With the acceleration of economic globalization and China¡¯s entry into WTO, more and more Chinese products are being launched into the international market. Consequently, translating Chinese brand names successfully into English has never been more imperative and vital than today. The translation of Chinese brand names is a kind of intercultural communication. It involves such factors as linguistic laws, cultural psychology, and aesthetic values. A successful translation of the brand name should not only transfer the information concerning the commodity or service, but also transfer its cultural significance to the audience in the target culture. This applies particularly to culture-loaded brand names that have different mental associations in different cultures. According to the principle of functional equivalence, the translated brand names should achieve a perfect linguistic unity among sound, form and meaning. This paper, taking Nida’s functional equivalence as its framework, attempts to study the problems that are often encountered in translating brand names into English and suggest ways to solve them.
2. Brand names and the translation
Brand name, an essential component of advertising, is the part of a brand that can be vocalized. It is ¡°a name given by a producer to a particular product, by which it may be recognized from among alike products made by other producers.¡±(Longman Contemporary English-Chinese Dictionary English, 1988)
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Aiming to build, reinforce, and/or reposition consumers¡¯ perception of a certain brand, brand names have the following four functions: distinguishing products, providing information, ensuring guarantee and stimulating consumption. In order to build up a good image in the market and arouse favorable associations as well as purchasing desire in the minds of the consumers, brand names should have the following major characteristics: short in length and sweetness, sonorous and distinct, elegant and apt, original and novel.
Translation is a more complex communication than that within a single language because it involves two languages. (Jin & Nida, 1984:31)
Given the uniqueness of brand names translation, the translator must be fully aware of the cultural awareness, aesthetic standards, and consumption modes of both SL and TL readers, and should keep in the mind the intention of the original so as to transfer its message (both linguistic and cultural) maximally, otherwise, ¡° a failure to reflect the spirit and dynamics of the source document is a ¡®mortal sin¡¯¡± (Nida, 1993)
The translator of brand names should strive for the following two effects: (a) the translated brand name should reflect the semantic features of the original one; (b) the translated brand name should have the same or similar function as the original one.
The translated brand name should be delightful to the eye, pleasant to the ear, easy to remember, as well as be a perfect unity of sound, form, and meaning. That is to arouse the same interest and psychological empathy of the target consumers, stimulate their aesthetic enjoyment and consuming desire. Toward the end, the translators must serve as receptor of the message intended by the source sign and be the source of the message in the target language. (Jin & Nida, 1984: 31-50)
3. Principles for translating Chinese brand names
Various translation principles have been proposed, such as the influential but controversial criterion of ¡°faithfulness¡±, ¡°expressiveness¡± and ¡°elegance¡± ( ¡°ÐÅ¡±, ¡°´ï¡±, ¡°ÑÅ¡±) as put forward by Yan Fu and the principle of functional equivalence proposed by Nida. Considering the features of brand names, particularly the fact that they are mostly created to perform such functions as informative, aesthetic and vocative functions, the present paper will chiefly draw upon Nida¡¯s principle.
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3.1 Functional equivalence
A minimal, realistic definition of functional equivalence is stated as: ¡°The readers of a translated text should be able to comprehend it to the point that they can conceive of how the original readers of the text must have understood and appreciated it.¡± (Nida, 1993:118)
Anything less than this degree of equivalence should be unacceptable. A maximal, ideal definition could be defined as ¡°the readers of a translated text should be able to understand and appreciate it in essentially the same manner as the original readers did.¡± (Nida, 1993:119) However, this equivalence is rarely achieved in practice.
This principle is obviously applicable to Chinese brand names translation. Language has six basic functions: informative, vocative, aesthetic, expressive, phatic and metalingual (Newmark, 1988:39).
The former three are more closely related to brand names. As far as Chinese brand names are concerned, functional equivalence means that the English renderings must perform these three functions to the same, or at least to similar extent as the Chinese brand names do. For informative and vocative texts, Newmark (1988:47) proposes communicative translation, which ¡°attempts to produce on its readers an effect as close as possible to that obtained on the readers of the original.¡± (Newmark, 1982:39)
Moreover, any translation without considering the function may lead to failure in communication. Both the meaning and functions of the source texts should be transferred in translation. Consequently, Nida claims, ¡°Judging the validity of a translation can not stop with a comparison of corresponding lexical meanings, grammatical classes, and rhetorical devices. What is important is the extent to which receptors correctly understand and appreciate the translated text.¡± (Nida, 1993:116).
3.2 Requirements of functional equivalence
Firstly, equivalence in informative function is required. This requires that the renderings must be able to inform people of the functions, characteristics and values of the products as the original brand names do. For example, ¡°×êÊ¯¡± (watch) should be translated into ¡°Diamond¡± rather than ¡°Zuanshi¡± since ¡°Diamond¡± hints to English-speaking people the value of this kind of watch as ¡°×êÊ¯¡± does to Chinese people, while ¡°Zuanshi¡± does not perform this informative function.
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Secondly, the renderings should create a sense of beauty either in form or in context to the same or similar extent to the original ones so as to achieve equivalence in aesthetic function. To achieve this purpose, the renderings should be as brief and sweet as the original. For instance, the literal translation of ¡°±¨´º»¨¡± into ¡°Spring Reporting Flower¡± is not terse enough. It would be better to render as ¡°Spring Flower¡± to keep the same aesthetic function. Since most Chinese brand names are pleasant in sound and image, their English rendering should also achieve the same or similar effect. Take ¡°¿µÍõ¡± for example, It is pronounced as ¡°Kang Wang¡± in Chinese, which creates certain phonetic beauty by rhyming. Its English rendering ¡°Kangking¡± sounds sweet and agrees to the mentality of the target audience. Cultural-specific items and is thus carriers of the source culture. ¡°Words only have meanings in terms of the cultures in which they function¡± (Nida, 1993:110).
The core of the vocative function is the readership. The vocative function of brand names means that they can call upon the readership to act, think or feel, in fact to ¡°react¡± in the way intended by the text. (Newmark,1988:41) The Chinese brand name ¡°·¼·¼¡± (lipstick), for example, suggests to the Chinese readership a beautiful girl. However, when it is transliterated into ¡°Fang Fang¡±, an unfavorable association will arise on the part of the target audience, because ¡°Fang¡± refers to the poisonous tooth of a serpent. In this case, the vocative function is not realized.
4. Cultural associations of brand names and translating problems
4.1 Cultural associations
The famous British anthropologist E. B. Taylor (1871) defines culture as ¡°a complex whole that includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.¡±(Danesi & Perron, 1999:3) The late German sociologist R. Fletcher defines culture in more detail: The ¡®social heritage¡¯ of a community: the total body of material artifacts¡, of collective mental and spiritual ¡®artifacts¡¯ (systems of symbols, ideas, beliefs, aesthetic perceptions, values, etc.) and of distinctive forms of behavior created by a people¡in their ongoing activities within their particular life-conditions¡transmitted from generation to generation.¡± (See Bullock & Trombley, 1999:191)
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Since culture is often created by a people in their ongoing activities within their particular life-conditions, brand names, which obviously are part of the culture of a people (in this sense refers to ¡°spiritual ¡®artifacts¡¯¡±), frequently trigger different aesthetic perceptions (or associations) and values in different cultures.
From the viewpoint of lexicology, associative meaning is the secondary meaning supplemented to the conceptual meaning. It differs from the conceptual meaning in that it is open-ended and indeterminate. It is liable to the influence of such factors as culture, experience, religion, geographical region, class background, education, etc. In contrast to denotative meaning, connotative meaning (of which associative meaning is an essential part) refers to the overtones or associations suggested by the conceptual meaning. For example, mother, denoting a ¡°female parent¡±, is often associated with ¡°love¡±, ¡°care¡±, ¡°tenderness¡±, ¡°forgiving¡±, etc. These connotations are not given in the dictionary, but associated with the word in actual context to particular readers or speakers. (ÕÅÎÓÑ, 1999:87-88)
Translation means not only translating literally, but also conveying the same cultural associations. Thus translators should translate with regard to the TL culture and the SL culture. Failure to recognize and/or transfer cultural factors could lead to information loss. Most people buy with their emotions rather than their minds. Therefore, the functions of brand names depend far more on associative meanings than on conceptual ones. And associative meanings of brand names are closely linked to values and beliefs of a people. For instance, ¡°ºÚÃÃ¡± (toothpaste), which literally means ¡°black sister¡± or ¡°black girl¡±, is readily accepted by the Chinese. But the English version ¡°Black Sister¡± or ¡°Black Girl¡± could insult colored receptors.
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4.2 Problems in translating Chinese brand names
Owing to the cultural difference in geographical location, customs, religion and values, etc, people of different cultures often draw different associative meanings from one and the same word, which carries the same conceptual meaning. The major considerations and possible problems in brand names translating are discussed as follows:
1) Brand names with the same conceptual meanings but partially overlapping associative meanings. People worldwide love the scene of a blue sky and white clouds. However, the phrase ¡°Blue Sky¡± ¡°À¶Ìì¡± (toothpastes) is associated with ¡°bond that can not be paid off¡± in American English, so it should not be rendered into ¡°blue sky¡± when the item is exported to America.
2) Brand names that abound with associative meaning in Chinese culture while suggesting none in English culture. For example, ¡°ºñÆÓ¡±, a Chinese culture-specific item, is a famous Chinese brand name of toothpaste. We Chinese know about the traditional herbal plant by the name of ¡°ºñÆÓ¡± (magnolia officinal).
But if we translate it as ¡°magnolia officinal¡±, the translation may mean nothing to the target readership.
3) Brand names with the same conceptual meanings but different or negative in associative meanings. In different languages and cultures, the same word may generate totally different associations. ¡°·ï»Ë¡± (bicycle) was translated into ¡°phoenix¡±. The Chinese brand name ¡°·ï»Ë¡± is associated with such favorable connotation as ¡°auspicious¡± or ¡°good luck¡± while ¡°Phoenix¡± symbolizes ¡°rebirth¡± or ¡°nirvana¡±. That is, it may generate the ominous implication of a narrow escape.
Many Chinese brand names are named after animals and plants. However, many of them are failures because of their negative associations. The brand name¡°òùòð¡± (electric fan), ¡°òð¡± being homophonic to ¡°¸£¡± symbolizes ¡°luckiness, happiness and long life span¡± in Chinese culture. However, in western culture, ¡°bat¡± is ¡°an eerie creature believed to have become entangled in people¡¯s hair¡± and in southern America, the bat is even the symbol of the bloodsucker vampire. For another example:¡°×ÏÞÀ¼¡± is a beautiful flower with fragrance in Chinese culture. In English there are two equivalents, ¡°violet¡± and ¡°pansy¡±. The latter carries the negative connotation of ¡°effeminate man; homosexual.¡±
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4) Peculiar brand names in Chinese and western cultures. Owing to the striking differences between Chinese and western cultures, some Chinese brand names have no English counterparts (¡°cultural gap¡±).
These brand names often derive from people¡¯s names, names of places and characters of mythology. ¡°½ÄÏ¡± (air conditioner) is an ideal choice for the make of air- conditioners. As soon as the Chinese people see the brand name ¡°Jiangnan¡±, a romantic place with beautiful scenery and pleasant climate will immediately flash before their eyes. But few westerners have a clear geographic concept of the place, the vast territories south of the Yangtze River in China. Therefore, it cannot bring the same mental association to its target audiences.
5 Criteria for an ideal translated brand name
How to assess a translated brand name? Most marketing textbooks summarize the criteria for ideal brand names as memorable, distinctive, and positive and preferably suggestive of product attributes (Kevin Keller 1998: 131-132).
These criteria also apply to translate brand names. In translating the original brand name into a new one, these criteria should be kept in mind. But translated brand names are the products out of their original names; they should share some relevance with their originals to some degree or by some manner. If they are completely irrelevant, and then the new names are re-created, not translated. In order to build a unified brand image across borders and to make consumers easy to associate the new names with the old names, it is advisable, from a marketing point of view, to translate with some associative relevance between them, while re-creation means the total loss of original brand assets and new expensive promotion of the new one. With this consideration and prerequisite, an ideal translated brand name should not only have the general criteria for brand names, but should also follow the following additional criteria:
5.1 Phonetic relevance
The new translated brand name should sound similar, if not exactly the same, to its original name. Transliteration can well reach this criterion. Midea sounds like Mei-di, MAXAM sounds like Mei-jia-jing, etc. In China, we can find that a large number of foreign brand names are phonetically similar to their translated Chinese brand names. Examples include: Pepsi (Bai-shi), Mazda (Ma-zida), Pentium (Ben-teng), Simmons (Xi-meng-si), Motorola (Mo-tuo-luo-la), Contac (Kang-tai-ke), just to name a few.
5.2 Semantic relevance
By semantic relevance, we do not necessarily mean literal equivalence; rather we mean the new translated brand name should be semantically meaningful. If the original brand name has a similar positive meaning or cultural connotation in the target language, then literal translation may be a choice, such as Peony, Panda. If it is not the case, the new brand name should also be meaningful. Such meaning is not the inherent meaning of the original name, but intentionally is given to the new name by choosing suitable morphemes, roots or words by the translator. Modern brand naming trend in the West is to create meaningful coined brand names that can suggest or imply product benefits; meaningless names are harder to promote. To create international brand names that are in trend with the prevailing foreign naming practice, it is necessary to make the translated brand names semantically relevant to product attributes and other information. The recent cases of English translation of Chinese brand names show that this criterion is followed such as Frestech, Youngor, HiSense, Powerise, Irico, etc.
5.3 Graphic relevance
Languages are semiotic, the brand name and its typeface constitute the visual part of brand image. Sometimes, the typeface can suggest or symbolize the features of a product. In translating brand names from one language into another, it is highly recommended to make a similar visual look by adopting the same typeface or font of letters. For example, if the original brand name looks heavy, strong, powerful, then its translated name shall also have similar visual perception. This, however, is beyond the work of translators, but is the work of graphic designers. But to make a good translation, we think it is also important. It is quite possible for translated brand names to meet all the three additional criteria. Then we can conclude that an ideal translated brand name should not only meet the general criteria for brand names, but also should be relevant to its original name phonetically, semantically, and graphically. From the examples of translated brand names from Chinese to English or vice versa, we can see that a large number of them have met these criteria, such as HiSense, Frestech, Maxam, Serene, Youngor, etc. Most foreign brand names are translated into Chinese for both phonetic likeness and effective employment of the meanings of the Chinese characters, as well as graphic conformity.
6 Translation techniques of Chinese brand names
The common techniques are of five kinds: 1) literal translation; 2) transliteration; 3) liberal translation; 4) combined translation; and 5) adjustment.
6.1 Literal translation
The so-called literal translation in this paper is equivalent to Newmark¡¯s semantic translation, which ¡°attempts to render, as closely as the semantic and syntactic structure of the second language allow, the exact contextual meaning of the original.¡± (Newmark, 1988:39).
Literal translation involves translating meanings literally, keeping both the original form and the original sense. It is often used when Chinese brand names can find corresponding expressions in English. As Chinese and English cultures share many similarities, many Chinese brand names can be translated into English by literal translation, especially those derived from the names of plants, animals, birds or precious things. Chinese brand names that indicate the material, quality function and peculiarity of certain products can be cope with this technique as well. Foe examples:
¡°ÑÅÖ¡± (clothes) : ¡°Elegance¡±; ¡°Ë®¾§¡± (glassware): ¡°Crystal¡±
¡°ÓÀ¾Ã¡± (bicycle): ¡°Forever¡±; ¡°ºÚÐý·ç¡± (insecticide): ¡°Swirl-wind¡±
¡°»Ê³¯¡± (grape wine): ¡°Dynasty¡±; ¡°¶«·½ÃÀ¡± (cosmetics): ¡°East Beauty¡±
Newmark (1988:81) proposes ¡°transference¡± for cultural terms which includes transliteration: ¡°Transference is the process of transferring a SL word to a TL text as a translation procedure. It is the same as Catford¡¯s transference, and includes transliteration, which relates to the conversion of different alphabets: e.g. ¡Chinese into English.¡± For our purpose, transliteration is a method of translating Chinese brand names by transferring the sounds of original words instead of rendering their verbal meanings.
Transliteration is preferred for culture-specific Chinese brand names, for they rarely find correspondences in English. Take ¡°ºñÆÓ¡± as an example again. In order to fill the semantic and cultural gap, we can transliterate it into ¡°Hope¡±, which sounds similar to the Chinese ¡°ºñÆÓ¡±and conveys a favorable meaning in English.
In real-life translating practice, coined Chinese brand names are often transliterated. A typical example is ¡°Ð¿Æ¡± (VCD), which is an attractive and wonderful coined Chinese brand name. If we translated it literally into ¡°New Technology¡±, it would be more a common phrase than a brand name. ¡°Ð¿Æ¡± is actually transliterated into ¡°Shinco¡±, which sounds alike to ¡°Ð¿Æ¡±.
There are two commonly used methods of transliteration.
One is to translate the brand names by Chinese pinyin. Take ¡°Ñ¼Ñ¼¡± (down-filled coat) for example. Although ¡°Ñ¼Ñ¼¡± has its convenient literal rendering ¡°Duck¡± and ¡°Ducky¡± in English, it is transliterated instead into ¡°Ya Ya¡± by Chinese pinyin. The reason is that ¡°Duck¡± or ¡°Ducky¡± often suggests ¡°something silly and clumsy¡± in English culture while ¡°Ya Ya¡± does not arouse negative associations
Another method is a combination of Chinese pinyin and English spelling. Some Chinese brand names can be transliterated in this way, in some cases producing coinages. The renderings will look more like typical English brand names so that they are more readily acceptable to foreign receptors and thus prove more effective and memorable. This method is most often used for coined Chinese brand names. See the following examples:
¡°ÀÖ¿¡± (film): ¡°Lucky¡±; ¡°ÃÀ¼Ó¾»¡± (cosmetic): ¡°Maxam¡±
¡°¿µ¼Ñ¡± (TV set): ¡°Konka¡±; ¡°Ë÷ÅÆ¡±(plastic rope): ¡°Solid¡±
¡°½Ý°²ÌØ¡±(bicycle): ¡°Giant¡±; ¡°´«»¯¡± (washing powder): ¡°Transfar¡±
¡°ËÄÍ¨¡± (computer): ¡°Stone¡±; ¡°êÀöÑÇ¡± (laundry detergent): ¡°Moriya¡±
Paraphrase is the technique of translating Chinese brand names by giving a restatement of the meaning in English. It helps bring out the functions and effects of products clearly so as to impress the receptors and in many cases avoid unfavorable associations. For example, ¡°¸ØÌ©¡± (medicine) literally means a ¡°healthy anus¡±. But if it were literally translated into ¡°Healthy Anus¡± or the like, it could trigger unpleasant associations in the minds of the target audiences because of the offensive English word ¡°Anus¡±. It is, however, translated into ¡°Anti-hemorrhoids¡± instead. ¡°¿ìÒ¡± (air-conditioner), literally meaning ¡°blissfully happy¡±, is not literally translated, but paraphrased as ¡°Coolpoint¡± instead, which indicates the effects of the air-conditioner. As a result, this translation can achieve the equivalent vocative function.
6.4 The technique of Combined translation
Sometimes literal translation, transliteration and paraphrase are integrated to achieve functional equivalence. This is what we mean by the technique of combined translation.Combined translation is often used where Chinese brand names have correspondences in English that have similar sounds and associative meanings so that the renderings can be more attractive and acceptable to the target audiences. We also translate by both transliteration and paraphrasing or literal translation so as to provide idiomatic and acceptable translations. For example, ¡°çóçìÉ½¡± is translated as ¡°Lucky Hill¡±. Here ¡°çóçì¡± is transliterated as ¡°Luck¡± and ¡°É½¡± is literally translated as ¡°Hill¡±. More examples are as follows:
¡°Í³Í³¡± : ¡°Total¡± (literal translation and transliteration)
¡°ÃÀÍ¨¡±: ¡°Bestone¡± (literal translation of ¡°ÃÀ¡±; transliteration of ¡°Í¨¡±)
¡°³þÐÇ¡±: ¡°True Star¡± (transliteration of ¡°³þ¡±; literal translation of ¡°ÐÇ¡±)
¡°°ºÁ¢Ò»ºÅ¡±: ¡°Only One¡± (transliteration of ¡°°ºÁ¢¡±; paraphrase of ¡°Ò»ºÅ¡±)
The techniques discussed above are most frequently used in Chinese brand names translation. But still there are Chinese brand names, which are too complicated to be treated by any one of the above techniques. To solve the problem, we have to employ adjustment as a supplementary technique, which requires that the translator make some adjustments in translation. Addition or deletion, blending, acronymy, purposive misspelling, and renaming usually realize it.
6.5.1 Additions or deletions
Addition refers to adding certain letter, sound or even semantic component in translating Chinese brand names into English. Deletion refers to deleting certain letter, sound or even semantic component in translation. For example, ¡°´óÅô¡± (shoes) can not be literally translated as ¡°ROC¡±, because ¡°ROC¡± coincides with the abbreviation of the self-styled ¡°Republic of China¡±, which is regarded as illegal. We can translate ¡°´óÅô¡± into ¡°ROCK¡± by adding the letter ¡°K¡±. ¡°ROCK¡± not only sounds the same as ¡°ROC¡±, but also carries the positive meaning ¡°durability¡±. Take ¡°ÐÛÉ½¡± for another example. It is translated as ¡°Hillo¡± by adding the letter ¡°O¡±, which suggests ¡°hero¡±, ¡°hill¡± and ¡°hello¡± simultaneously to the target audience.
Sometimes semantic component is appended or omitted as well to avoid ambiguity or to make brand names more concise and effective. For example, ¡°½ðÁúÈª¡± can be translated into ¡°Jinlong Spring¡± or ¡°Golden Dragon Spring¡±. However, both are too wordy to be easily memorized. It is then translated as ¡°Kinglong¡± with the character ¡°Èª¡± omitted. The rendering becomes shorter but more impressive.
Blending refers to the technique of translation by combining two or three words into one word. It is acknowledged that good brand names are not only informative but also concise enough to be memorized. However, some literal renderings of Chinese brand names are too wordy and tedious though informative. Blending based on literal translation, therefore, can help solve the problem. See the following examples:
¡°Ò·ç¡± is translated as ¡°Cowind¡± by blending ¡°Coconut¡± and ¡°wind¡±. ¡°×ÏÞÀ¼¡± as ¡°violatex¡± by blending ¡°viola¡± and ¡°texture¡±; ¡°ÌìÃÀÊ±¡± as ¡°Timex¡± by blending ¡°time¡± and ¡°excellent¡±, ¡°ÑÅ¸ê¶û¡±as Youngor by blending Young and the suffix -or. (½È«, 2000:17; ÕÅ½¡, 1995:76)
Acronymy refers to the way of translating by combining the initial letters of the Chinese characters in a Chinese brand name. Since some renderings of Chinese brand names by transliteration or literal translation are ambiguous or too wordy to attract people, acronymy can serve as a solution. For instance, in order to avoid the unfavorable association, we can translate ¡°·¼·¼¡± into ¡°FF¡± by linking the initial letters of ¡°Fang¡± and ¡°Fang¡±, ¡°ÔÆÉ½¡± can be literally translated as ¡°Cloud and Mountain¡±. Being too wordy to be convenient, it is rendered into ¡°C&M¡±. More examples of this nature are following: ¡°°¿µ¡± (shoes) as ¡°AK¡±, ¡°ÃÀµÄ¡±£¨air-condition£©as ¡°MD¡±. While acronymy resolves some problems in brand name translation, we should practice caution while employing this technique, for the renderings might coincide with some commonly used abbreviations as ¡°ROC¡± illustrates.
6.5.4 Purposive misspelling
Purposive misspelling refers to the deliberate misspelling of English words in translating Chinese brand names into English. Brand names translated by this means often appear fresh and novel enough to attract target readers. ¡°ÑÅ¸ê¶û¡±£¨clothing£©is a famous Chinese brand name. Its English rendering ¡°Youngor¡± is created by misspelling the English word ¡°Younger¡±. ¡°³¼¹¦¡± (medicine), which sounds similar to ¡°³É¹¦¡± (literally means success), is not translated into ¡°Success¡± but ¡°Cuccess¡± instead.
Renaming, as the term suggests, means giving a new name to the original brand name. It is by far the most innovative technique of translation and is mainly used to avoid negative associations. Take ¡°°×Ïó¡± for instance again. To avoid the negative association of ¡°White Elephant¡±, it can be translated as ¡°Pet Elephant¡±. In some cases, this technique can achieve brevity and novelty, especially when we are dealing with coined brand names. For example, ¡°Ð·É¡± is translated into ¡°Frestech¡±; ¡°²Êºç¡±into ¡°Irico¡±, etc.
7 Considerations and Conclusion
7.1 Process of brand name translation
As indicated from the above four considerations, translation of brand names, like translation of other texts, involves linguistic and cultural transmission of two languages and extra linguistic matters, marketing and legal affairs. In undertaking a brand name translation task, a lot of preliminary work has to be done, which are always beyond the realm of language science and translation theory, such as marketing analysis, brand name positioning, trademark investigation, consumer testing. In translating brand names, typically, the translation process should be:
1. To examine the marketing strategy of the company in the target marketplace, such as its targeted customers, the intended image of the new name in foreign markets;
2. To examine the nature of the product, such as its function, performance, benefits, and other useful information related to the product;
3. To investigate the trademark law of the target country to learn its stipulations on the registration of brand names as trademarks;
4. To transmit the original brand name into English, by whichever approaches he deems suitable, for example literal translation, Pinyin or Wade-Giles, transliteration or coining; preferably, it is advisable to create several or a dozen of candidate names by the different approaches, or to create several by the same method;
5. To analyze each candidate name against the company¡¯s marketing strategy and product positioning, and to delete some that do not comply with them;
6. To screen the remaining names for linguistic performance and cultural connotation in the target language and society;
7. To check legal status and, if necessary, domain name availability and consumer testing;
8. To select the final one.
7.2 Requirements for brand name translators in China
Up to now, translators in China are mainly concerned with literary translation and science-tech translation while little attention is given to translation of commercial languages such as advertising copies, slogans and brand names. We find only very few articles published on brand name translation. Some of the articles published in China¡¯s translation journals are only concerned with cultural problems of brand name translation, without advancing solutions. In 1998, an article (Tan & Lu 1998: 3-6) published in the China Journal of International Advertising probed into the naming trend of global brands and proposed that Chinese export brands be named directly in English; in 1999, an article (He 1999: 11-13) published in Advertising Panorama advocated that coining is probably the best way to translate Chinese brand names into English. Translation companies in China usually do not offer brand name translation. In western countries, usually translators in commercial organizations also do not translate brand names, which are the products in agencies and specialized name of another profession-advertise Brand firms like Lexicon-Branding, NameLab, Namestormers, Brand Guardian, Interbrand, etc. In China, as far as we know, there are no such naming firms. Brand naming in China is different, the trademark law and the new Chinese language use law all stipulate that brand names of China products must be named in the Chinese characters, while for export brands, translation can be used. So, for Chinese products, there must be first a Chinese character brand name, then a translated brand name. With China¡¯s further opening and reform, and with the economic globalization of Chinese economy, it can be estimated that more and more Chinese brands will enter into the international market, demand for translation of brand names will increase, and translators specializing in this field will be in increasing demand. It is also unfeasible and unpractical for Chinese companies to hire foreign naming firms to create a new English brand name while completely ignoring the original Chinese character brand name, because of the high fee of naming companies (some may charge as high as 70,000 US dollars for a single name), and that these naming firms mainly create English brand names and may not have experience in Chinese brand naming and know little about Chinese character brand names and naming practices, therefore may not be able to well coordinate the relationship between the Chinese and English brand names. So, the globalization of Chinese brand names should mainly be the task of China¡¯s translators or linguists who speak Chinese as their native tongue and have profound insight and understanding of English brand naming practice.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. We find out that most of the past translations of brand names in China were undertaken by someone else, some by company managers, some by the company¡¯s marketing people, who may know some English and only find a counterpart in a Chinese-English dictionary. This has been the common translation practice for brand names in earlier times. Meanwhile, we happily notice that recently, many forward-looking companies resort to specialized professionals or organizations for brand name translation based on the original Chinese character brand names. For example, the Shanghai Jahwa turned to a linguist for the translation of Mei-jia-jing, Meidi commissioned Landor, Caihong turned to a branding expert for its English brand name. Considering the complexity and subtlety of brand name translation, an ideal translator for brand names should be first of all an expert in translation and should have some knowledge about marketing, branding, and legal affairs.
Ideally, in order to do a good job in translating brand names, a translator should:
1. Be an expert in the source and target languages and their cultures;
2. Be skilled at conventional translation practices (free, literal, and transliteration) and theory;
3. Have an understanding of the language in brand naming, know the rules and methods in creating brand names in English, especially the coining of words;
4. Know something about marketing, advertising, and laws.
When doing international business, the translation of brand names will be the first task facing many companies, especially those in developing countries like China. A well-translated brand name will be a most valuable linguistic asset to companies. Though great attention is paid to the creation of new international brand names, it seems that little attention is paid to the translation of existing brand names. What¡¯s more, translation of brand names, in our opinion, is more difficult than new creation of brand names because the former has to take into consideration the relationship with their original ones. The difficulty and complexity of naming new international brands also face translation of existing ones, besides translation of brand names should also heed their relevance to the existing brand names in phonetics, semantics and graphics. Brand name translation is no longer the simple dictionary to dictionary transmission of word, rather it has become a considerable operation, involving different disciplines and comprising different steps, in which many factors have to be considered such as linguistic, cultural, marketing, legal and graphic factors. Brand name translation is getting more and more important to companies in today¡¯s world economic environment, and has become a hot topic in commercial language translation, worthy of further study. It is suggested that Chinese translators and translation organizations consider offering such service to their clients.
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