Tag: transcreation


Nine multilingual SEO mistakes and how to avoid them

Localization, Multimedia Translation, Technology

Building an international and multilingual presence online isn’t the easiest thing to do, and there are plenty of ways to mess up. That’s why it’s worth reviewing these nine common multilingual SEO errors that can trip up any company looking to expand abroad.

1. Using the same URL for each of your multilingual web versions

Each of your language or country pages must be shown through its own specific and accessible URL (web address) so that Google can effectively crawl, index and rank your sites. This is much better for your Google rank than locale-adaptive crawling, which attempts to determine a visitor’s language or country via their location information and shows them a version of content on the same URL for all languages.

Google’s search engine doesn’t use cookies, and therefore if you have a multilingual website and control your URL with cookies only, it will literally be impossible for Google to index the foreign versions of your website. Anything after a hashtag (#) also counts as the same URL to search engines, so it’s essential that the language determinant is before any hashtags used in the URL.

Thus, it’s imperative that you set up an individual web structure for each international version of your website. If you are targeting multilingual clients/customers, this means using country specific domain names, sub-directories or sub-domains. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of these options and no clear winner in terms of SEO. My personal preference is to use separate country domain names and it’s simple to configure different domains to use the same database with CMS systems like WordPress, PrestaShop or Drupal.

2. Redirecting users automatically to an international version of your website without giving them a choice

Obviously, you want to make sure that a visitor is seeing the right version of your site, especially after you put so much effort into making separate versions. Automatic redirection based on country or browser language is a problem because:

  1. Automatic redirects can confuse users, especially those who might mistake it for some kind of virus or scam.
  2. They might genuinely want to view the version of your site that they clicked on because the country-specific website is not written in their language (if they’re expats or tourists) or they may want to compare your services by country.
  3. Websites get most of their visits from search engines and, except for brand name searches, it’s likely that someone will have found a page by going to the version of Google they want and entering a language specific keyword to find your site.
  4. You’ll also redirect the Googlebot because its crawlers are only in a select number of countries (mainly the US). This means that Google may only see and index a limited number of your sites.

Most importantly, if users can’t easily change back to the version of your site that they want, they may very well choose your competitor instead. So instead of automatically redirecting a used, show a pop-up message giving them the option to click through to the site you think they should be on.

3. Using automated translation alone

It can be an expensive endeavor to create international versions of your website, so many people will choose to cut corners by using machine translation. After all, it’s quick, easy and cheap.

The downside, however, is massive. Machine translation is not known for its nuance, and it normally just does a straight word-for-word translation. This can cause all manner of problems as a quick online search for ‘marketing translation fails’ will show you. (A personal favorite is the KFC slogan “Finger-Lickin’ Good” translated to “Eat Your Fingers Off” in China.)

The only way to avoid this and ensure your website is fully comprehensible to an international audience is to hire professional translators. You don’t want your content to be misinterpreted. You can, however, use Google Analytics to find which pages on your site get the most visits and consider not translating pages that receive very little traffic (and that aren’t important for legal reasons).

4. Forgetting to translate “hidden” parts of the website

When you’re translating your website into multiple languages, you’re going to remember to translate body text, page titles, blogs, captions and things that are easily seen by any visitor to your website. That’s great.

However, there is plenty of text that may easily go unseen (and therefore untranslated) when you merely focus on the pages you see when checking the site yourself. This could be text that works in the background to increase traffic to your site, or it could be pages that only pop up when the visitor performs a certain action, like clicking through to buy a product. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Metatag titles
  • Meta descriptions
  • URLs
  • Alt text for images
  • Checkout pages
  • Newsletter sign-up forms
  • Error messages

You need to do a deep dive into the background of your website and try to use the site as a potential client/customer would. The metatag title and description appear in the search results and are particularly important to translate for any multilingual SEO project. One way to check if these have been translated is to do a search in Google for site:example.com. Replacing “example.com” with the name of your domain, with no space after “site:” will show you all the pages that Google has indexed of your site.

5. Not considering product availability in foreign markets

A major challenge that you will face when setting up a company in international markets is product shipping. When you are planning your SEO strategy, you need to figure out how to reflect your new warehouse situation on each international version of your website as some products, due to differing regulations or other concerns, may not be available in all countries.

Decide whether you’ll redirect them to a different product based on their IP settings or bring up a “Not available in your area” message. This will provide you with a seamless user experience and increase your conversions.

6. Not using specific keyword research for each different market

Keywords are not universal. One that works perfectly and drives massive conversion among consumers in England might fail for English-speaking people across Europe or in other English-speaking countries. This is why you can’t just translate your existing keywords and hope for the best. It will create huge gaps, which your competitors will take advantage of.

Instead, do keyword research in each separate language and by country. We all know that English-speakers in different countries have different words for the same thing (such as cookie and biscuit), so you don’t want to fall into that trap.

It is a lot of work, but it is the foundation for your multilingual SEO strategy, so it’s worth the effort to build your site on a solid foundation. For some terms, particularly technological terms, it’s possible that foreign speakers will still search for the English version of a keyword, even if a local translation exists and keyword research is the only way to reliably identify which version is most used in any given country.

7. Opting to translate rather than transcreate

Going back on our previous discussions of why machine translation is tricky, you should know that mere translation alone can create problems for your business. Often, this translation won’t be adequate for foreign markets, because copying content word-for-word may mean duplicating content that doesn’t really work in other countries.

The solution to this is transcreation. Simply put, transcreation is creating marketing content that resonates in local markets and delivers the same impact as the content on the original site. Often, it uses the original idea as a base but localizes it to create quality content that will increase the impact on consumers.

For example, if you’re in the tech sphere and you had a blog post about earning money through recycling your old phone on your UK website, this would need major alterations for a Spanish site where the rules around recycling are different.

Some phrases are particularly difficult to translate and this is where transcreation is essential. See examples of these in German and Spanish, plus a guide on adapting to the French culture as part of French SEO.

8. Forgetting to localize content on your websites for different countries

In a similar vein, don’t automatically assume that you can reuse content for websites that are in the same language, but developed for different countries (i.e. the UK and the US). There are numerous examples of linguistic and cultural differences between countries with the same official language that we don’t make enough allowances for.

For example, if a page on your UK site talks about rainy days, it may not be relevant in some parts of the US or in Australia. You need to localize the content to target your audience in each specific country, which will mean different idioms, references, and content styles.

Again, this is another example of why keyword research using native speakers is so important. Look at the different words that English speakers in the UK, the US and Australia use to mean the same thing.

UK US Australia
Chemist/Pharmacy Drugstore Chemist/Pharmacy
Sweets Candy Lollies
Toilet Restroom/Bathroom Bathroom/Dunnie
Plane Airplane Aeroplane
Rucksack Backpack Matilda
Fancy Dress Costume Togs

9. Failing to engage in local link building

Link building is an important tool for any company or website, but too many businesses will leave this until much later in their multilingual SEO strategy. If you have a well-established site it can be easy to assume that a high quality translation with good on-page SEO will be sufficient for the newly translated site to rank well with Google. This isn’t always the case, as your existing site may have lots of quality backlinks going to it, and your new site won’t, and backlinks are half the story when it comes to SEO.

You’ll attain a higher Google rank by making sure that your local site is being linked to by local and regional websites. You can do this in a range of different ways:

  • Writing engaging articles that include a relevant backlink to your site and asking bloggers to add it to their site.
  • Submitting your site to country specific directories — ideally ones focusing just on the service you offer, or similar products/services.
  • Engaging with a local audience on social media.

For optimal multilingual SEO, it’s important that links go to the correct language version of your site (so French content links to your French pages, German content links to your German pages and so on). You can also read more on how to implement a successful multilingual link building strategy.


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Martin Woods is the SEO director of Indigoextra Ltd, a multilingual marketing company. He has 17 years of experience in web design, translation and SEO. He was raised in the UK and live in Montpellier, South France, where he homeschools two boys.


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Are You A Startup Sherpa Or A UX Rockstar? Don’t Believe A Word

Language in Business, Localization, Marketing

Shopping Around For Sherpas

Check out this superb article by linguist, lexicographer, columnist, and self-described “all-around word nut”  Ben Zimmer (@bgzimmer) in The Atlantic. Ben discusses the cultural misappropriation of words and how sherpas, ninjas, and gurus crop up everywhere: Why Do Supreme Court Nominees Have ‘Sherpas’?

Ben argues that this kind of contrived lexical exoticism hides the complex cultural origins of such words but also betrays a kind of lazy stereotyping of (in this case, Asian) culture. As he says, “It may look good on a LinkedIn profile, but you might want to think twice about calling yourself a sherpa, guru, or ninja just to add a dash of exoticism.”

Indeed, but you may also be adding a layer of mysticism to the unfortunate localizer who has to figure out what these words really mean in English before attempting to transcreate them in another language.

Are there Nepali social media sherpas in the Himalayas, I wonder? Click To Tweet

Storyteller. All a matter of context. And credibility.

“Storyteller”. All a matter of context. And credibility. Example from The Visual Thesaurus.

The Pope’s Guru

NPR’s excellent Code Switch radio program also explores the origin and lexical hijacking of the word Guru. My favorite example has to be, “The Vatican Sends Its Social Media Guru To SXSW Festival.”

The tech industry is notorious for this sort of nonsense, going far beyond the annexation of those Asian words mentioned to create even more grandiose, mystical job titles that frankly make no difference to the job description or employee performance itself. Plus, how do you localize Direct Mail Demigod? Digital Nomad? E-Commerce Wingwoman?

Are HR professionals now spending time at Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Marvel movies to come up with some of these daft titles?

Storytelling Around The S-Bend

The now over-used title of storyteller really gets me going. Throw a stone in any pub in Ireland and you’ll still hit 100 storytellers (although we have considerably more colourful names for these characters). Lucy Kellaway, formerly of the Financial Times, and a legend for calling out corporate BS, had it with the craze for the word storyteller years ago: Dentists and plumbers do not tell stories. Nor should you.

Stories in the right place are an excellent thing. The Bible has some pretty good ones. - Lucy Kellaway Click To Tweet

My pet word hates from the user experience (UX) world have to be that job persona road warrior (translation: traveling salesperson) and then there’s that rockstar suffix du jour (translation: exceeds minimum professional requirements, now and then).

Attention tech developer and UX people. This is what a rockstar looks like and does:

The late, great Dubliner Phil Lynnott of Thin Lizzy. Image via Wikimedia. Thin Lizzy have a belter of a song called "Don't Believe a Word"!

The late, great Dubliner Phil Lynnott of Thin Lizzy. Image shared via Wikimedia. Thin Lizzy have a belter of a song called “Don’t Believe a Word“!

See? No laptop covered with stickers in sight. No electric scooter on stage. That thing is an electric bass guitar. Until Lady Gaga and Lenny Kravitz start winning awards for full-stack software development, you know where you can stick your rockstar title.

Until Lady Gaga and Lenny Kravitz start winning awards for full-stack software development, you know where you can stick your rockstar title. Click To Tweet

Just Call It Like It Is

And so it goes on. There are probably gurus who have the job to misappropriate words from other cultures and make roles and titles sound a lot more interesting than they really are but without paying the employee anything extra.

Me? I’ll follow Oscar Wilde‘s advice fromThe Model Millionaire: “It’s better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.”

I think Peter Drucker nails for this kinds of poseur hell: “I have been saying for many years that we are using the word guru only because charlatan is too long to fit into a headline.” Or fit into a tweet.

Now, don’t start me on the casual militarization of language and where that might take us …

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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The power of positive language

Language, Language in Business, Translation

Your phrasing sets the tone

What if there was an easy trick to be more persuasive and more positive, just by changing your mindset and the way you phrase sentences?

English speakers have the option to voice both a positive statement and a negative statement that convey the same meaning. For instance, “come to the restaurant on time” and “do not come to the restaurant late” both deliver similar messages; however, the connotation behind the former is much less negative.What if there was an easy trick to be more persuasive and more positive? Click To Tweet

The English language is laden with opportunities to formulate negative speech in place of a more positive dialogue. Although initially a phrase slanted in both a negative and positive light would appear to have the same influence (such as with the two aforementioned phrases), according to business consultant Sarah Simoneaux, we would actually comprehend the positive statement 30–40% times faster than we would the negative one.

Not only are positive statements more quickly received, but as expected they are also well-received by the audience.

In another example, cognitive and mathematical psychologist Amos Tversky and 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize-winner in Economic Sciences Daniel Kahneman illustrated this positive framing bias in an experiment. The scientists presented treatment options to “patients” for a hypothetical disease in two ways, one emphasizing the positive outcomes of choosing the treatment and the other the negative outcomes. Subjects chose between A and B in two different scenarios. The graph below details the positive and negative slants in explanation of treatment options A and B within the experiment. The main difference between the two highlighted how many people would live vs. how many people would die.

A whopping 72% of those surveyed chose treatment A when it was positively framed compared to treatment B, while only 22% chose it when it was negatively framed — even though both descriptions of A (and B, for that matter) refer to the same outcome.

Linguists believe individuals who follow the findings of Tversky’s and Kahneman’s experiment, and use positive verbalism like positively slanted speech, are generally perceived in a better light compared to those who do not. Through mindfulness of this type of diction, English speakers can elect to alter the reception of their message. This is because positive language affects cognition.

Untranslatable words

In addition to crafting sentences in the positive form, positive words can trick the brain into cultivating a happier mindset. Labeling situations as “good” as opposed to “not bad” will fundamentally mold how the mind perceives them. Over time, the quality of life is expected to rise, as the brain habitually turns to positive labels.

One way we can expand our capacity for positive emotional experience is by learning words that do not exist in our native languages. These words are deemed “untranslatable” as there is no equivalent for the phenomenon in another language. There are several words pertaining to the emotions and senses in particular that are found in some languages and not others.

For example, according to this list:

  • The informal Hebrew word firgun describes a generosity of spirit and the unselfish joy that something good has happened or might happen to someone else.
  • The Serbian word merak refers to a feeling of bliss and the sense of oneness with the universe that comes from the simplest of pleasures.
  • The Hindi word jijivisha refers to the strong, eternal desire to live and to continue living. It is usually used with regard to a person who loves life and always has intense emotions and desires to live and thrive.

While individuals from other cultures may have comparable experiences to those described above, they lack the labels to categorize the experiences, thereby leaving the feelings un-conceptualized in their reality. To look deeper at the impacts this might have on one’s life, author Tim Lomas strung together a list of 216 untranslatable words and researched their relationships with well-being across cultures.

The paper concludes with a need for further research to solidify a link between a more emotionally encompassing vocabulary and well-being, but it turns out a push toward more positive language is easily attainable.

A recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that most languages have more positive words than negative words. The research pulls from the 1969 Pollyanna hypothesis, which states humans have a universal tendency to use positive words more often than negative ones. The new study explored the concept through a more data-driven approach, analyzing billions of words from English, Spanish, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Korean, Chinese (Simplified), Russian, Indonesian and Arabic. On average, “happy” words were used more frequently than “sad” ones within all ten languages.A push toward more positive language is easily attainable. Click To Tweet

Positive tone in business language

As a result of these findings, along with those of Simoneaux, Tversky and Kahneman, many professionals have become more attentive to the subtleties of positive versus negative tones in order to enhance their communicative potential. This is particularly applicable in the business field as these principles apply to any company, brand, or person looking to persuade.

Managers and authority figures in particular should keep this in mind before addressing their teams. Similarly, email marketing campaigns should use positive statements to increase the likelihood of a sale and reinforce the idea of strong brand quality.

The fact that people respond better to positively slanted messages should also be considered if a company is looking to expand their marketing internationally. Reinforcing positive thinking when forming a localization strategy for an advertising campaign could be the foundation for a well-received brand.

Any translation would ideally be done in such a way as to speak in a more positive tone to the potential consumers in their native languages.

Positive tone in foreign languages

Although this lexical dichotomy is applicable to other languages, the shift from a negative to a positive tone may be more difficult. Take Spanish as an example. In the Spanish language, it is commonplace for sentences to contain double or even triple negatives. These make it nearly impossible to switch the sentence’s tone without completely changing the phrase.

Consider the English sentence, “He didn’t say anything.” This is phrased in a negative construction. The shift to a positive construction is relatively simple: “He said nothing.” The Spanish equivalent would be “No dijo nada,” which literally translates to he didn’t say nothing. Here, there is no easy change to the positive, as removing the double negative in Spanish would render the phrase grammatically incorrect. Instead, the sentence must be reworded to convey a similar meaning. A positive take on the phrase therefore might be “Se quedó en silencio” or he remained silent.

When considering translation and localization where a shift to the positive tone is important in the target language — such as marketing materials or a news story — but where whole phrases must be reworded in order to convey the tone in a grammatically correct manner, transcreation would need to be considered.

Transcreation is the process of translating what is being said in one language into another, but with more freedom to recreate the original text in order to convey the same meaning. So, instead of simply translating and localizing ideas, the person producing the transcreation may make significant changes to the original text. These changes could even include those aforementioned “untranslatable” words to convey whole concepts of the campaign in just a few letters.

In this way, whole marketing strategies could be adapted to convey a product or service to foreign cultures in a positive light, while still staying true to the original brand identity.

Evidently, positive words and phrases yield impressive results across cultures. The power of positive language is expansive and attainable. Localization, transcreation and borrowing “untranslatable words” can help produce a more successful product worldwide. Lexical choice has the potential to teach us how to be happier, how to be more persuasive, and how to sell ourselves effectively.

All it takes is a more mindful manner of speech.

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Joelle Resnik is exploring the best avenues to market across cultures while working with the marketing team at Boston-based translation and interpretation agency Language Connections Inc. She has a double major in economics and communication at Boston College, where she intends to solidify her knowledge of developing markets and communication strategy.


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Transcreation: Critical for global success


When Puma created a campaign modeling the United Arab Emirates national flag, the negative reaction ran so deep the company pulled the entire line and recreated the design without the use of the flag.

The fact that something is acceptable in one country doesn’t mean that it will be acceptable in another. If Puma marketing had been more informed about the concept of transcreation and cultural faux pas, they would have never chosen to put a flag onto a shoe, which is worn on your feet and is in constant contact with the dirty ground — and is thus considered by some cultures to not be an appropriate place for a symbol of honor.

Simply having a good product is not enough when it comes to expanding directly into a foreign market. You must also consider how to represent that product in a way that’s acceptable. It’s not enough to simply translate your messages. You really must understand the style, context and the tone of speech in the nation where you are localizing it. In order to adapt your content into another market it is necessary to understand the culture, humor, idioms and in some cases even the dialects of that area.

The goal of every marketing strategy is to create an emotional response within your target audience so that the user feels they can trust you and know that you understand them. Transcreation provides an understanding and a friendship with consumers which allows them to connect the product with their own lives.

It also means wholly adjusting your campaign to the country and nation you want to approach. As in the case with Puma, companies who want to be leaders in other countries must understand the smallest details in common behavior. This can be shown within new strategies and sometimes even the name of the brand used in a new market. Japanese car manufacturer Honda changed the name of their car “Fitta” to “Jazz” for use in the Scandinavian market, knowing that in these areas the word “Fitta” is considered vulgar there.

Catering to the global market is the first goal for any serious manufacturer and essential in ensuring your product is accessible to a wide audience. It’s imperative to check whether your name, logo or tagline means something different in the regions where you’re expanding. Otherwise you can commit blunders that can seriously harm your brand reputation. Have you ever tried a burger in any other McDonald’s in the world apart from the US? If so, you would have noticed that it is different in every country. It’s cooked differently, has a special taste and often caters to the habits, tastes, culture, beliefs and practices of those countries. Additionally, the religious obligations governing food consumption must be taken into account which animals are eaten in each country and the cooking habits for each of those nations. Lastly, the burger’s name must be recognizable and not offensive to the consumers of that area.

Despite being a highly recognizable brand, even McDonald’s knows that their name alone is not enough for global domination of the food market. Even the biggest companies have to make adjustments to compete in the global marketplace. Think global, act local. This is the simplest description of the connection to be made when transcreating on a higher level of marketing.

If you want an effective local strategy, here are some tips you can use to make your product more locally relevant:

  • Educate yourself about the culture of the area wherein your product will be sold. That means society, religion, habits, beliefs and practices.
  • Learn about word usage within the country and what to avoid in both language and marketing structure on visual and linguistic levels.
  • Do some research on the most popular and interesting brands in the country you are targeting.
  • Depending on the budget, consider hiring local copywriters. But be sure that it’s a professional who is informed about the market, keywords and audiences.
  • If you are not confident enough to create a transcreation strategy yourself, it is more convenient to hire the services of a translation agency.

Sergio Arboledas is marketing executive at Loveurope Group, a London-based advertising production services group. He is in charge of all things marketing (email marketing campaigns, social media, SEO, SEM, event organization, content creation) and supports all the Loveurope Group brands.


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Blue, Gorm, Elektrisches Blau: David Bowie in Irish and Transcreation

Localization Culture, Travel and Culture

Táimid ann sa mhóimint dhraíochtach seo
Sin é an stuif as a bhfitear brionglóidí  . . .  *

I’m mega-fan of the music of the late David Bowie. I love everything he did from Hunky Dory (1971) up to his Lodger (1979) album (you can keep the rest). His so-called Berlin Trilogy is amongst my favorite recordings; I always go to some of his old Berlin haunts whenever I find myself in the Hauptstadt.

Indeed, Berlin is the European city for David Bowie fans to visit, even more so than his native London.

Plaque outside Hauptstraße 155, Berlin commemorating David Bowie. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

Plaque outside Hauptstraße 155, Berlin commemorating David Bowie. (Image source: Ultan Ó Broin)

Yet, Bowie didn’t speak German and often seemed aloof from real words on the Berlin streets.

Much of the heavy language lifting of David Bowie’s time in Berlin was done for him by his long-time assistant Coco Schwab and I even recall an interview with the man himself a few years ago when we went on about living in Charlottenburg (he lived in Schöneberg). Then we have the goofed spelling of the song title Neuköln (it should be Neukölln) on the “Heroes” album, his pronunciation of KaDeWe on one of his last recordings Where Are We Now? (2013) is definitely not that of a Berliner, and the German language version (‘translated’ by Antonia Maaß) of his most iconic song “Heroes” (“Helden“) is regarded as “odd” (“Und die Scham fiel auf ihre Seite“?) by German Bowie fans, who generally much prefer the English language version.

That said, David Bowie’s ‘heroic’ contribution to Berlin was recognized on his passing.

German Foreign Office Tweet recognizing David Bowie's contribution to the end of Der Mauer (The Berlin Wall)

German Foreign Office Tweet recognizing David Bowie’s contribution to bringing down der Berliner Mauer (The Berlin Wall)

But, does David Bowie’s work even warrant any translation from English? And, if so, do we care how it is translated?

I recently attended a performance of David Bowie’s songs in Irish (Gaeilge) which was held in the Pavilion Theatre in my native Dún Laoghaire: Réaltnach: An Tionscadal DAVID BOWIE (Starman: The DAVID BOWIE Project). The performance was by Liam Ó Maonlaí  and the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra and friends.

Bowie Realtneach project. Source: IMRAN/Pavilion Theatre

The David Bowie Réaltneach project. Image source: IMRAM/Pavilion Theatre

On the BBC News, Liam Ó Maonlaí said, “(David) Bowie’s work is so perfect it doesn’t need translating, but as a Gaeilgeoir or Irish speaker . . . (I) couldn’t pass up on this opportunity.”

I had arrived back from Berlin that afternoon, and I wondered whether the Irish language project that evening would work or not.

It did.

David Bowie’s songs were crafted beautifully as Gaeilge by a skilled writer and linguist in his own right, Gabriel Rosenstock. You can read some of the Irish-language versions of the David Bowie’s songs by Gabriel Rosenstock on his blog here, including a version of Bowie’s last work Blackstar (Dúréalt).

I am not sure whether the term transcreation is completely correct to use to describe Gabriel Rosenstock’s work in this context (normally we think of it being about marketing and branding), but I think it’s reasonable to say Gabriel Rosenstock re-created something new yet immediately familiar using the skill and talent of a great translator and artist together.

True, at times I thought some stuff I heard sounded a little bit hokey, such as the version of Sound and Vision (Fuaim is Fís) from the Low album (1977):

Gorm, gorm, aibhléis-ghorm
Sin é dath mo sheomra
Im’ chónaí ann
Gorm, gorm

Blue, blue, electric blue
That’s the color of my room
Where I will live
Blue, blue

(David Bowie / Gabriel Rosenstock)

But then, there’s hokey . . . and there’s hokey . . . 

However, when it came to Liam Ó Maonlaí’s performance of the Irish-language version of Win from the “plastic soul” Young Americans  album (1975) I could see tears in the eyes of audience members. You can listen to Liam Ó Maonlaí singing it here on RTÉ radio (about 6 minutes into the recording of the programme).

This was a simply astounding song in its own right. The emotion in the song, the lyrical flow of the words, and the passion put into the delivery by Liam Ó Maonlaí all resonated deeply with the audience, myself included. I came away feeling that the Irish version delivered this way might actually be better than the original English version on the album.

The performance also reminded me of what a beautiful language Irish can be, and the tragedy of how it has become something so difficult to use in even ordinary, human ways for most people in Ireland.

In the hands of culturally adept multilingual artists (Liam Ó Maonlaí and Gabriel Rosenstock are well qualified in this regard), I’d argue that even the most iconic songs, and perhaps other works of art, can be performed or communicated in any language. This is of course, a matter of much more than simply translation, but then when it comes to communicating human emotion, it always is, isn’t it?

Ultan Ó Broin outside the Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin Ireland (#selfie)

Ultan Ó Broin outside the Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin Ireland (#selfie)

A finer example of artistic transcreation I defy you to find. It’s the stuff of which dreams are woven.

That said, you may know of other great music translations or transcreations. Let us know in the comments.

* Here are we, one magical moment, such is the stuff

From where dreams are woven . . .


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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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The Art of Global Brand Localization: Ain't No McJob*

Language in Business

The McDonalds McMór (mór means big or great in Gaeilge [Irish]) burger’s introduction in Ireland has fallen foul of the local Food Safety Authority. It just wasn’t artisan enough for us Irish.

It’s a good example of how global branding decisions need to “go local” but also include all of the stakeholders concerned. Notwithstanding, other elements of the introduction featured a local, eh, flavor.

I spotted some localized examples on ads for the local burger when out on a run in Dublin. Whether these “So Irish,…” tag lines do it for you or not is another question.

McDonalds McMór: So Irish, it claps when the plane landsane lands

McDonalds McMór: So Irish, it claps when the plane lands

McDonalds McMór: So Irish, it's even got freckles

McDonalds McMór: So Irish, it’s even got freckles

McDonalds McMór: So Irish, it knows it's pronounced Siobhán and not Cyo-ban

McDonalds McMór: So Irish, it knows it’s pronounced Siobhán and not Cyo-ban

Siobhán explained.

Damned if you localize. Damned if you don’t. It ain’t easy.

* McJob. No offense intended.


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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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