marketing has become much more diverse based upon the shifting needs of their target audiences; even strategies at home in Italy have moved beyond patriotism and onto new, English-inspired advertising and this is seemingly due to conscious changes in their image following a global alliance with Chrysler in January 2009 and in order to compete with other companies such as Renault whose Italian adverts consistently boast the attraction of cool English slogans.

The transitional period that ensued from these changes can be seen in this Italian Fiat Panda advert which twins the images of Italian tradition with an English tagline, and the transformation is eventually fully realised in the advert for the Fiat 500L (below), which focuses on English words throughout and has a cover of a Beatles classic as the soundtrack to show the car maker’s newly expanded roots, all while ignoring ideas of heritage, tradition and Italian-ness all together.

Indeed, the different marketing strategies of the 500L prove to be fascinating all around the world, with stark contrasts to be found even within cultures of the same language.

While the car is marketed as an English-inspired family car in Italy, the UK advert markets it specifically as a car for mums, and as this article from the Guardian notes, the advert doesn’t actually show much of the car or say anything about its maker, it’s just left for the viewer to assume that if their lifestyle resembles that of the mother in the advert, then this car is for them.

Meanwhile, when marketed to a US audience, the car is consistently sexed up in a manner similar to the treatment of film titles going from English to French and Italian shown in the last blog. In the past, various adverts have shown that this sexing up can be done in a more or less brash fashion: the FIAT 500 Abarth USA ‘Seduction’ ad manages to sex up the car while retaining ideas of Italian tradition, yet the 500L adverts presented at the 2012 LA Auto Show just focus on a sexy theme and say nothing at all about the car, with the only hint of its roots coming from the soundtrack which, in the ‘Date’ advert in particular, seems to be just Italian gibberish used to give a hint of the international…

The important thing to bear in mind here is that the audience of these latter adverts – people at the LA Auto Show –  is likely to be made up of young, male, car-enthusiasts and so the branding has to be made to appeal to them despite the fact that the car is shown everywhere else to be directed at an entirely different market. And what’s the best way to catch the attention of young men..?

In the end, in order to attract the largest audiences, it seems that the key to translational success in another huge area can once again be summed up as ‘dumb it down, sex it up’, and this should surprise nobody.