Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 16. Nr. März 2006

14.1. Re-Shaping Eastern Communities’ Patterns through the European Union Context
Herausgeberin | Editor | Éditeur: Anca Irinel Teleoacă ( "Lower Danube" University, Galati, Romania)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Re-Shaping Identity in the Translation of Advertisements

Titela Vilceanu (University of Craiova, Romania)


The need to re-shape identity in translation

The functional paradigm of translation sees language as a means of communication, of social interaction and cooperation; hence, meaning is not ascribed in a passive way, but it is due to the fair contribution that the participants make. The users’ communicative competence, and most particularly the translator’s as mediator between monolinguals, and perhaps monoculturals, is assessed against the cultural matrix in which the communication process takes place, against newly emerged sensitivities and sensibilities.

Translators are aware that they have to create a space of in-betweenness, a space in which foreign cultural elements are smoothly inserted. Their strategic choice is motivated by the need to find cultural equivalents. The two cultures may interfere on a smaller or a larger scale, but we have to admit that nowadays we witness a new paradigm of international relations, a different geopolitical structure and that the phenomenon of globalization, of diversity in unity, means the promotion of a higher pre-potent identity that we have to recognize and assume.

The cultural intertraffic raises serious problems in translation as the two linguistic systems, even if there is idealization, i.e. no linguistic gaps, do not place the same value on the signs they have at their disposal. Every speech community is characterized by specific customs, values, taxonomies, cultural artifacts; besides, at the extralinguistic level, reality is different if we think only of local climatic particularities. Therefore, variability becomes the key factor in translation. The presence of another identity, even if partly overlapping, becomes disturbing unless the translator invades the source cultural space in order to explore it, extract and transfer the transferable elements, i.e. initiates a process of acculturation or accomodation in which the target language culture proves to be tolerant and politically correct to the source language culture.

Rodriguez Alvaraz and Maria-Carmen Vidal (1996) claim that the very approach of a cultural system equates to the beginning of the process of translation. Translation reflects the power that one culture exercises over another culture, in a subversive way, since translating does not involve only producing an equivalent, but also re-writing the original text in accordance with a particular ideology.

Undoubtedly, the identification of culture specific items is done on account of the translator’s extra-linguistic knowledge, and the transfer of such elements depends heavily on the readership’s expectation scope. There greatest pitfall is to imagine an omniscient translator or readership. On the contrary, there is need to point out that culture specific items are deeply anchored into a particular culture - they are monocultural - before transiting other cultural spaces and becoming relative.

Starting with the early 1990s, Romania has become a large outlet for many international companies bringing their new products into our society. Any new product manufactured by a brand needs solid informational support, which, as a rule, is provided by advertising. Once brought to a foreign country, an advertisement must be adequately translated and adjusted to the target culture requirements.

The nature of translation and the related techniques continue to undergo changes. This flexibility or dynamic development has required rethinking and retooling the application of translation methods. Therefore, it is not enough to be aware of basic methods and a certain number of definitions or protocol, it is crucial to learn how to enrich problem-solving principles /norms in translating what literature calls survival texts (advertisements included).

The purpose in writing this paper was to have a close reading of advertisements in order to single out peculiarities of the language of advertising and translation difficulties of print magazine advertisements. The desired result is a set of recommendations to be used by companies advertising products as well as by students involved in translation training programs. Having specific strategies for reading the original text and careful guidance when translating them can assist the translator to gain confidence and perform adequately.


Print magazine advertisements

According to The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, advertising (such a hold-all term) is designed to inform, influence, or persuade people. At this point, we should remember that all texts are hybrid structures, that they are multifunctional, unfolding different perspectives. As we shall see from the on-going discussion, advertisements seem to be very complex in nature, possibly the most intricately interwoven type of texts.

As far as the above definition is concerned, there is one important distinction to be made: advertisements influence in the sense of passive manipulation (branding) and persuade in the sense of active manipulation (people recognize the implicit intention to sell and do take a stand, i.e. they buy the product, they become consumers).

Advertisers use a variety of techniques to create effective advertisements, to maximize the appeal for a targeted (large) group, to educate the readership to trust the opinions voiced, to secure the intended reading of the text for the benefit of the product and brand.

Cristiana Nicola Teodorescu (2000) suggests that the advertising discourse should be seen as a modern recasting of the traditional fight between good and evil with the active engagement of the consumers through a strategy of seduction. Undoubtedly, there is ritual use of language and the exhortation to buy the product creates the legendary atmosphere of the quest for The Holy Grail.

Advertisements start with a basic appeal which is the main selling point or theme. What follows are specific techniques such as: attention-getting headlines, slogans, testimonials, product characters, comparison of products and repetition. Basic appeals - in general advertisers may present their message either in a factual way (logos-oriented), the focus being on the practical value of the product, or in an emotional way (pathos-oriented) when the product becomes the catalyst of human bonds. Advertisements that use a factual approach describe the demonstrable characteristics of a product. On the other hand, advertisements that resort to the emotive appeal focus on the way the product will give you personal satisfaction (need for love, security or prestige) and transgresses the ordinary (exotic flavour, original lifestyle, everlasting happiness). To persuade the largest possible number of people, most advertisements combine factual information with an emotional load.

Attention-getting headlines - are an important feature of printed advertisements. A successful headline inevitably leads a person into reading the rest of the advertisement. Some headlines attract attention by promising the reader a potential benefit; others simply arouse a person’s curiosity while a third category carries news such as the launching of a new product.

Slogans - are short phrases used repeatedly in the advertisements. Effective slogans are easy to remember and tend to stick to people’s minds as they are created to promote a favourable image of a company and of its products. Most slogans do not refer to particular features of the product. The product seems to be placed in the background while the consumer’s profile is fronted through an impressionistic technique. It is at this level that the power of seduction of advertisements is strongly felt.

Testimonials - are advertisements in which a person endorses a product. The person may be someone who looks like an average user of the product, or film or TV stars, popular sportsmen or other celebrities who may induce a feeling of trust.

Product characters - are fictional people and animals or characters that are used in advertisements over a long period of time. The characters become highly familiar to people (especially if they advertise a whole line of products) and consequently provide lasting identification with a brand.

Comparison of products - is used most frequently to sell products that compete heavily with other brands. Advertisers compare their products with similar brands and point out the advantages of using their brand (a competitor’s product may be named or just hinted at).

Repetition - although it flouts the aesthetic function of language, lexical or/and syntactic repetition is used to get the message across.

Surveys and sales figures show that a well-designed advertising campaign has dramatic effects. The idea is that advertising works beyond critical awareness and it works even on those who claim immunity to message.

Advertisements can be studied to detect their psychological impact, their way of shaping social habits, to weigh values and hidden desires of the common person, but, putatively, the simplest way to study their impact is via an analysis of the language of the advertising claim. The claim is the verbal or print part of an ad that makes some assertion of superiority for the product being advertised. Generally, claims fit into the category of pseudo-information, i.e. neither bold lies nor helpful consumer information as they are applied to parity products, products in which all or most of the brands available are similar indeed. Since no superior product exists, advertising creates only the illusion of superiority.

The first rule of parity involves the use of the words better and best in rather a misleading way for better means best and best means equal to.

The second rule of advertising claims is simply that if any product is truly superior, the ad will state it unequivocally and will offer some kind of convincing evidence.


Advertisements - a stumbling block for translators

We have selected a number of advertisements for the food industry, as their target population is large indeed (food is a basic need) and translators should be concerned more than ever with achieving the equivalent effect in the readers of the translated text into Romanian.

The translator should not be afraid to break away from semantic translation where persuasion is at stake. S/he should bear in mind that target texts are not to be produced without prior knowledge of the style of the specimen target language texts in the indicated genre. Certain expectations are built and this does not mean that the TL specimens are models to be perfectly copied, but the comparison between the stylistic tendencies of the source language text (SLT) and the target language text (TLT) is a starting point for managing the issue of how far to depart from the original.

The translator’s loyalties are divided; his prime responsibility to the manufacturer is absolutely clear: the TLT must give a correct, unambiguous and comprehensible account of maintenance procedures. There is also his/her responsibility to the readership (prospective buyers) who needs to receive a smooth, natural but also convincing version.

Therefore, the translator will adopt a pragmatic-functional approach i.e. the communicative method of translation which allows for deviation in patterning between the SLT and the TLT and which proclaims the apparent triumph of the consumer.

For cultural reasons, a higher degree of sophistication is to be expected from either the source language (SL) or the target language (TL) consumers; the difference in sophistication needs to be reflected in formulating TLTs in either more technical (upgrading procedure) or less technical ways (downgrading procedure) than the corresponding SLTs.

Closely related to these considerations is the question of register or level of formality. Translation is submitted to the socio-cultural norms that regulate linguistic behaviour and it often happens that the registers of SLT and TLT differ in ways reflecting consumers’ expectations. Features of register in consumer-oriented texts tend to stereotype three things: the author (more precisely the supplier of the commodity), the consumer (the group of consumers aimed at) and the relationship between supplier and consumer (expert to non-experts, expert to experts, non-expert to non-experts).

Differences in stereotyping trigger alterations in point of lexical choices, grammatical patterns, discourse structure etc.

The translation will read like an original and the readership practically re-experience identity while the translation ensures continuity of the SLT (not betrayal) and the translator guides the situation according to the text producer’s goal, thus managing the situation (maximal mediation) while also paying special attention to the formatting of the message. Translation proves to be a decision-making process where intentionality outranks the informative content.


Samples and discussion

Before embarking upon translating, there needs to be mention that the advertising discourse is just beginning to shape an identity in Romanian, being strongly influenced by the genre conventions in English as most of the advertised products are imports. Before 1989, product advertising was practically non-existent in Romania where the national economy was falsely said to provide everything that the people needed, where competition was something unconceivable, and where, in fact, stores had empty shelves.

In all the translations that follow, the names of the products/brands (which are loaded words) are transferred, otherwise there will be no accurate identification of the referent and the particular associations with the brand name are lost.

As far as the stylistic considerations are concerned, we have tried not to alter the original structure - this line of approach is consistent throughout the translation, except in a few cases where the level of naturalness is affected. Syntactical and lexical repetitions are considered strategic choices in translation.

Love with a foreign accent

Muller Amore brings you seriously creamy luxury yoghurt with a taste inspired by the continent. Available in deliciously authentic Spanish orange, walnut and Greek honey
and new Morello Cherry, it’s pure passion in a pot.

Suggested translation:

Dragoste cu accent str ăin

Muller Amore v ă oferă crema iaurturilor cu arome îmbietoare de pe întreg continentul. Veţi avea parte de o un iaurt delicios, original, cu gust de portocale din Spania, de alune de pădure, de miere grecească şi, mai nou, cu cireşe Morello. Pas iune pur ă într-un singur borcan.


We have partly equated Morello Cherry by transferring the proper name of the species of cherry, although there is a full cultural equivalent in Romanian, i.e. cireşe amare. The motivation lies in the desire to preserve the exotic flavour and increase the power of seduction over the Romanian consumers.

Jalna Fat Free yoghurt is a true miracle of nature. It’s fat free and free of many other things as well, such as artificial colours, sweeteners and flavours.
Jalna Fat Free yoghurt doesn’t compromise on taste because it’s made the traditional way, smooth, creamy, with real fruit puree, and created and set in its own tub.
We believe it’s the only way to make a real fat free yoghurt.
Jalna is real yoghurt.
Created and set in its own tub.

Suggested translation:

Iaurtul dietetic Jalna este un adev ărat miracol al naturii. Nu conţine nici grăsimi şi nici coloranţi artificiali, îndulcitori şi arome.
Iaurtul dietetic Jalna nu face rabat de la calitate pentru că este un produs fabricat după o reţetă tradiţională, fin, cremos, cu fructe, creat şi păstrat în propriul său borcan.
Credem c ă aceasta este singura reţetă pentru un adevărat iaurt dietetic.
Jalna este un iaurt adev ărat.
Creat şi păstrat în propriul său borcan.


The translation follows closely the strategy of manipulation used by the original text where the product is presented as extraordinary, a true miracle and where miracle is finally equated with real, the equivalence being artfully achieved through the handling of factual information: free of [...] artificial colours, sweeteners and flavours.

In the second paragraph, there is an upgrading procedure in the translation process - the original text uses ordinary language (doesn’t compromise on taste) while the target text changes the perspective, replacing this familiar image by the phrase nu face rabat de la calitate, which will translate back as high quality product. The rendering is consistent with the message promoted by the source text where traditional is to be interpreted as high quality.

At the syntactic level, the Romanian verb does not compulsorily require the presence of the subject, but the subject is marked by specific verb endings (here -em indicates the first person plural). If the subject had been preserved, the construction would have been emphatic in Romanian, while in English the tone is neutral. In spite of this difference, both the English and Romanian readership are aware that the first person plural used in the advertisement is potentially inclusive-of-addressee.

The Laughing Cow
All you gain is flavour

You may not want a fuller-figure, but you still want spreads that are full of flavour. Which is just what you get with The Laughing Cow Light. Each handy-sized triangle comes packed with creamy-smooth, delicious taste, but with a tight 7% fat. And now it’s also available in tubs. No wonder it’s enjoyed by more people than any other light cheese spread portions. With so little fat, you’re laughing.

Suggested translation:

La vache qui rit
Tot ce ave ţi de câştigat e savoare

Dacă nu vă doriţi un pachet mare, totuşi vă doriţi să savuraţi o brânză bună. La vache qui rit în varianta light este tot ceea ce vă doriţi. Fiecare triunghi are un gust fin, delicious şi conţine doar 7% grăsimi. Acum puteţi găsi această brânză şi la borcan. De aceea nu este de mirare că tot mai mulţi oameni preferă această brânză. Cu a şa de puţine grăsimi, eşti fericit.


The headline of the original text is visibly a translation of the Hochland brand slogan La vache qui rit to which the Romanian readership is accustomed through constant exposure (via TV commercials).

What is lost in translation are the puns upon words in You may not want a fuller-figure and The Laughing Cow - With so little fat, you’re laughing, and the lexical repetition of full in the first sentence. Nevertheless, there is no toning down as the Romanian verb savura ţi totally recovers the impact of the English phrase full of flavour. The English text uses the personal pronoun it to refer epiphorically to cheese, the noun appearing at the end of the text. In the Romanian version, we have preferred to repeat the word brânz ă (the correspondent of cheese) to reinforce the message through a strategy of compensation.

Mulder: Cow mutilations have increased steadily over the past few years and there’s one reason - aliens. They understand the nutritional value of milk.
Scully: Usually, the skeptic, I have to agree that three glasses of milk a day give you enough calcium to travel all over the nation to investigate strange happenings.
Mulder: The milk is out there.
Where’s your moustache?

Suggested translation:

Mulder: Sacrificarea în mas ă a vacilor e un fenomen îngrijorător în ultimii ani. Singurii vinovaţi sunt extratereştrii pentru că ei cunosc valoarea nutritivă a laptelui.
Scully: Deşi mă ştii că sunt sceptică de obicei, trebuie să recunosc că trei pahare de lapte pe zi ne oferă calciu suficient pentru a călători peste tot ca să investigăm cazurile bizare.
Mulder: Laptele este acolo.
Ţie unde îţi este mustaţa?


The advertisement makes use of testimonials as a strategy of active manipulation. Mulder and Scully are two film characters which have gained pancultural popularity for the investigation of strange happenings. Thus, there is a strong psychological hook on the readership which is intertextually immersed in the myterious atmosphere of the film through the sentence The milk is out there - we immediately recognize the distortion from The truth is out there.

The moustache is an index of the fact that the person has drunk milk. There is another image which is not conjured up by the English text, but which the Romanian readership is most likely to recognize at the intertextual level: Nicǎ, the main character of the novel Amintiri din copilǎrie (Memories of my Boyhood) by Ion Creangǎ, sneeks into the house and drinks from the pots of milk and is caught by his mother because of the moustache.

Stimulate your brain

We all know that a healthy diet is good for both mind and body. And that we should be eating five portions of fruit and veg a day. Well, a regular bag of Florette not only gives you one of those all important portions, but it tastes pretty good too. So, that’s one mouth-watering portion down. Only four more to go...
Raw passion in a bag.

Suggested translation:

Stimula ţi-vă creierul

Cu to ţii ştim că un regim sănătos este benefic atât pentru minte cât şi pentru corp. Şi mai ştim că trebuie să mâncăm fructe şi legume de cinci ori pe zi. Ei bine, o porţie de Florette ne asigură nu doar o cincime din cantitatea de fructe şi legume necesară zilnic, dar ne răsfaţă cu un gust unic, după care îţi lasă gura apă. Mai ai nevoie doar de patru porţii...
Pasiune adev ărată într-un singur plic.


The advertisement exploits the universal streotype of healthy diet and of mens sana in corpore sano. The English text is a mixture of formal elements and informal ones, with the latter prevailing, possibly to point out that the information transmitted is commonplace. The Romanian version is neutral balancing formal elements and informal ones. Thus the English five portions of fruit and veg a day is rendered through an upgrading procedure o cincime din cantitatea de fructe şi legume necesară zilnic (which translates back as five percent of the fruit and vegetables for daily consumption). The original text is emotionally loaded - all important portions - while the target text is toned down, being more logos-oriented.

Is this your child?

Then you need this KID CUISINE
Don’t make your child suffer,
Buy additive-rich food today!
As recommended by the Trice Food Research Laboratory
One of the ads hoping to raise awareness among parents.

Suggested translation:

Acesta este copilul dvs?

Atunci ave ţi nevoie de KID CUISINE
Nu v ă faceţi copilul să sufere,
Cump ăraţi-i chiar de azi mâncare bogat ă în aditivi!
Recomandare făcută de Laboratorul Trice de protecţie a consumatorului.
Această reclamă are drept scop creşterea gradului de responsabilizare a părinţilor.


The advertisement uses deliberative rhetoric and expert testimony. Unlike the previous examples where there is a dreamlike universe and where the readership feels tempted to buy the product, this sample is rather a warning inducing a sense of guilt among parents if they do not choose the product.

The Romanian version observes these stylistic preferences, creating the same effect which is, however, stronger as the last sentence characterizes the discourse of campaigns against domestic violence. As long as the main objective is achieved, i.e. to buy the product, the advertising discourse proves to felicitously merge with some other related types.

The Earth’s Best way to grow

"I grow everything without chemicals, especially my baby".
At Earth’s Best, our farmers really care what’s best for growing babies, theirs and yours. That’s why our baby food always starts pure and stays that way. It’s the Earth’s Best way to grow.
Certified organic/no chemicals/no added salt, sugar or filler.

Suggested translation:

Modul s ănătos de a creşte: Earth’s Best

"Nu folosesc chimicale, cu atât mai pu ţin pentru copilul meu"
Celor de la Earth’s Best le pasă de copii, de ail or şi de ai dvs. De aceea mâncarea pentru bebeluşi este întotdeauna sănătoasă. Earth’s Best ştie cel mai bine cum să-i creasc ă.
Mâncare organic ă/fără chimicale/fără sare, zahăr sau arome artificiale.


The advertisement begins with a testimonial which acquires universal value. The text creates a problem-solving situation, and the emerging solution is the brand name. The first part is clearly pathos-oriented while the last sentence provides factual information in a concentrated elliptical way which the readership associates with the essential information provided on the label attached to the product. The Romanian version is faithful to the original text, while not affecting the level of naturalness.

The END.

Introducing our delicious Grilled Chicken Salad. At only 295 calories and containing just 3.6% fat, it’s a great way to make sure you get 2 of your 5 a day portions of fruit and veg. Freshly prepared with succulent pieces of grilled chicken, tasty Italian cheese, delicious carrot shavings and pulp cherry tomatoes. Served on a bed of crispy mixed leaves and lightly drizzled with a sumptuous balsamic dressing. But the real surprise’s from McDonald’s.

Suggested translation:


Vă prezentăm noua salată de pui la grătar (Grilled Chicken Salad). Cu numai 295 calorii şi 3,6% grăsimi, aveţi asigurate două cincimi din cantitatea de fructe şi legume necesară zilnic. Proaspăt pregătită, cu bucăţi suculente de pui la grătar, brânză italiană delicioasă, morcov ras şi pulpă de roşii. În plus v ă este servită cu un sos îmbietor. Dar adev ărata surpriză...totul vine de la McDonald’s.


The first mention is that the translation is more explicit by providing the translation of the product as well as its name: salat ă de pui la grătar (Grilled Chicken Salad).

The text combines expert testimony (scientific data) with emotionally loaded bits of language - the use of epithets such as tasty, delicious and sumptuous. The last epithet is omitted in translation as it is a question of collocation (*sos somptuos) and of excessive adornment even if sumptuous is given a contextual equivalent (*sos îmbietorbogat).

There is an implicit contrast (high quality vs. small price) detectable at the end of the text where the brand name is mentioned - McDonald’s.



Translation can be considered a social contract in which the receiver is the main beneficiary, all the concessions being made with the receiver in mind to get the intended insights. The translation of advertisements is complicated by the need to save the positive face of the brand and to secure the psychological impact on the prospective buyers while also negotiating the transmission of information.

The Romanian versions are patterned to follow the English texts closely, yet, the response of the Romanian readership may be different from the English readership’s. Sometimes it is triggered by elements which are neutral in the original text and which become culturally loaded due to associations with Romanian cultural values. In some other instances there is recognition of universal values or of culture specific items but the response is toned down because of the linguistic forms in which such items are embedded.

© Vîl Ceanu (University of Craiova, Romania)


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14.1. Re-Shaping Eastern Communities’ Patterns through the European Union Context

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