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On Translation of Foreign Brand Names  

2009-12-13 14:49:51|  分类: 花中李的英语毕业 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Abstract: This paper, in the first part, introduces briefly the general knowledge of commodity brand names and its impact on products. As stated in the title, this paper then mainly deals with the translation of foreign brand names in the second part. In the final part, on the basis of the analysis, this paper naturally draws a conclusion concerning the cross-cultural differences in the translation of foreign brand names.
Keywords: brand, translation, cross-culture
I.  Introduction -- Brand Name and Its Translation
Brand names are just like people’s names, serving as the symbol of the commodity. “Branding makes a product distinctive in the marketplace, just as your name makes you unique in the society in which you live.” (Wells, Burnett and Moriarty 89)
For one specific product, its brand name is of great importance. When various kinds of commodities go global, their names travel with them as well. As the trade of commodities expands, brand names of certain products have become very famous and some successful ones gradually get recognized by the whole world. For China, nowadays, development of its economy in recent years further stimulated the trade between China and other countries, which brings the growth of imported foreign commodities. Foreign brand names, no matter how much fame they enjoy globally, will be difficult for Chinese consumers to accept if they don’t have impressive translations into Chinese. As stated by an American scholar, “…a good translation of a brand name can bring millions of dollars’ difference in the product’s sells record.” (qtd. in Bao Huinan, 273) It cannot be denied that sells records and profits are important for the manufacturer. However, a more important significance for a good brand name translation lies in the fact that the name of the product is conducive to the promoting of the product, the enhancing of its fame and competitiveness as well as the cracking down of the counterfeits.
Summing up, it is obvious that translation of foreign brand names worth further studying for it is not only the original brand name that matters but also its translation.
II.  Translation of Foreign Brand Names -- Problem and Solution
This part of the paper will first explore the reason why we need to pay attention to the translation of brand names. Then, discussion on preconditions and methods to deal with the translation, combined with specific and representative examples will be followed. 
A.  The Need for the Translation of Foreign Brand Name
Attention must be paid to the translation of foreign brand names for the following two reasons:
1.  Translation of a brand is as important as its original name.
On one hand, the original brand name is part of the value of the product itself. A strong brand name wins the reputation for the product, keeping the product alive. On the other hand, the translation of the brand name is also crucial to the survival of the commodity in a foreign market. Suppose one product became well-known in its domestic market with its original brand, which rooted deep in the local costumers’ mind. However, when this product goes to a foreign market, the original brand becomes so unfamiliar that few or even no people recognize it. To regain the popularity it ever had, this product, without doubts, needs to have a good translation of its brand.
2.  Translation servers as a medium of communication, making the translation of brand names significant in the commodity trade.www.lunwenwang.com 论文网在线
“Language is the carrier of culture…Translation serves as the bridge of cross-cultural communication.” (Bao Huinan 5, my translation) At present, a product’s brand name has become an approach for communication.
Besides the original brand name, its translation also serves as a medium of communication as translation itself, dealing with different languages, is considered to be a way to communicate. In addition, translation is believed to be a way to exchange ideas and culture, to promote understanding among different countries and nations. (Xu Chongxin 83)  From all these we can see that because translation serves as a medium of communication, translation of brand names plays a very significant role in commodity trade. 
Therefore, from the two above-mentioned standpoints, it can be seen that attention should also be paid to brand name translations but not only the original ones. Hereto, the reason why translation of brand names worth discussing has already been justified. In the following parts, the preconditions and methods for foreign brand name translation will be explained.
B. The Preconditions and Methods for Foreign Brand Name Translation
1.  Preconditions for Foreign Brand Name Translation
Brand names of import commodities are created by foreign manufacturers and advertising designers, thus they inevitably contain different cultures characteristics. When they enter the Chinese market, they will mainly face Chinese consumers. Whether they can win the market share and the favor of Chinese customers depends greatly on their brand name translation. A good translation will have enormous impact, though invisible, on consumers’ mentality. (Bao Huinan 281) To work out a good translation, the following preconditions should be considered in the first place:
a.       The semantics association of the translation should cater to the mentality of Chinese consumers.
Differences in different countries’ social systems, natural environments, religious beliefs, customs, thoughts and languages bring various semantic associations to people, creating all kinds of obstacles and difficulties for translation. (Bao Huinan 22) As Chinese people prefer those characters that contain favorable meanings like luck, happiness, success, beauty, elegance, preciousness, beneficial, healthy, energetic and those can express propitious, good and promising ideas, characters like “吉” (luck), “乐”, “喜” (happiness, joy), “佳” (fine, good),  “宝” (preciousness), “美” (beauty), “雅” (elegance), “益” (beneficial), “健” (healthy), “能” (capability, energetic), “富” (rich, abundant) are usually used.
“Coca-cola”, a famous beverage brand, is one typical example that cannot be neglected when talking about brand name translation. Its Chinese translation “可口可乐” is so prevailing that everybody in China knows it nowadays. “可口” means “tasty” in Chinese and “乐” means happiness, which seemingly tells the customers that drinking it brings happiness. “百事可乐”, the translation of another famous coke drink, “Pepsi-Cola” is another good example similar to “Coca-cola”. “Extra”, a chewing gum brand, is translated as “益达”, of which “益” implies that it is beneficial to people, reflecting the designer’s idea that chewing this gum will be beneficial to people’s teeth. “Hershey’s” and “Cadbury”, two chocolate brands, are translated into “好时” and “吉百利”, making use of the characters like “好”, “吉” and “利” to link customers’ thoughts with luck and good fortune. “Heineken”, a brand for beer, is translated as “喜力”, with a character “喜” meaning “happiness”. “Avon”, “Maybelline” and “Nivea”, three cosmetic brands, have very beautiful Chinese translation: “雅芳”, “美宝莲” and “妮维雅” respectively, which make use of characters like “雅”, “美” to emphasize their potential ability to beautify people.
What’s more, sometimes Chinese customers like the character “龙” (dragon) very much because the image of dragon has already been embedded in their mind.  Dragon, for the Chinese nation, is the symbol of power and heavenliness so they will have a special preference for this animal which does not exist. As Chen Dezhang from Beijing Foreign Studies University points out that the dragon in English and 龙 in Chinese are both imaginary animals but have very different connotations. To Chinese 龙 is something sacred and has been referred to as the ancestor of the Chinese nation. Therefore, “Denon”, a brand for Hi-Fi products, is translated as “天龙” and “Citroen”, a French-made car brand, is translated as “雪铁龙”.www.lunwenwang.com 论文网在线
b.       The translation of the brand name should try to reflect what the product is and its features.
Before customers see the product with their own eyes, they will guess what the product is from its brand name. As soon as the product enters a market, the designed brand name should immediately indicate its target customers, therefore, the translation of the brand should also has the same effect of the original one, thus it can play an inevitable role in promoting the product in the new market. (Bao Huinan 282) To gain popularity in the Chinese market, it is essential for an import commodity to have a translated brand name that can reflect its feature so Chinese consumers can easily recognize it.
“Enfagrow”, translated as “安儿宝”, is a milk powder brand.  “儿”, meaning “baby”, “children” and “宝”, meaning “treasure” imply that this product is good for babies and children. “Safeguard”, a brand for soap and bathing lotion, is translated as “舒肤佳”.  Here “舒” means “comfort” and “肤” means “skin”. So this translation will leave the impression to people that this soap or lotion can bring comfort to the skin.  “Colgate”, a brand for toothpaste, is translated as “高露洁” with the character “洁” meaning “clean”, indicating that it can make people’s teeth clean and tidy.  “Saridon”, a painkiller, translated into Chinese as “散利痛”, utilizes the character “散” (ease, dispel), “利” (be good for) and “痛” (pain) to indicate that it can ease people’s pain. “Benz” and “Porche”, two famous automobile brands, are translated as “奔驰” and “保时捷” with “奔”, “驰” and “捷” all meaning going very fast. “Reebok”, a brand for running shoes, is translated as “锐步”.  “锐” (sharp, vigor) and “步” (foot) all serve to convey the features of the product. 
However, there are also translated brand names that cannot arouse customers’ association with the products.  For example, “Mentos”, translated as “曼妥思”, “Dove”, translated as “德芙”, cannot directly reflect what they are.  Actually, “Mentos” is a kind of candy and “Dove” is a famous brand for chocolate.  c.       The translation of the brand name should be simple, concise, easy to remember and have fair-sounding pronunciations.
Besides the above-mentioned two prerequisites, a successful translation of brand name should also be very simple, concise and easy for customers to remember.  Also, a fair-sounding pronunciation is essential. Bao Huinan, again in his paper suggests that “…another essential principle for the translation of import commodity brand name is that the translation should be concise and easy to memorize.” If the translation sounds too complicated and awkward, people can hardly remember it. Successful translation of brand name will be on everyone’s lips. 
“Sprite” and “Fanta”, two soft-drink brands, are translated as “雪碧” and “芬达”, both of which are very easy to remember. “理光” and “柯达”, translations of “Ricoh” and “Kodak”, are two brands that Chinese consumers are very familiar with. Examples of such translations are plentiful, like: “Samsung” as “三星”, “Sanyo” as “三洋”, “Toshiba” as “东芝”, “Hitachi” as “日立”, “Audi” as “奥迪”, “Buick” as “别克”, “Nike” as “耐克”, “Puma” as “彪马”, “Casio” as “卡西欧”, “Siemens” as “西门子”, “Nokia” as “诺基亚” , “Mag” as “美格”, “Epson” as “爱普生” and “Cannon” as “佳能”.  All such translations use very simple characters that are easy to pronounce and have very fair-sounding pronunciations. 
       To conclude, these three preconditions are vital to the success of the translation. Although it is impossible to achieve all three roles at the same time, efforts should be tried to gain the best result. Sometimes, a good translation holds all these advantages. “Nike” ‘s Chinese translation “耐克” is very short and easy to remember while “耐” means “wearable”, which is just the right word to describe clothes. That’s probably one of the reasons why “Nike” is so popular in China nowadays.
2.  Methods for Foreign Brand Name Translation
       Speaking of methods of translation, literal translation, free translation and transliteration are always mentioned. In brand name translation, they are also in common use. According to William Wells’ advertising book, he argues that it is particularly difficult for international companies to adapt to names and product slogans in Chinese. It can be seen then, translating foreign brand names is really a hard nut to crack. To achieve the best effect, sometimes some special methods are also needed.
a.      Literal translation
Literal translation of brand names, Bao Huinan explains, is to directly translate the literal meanings of the brand. The advantage is that it conveys the original information of the product. Although it is not feasible for every brand name to be translated literally, literal translation is still put to use by some foreign brands. In order to be able to apply this method to the translation, the original brand name should be notional words. www.lunwenwang.com 论文网在线
For example, the translation of “Mr. Juicy” into “果汁先生” can give customers a very clear idea that it is a fruit juice brand while at the same time it forms a cartoon image in people’s mind. “Pioneer”, an electronic appliance brand, translated as “先锋”, can convey to the customers the message that it is the pioneer of the electronic appliance industry. “Microsoft”, the American software giant company, also adopts literal translation method to register its Chinese brand. Translating “Micro” as “微” and “soft” as “软”  successfully transmit the implied meaning: a basic, tiny and delicate software. Two paper towel brands, “Soft&Clean” and “Breeze” are translated as “洁柔” and “清风” literally.  “洁柔” conveys the original meaning of the brand entirely and caters to people’s requirements for paper towel while “清风” arouses people’s association of the comfort brought by a breeze.
b.      Transliteration
In cases that the original brand names are not notional, that is to say, they do not make sense to the customers literally, transliteration is often used. It can be noted that many import brand names do not have actual meanings, the best way to translate them is transliteration. The strongpoint of using transliteration is that it can best preserve the rhyme and rhythm of the original brand, reflecting the product’s special emotional appeal. (Bao Huinan 285)Examples of transliteration of brand names are in great amount, such as: “Marlboro” as “万宝路”, “Carlsberg” as “嘉士伯”, “Hennessy” as “軒尼诗”, “Lipton” as “立顿”, “Revlon” as “露华浓”, “Mazda” as “马自达”, “Renault” as “雷诺”,  “Sony” as “索尼”, “Intel” as “英特尔”, “Mag” as “美格”, “Dell” as “戴尔”, “Erisson” as “爱立信”, “Siemens” as “西门子”, “Ricoh” as “理光”, “Nikon” as “尼康”, “Olympus” as “奥林巴斯”, “Adidas” as “阿迪达斯”, “Gucci” as “古姿”, “Rolex” as “劳力士” and “Omega” as “奥米茄”.
       Though this kind of translation can hardly associate the feature of the product with the name, they do follow some of the preconditions mentioned earlier in the paper like using characters with favorable meanings and making the translation short and fair-sounding. Take “IKEA” for instance, it is a famous furniture brand and its translation “宜家” makes use of the character “宜” meaning “appropriate for” and “家” meaning “home” to imply that the furniture are very appropriate for your home. Also, “宜家” is very easy to remember and sounds like its original brand very much.
c.       Others Methods
To deal with the translation of various foreign brand names is no easy job.  When neither literal translation nor transliteration works, other methods should be made use of. For instance, “BMW”, a famous automobile brand, has a Chinese brand name as “宝马”, which is also known to many Chinese customers. “宝马” is neither a literal translation nor transliteration, but it is still a very impressive brand name if all those preconditions discussed earlier are considered. “宝” means “precious” and “马” (horse) implies that it is a automobile as “马” is one means of transportations in ancient China. But to a great majority of people, “BMW” is also a very famous brand. “Panasonic”, a Japanese brand for a great variety of electronic products like TV, Hi-Fi, CD player, DVD player etc, has a Chinese brand name as “乐声”, similar to the meaning of “beautiful sounds, music” in Chinese. “Hewlett-Packard”, a computer hardware corporation, now is known in China as “HP” or “惠普”, instead of its long and complicated original brand.  “NEC”, an electronic appliance brand, does not have a translated brand name.  Still, “NEC” is known to many people.
From these examples, it can be concluded that there two possible ways to cope with such situation: one is to keep its original brand name like “NEC” and the other is to design a new Chinese brand name for the product like “乐声” and “惠普”. As long as it follows the preconditions of creating a successful translated brand name, different methods can be used on the basis of the actual situation.
III.  Conclusion
  Taking into account the detailed analysis and various examples discussed in this paper, it can be concluded that in translating foreign brand names, cross-cultural difference serves as a major influential factor. This factor should be prioritized when we deal with the translation of foreign brand names. In order to achieve a satisfactory result of the brand name translation, we, in the first place, must keep in mind the three preconditions discussed in this paper, namely, good semantics association of the translation, reflection of the product’s features and simple, easy to remember translation. Then, we could try our best to apply different methods to the translation work such as literal translation and transliteration. If necessary, two other methods, keeping the original name and working out a new brand name should also be considered.
Works Cited
Bao Huinan. Wen Hua Yu Jing Yu Yu Yan Fan Yi (文化语境与语言翻译, Cultural Context and Language Translation). Beijing: China’s Foreign Language Translation Publishing Company, 2001.
Chen Dezhang. “Cultural Connotation of Animal Words in English and Chinese” Aspects of Intercultural Communication—Proceedings of China’s 2nd Conference on Intercultural Communication. Ed. Hu Wenzhong Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 1999. 234-247
Wells, William, et al. Advertising—Principles & Practice 4th ed. Beijing: Qing Hua University Press, 1999
Xu Chongxin. “Cultural Exchange and Translation” Wen Hua Yu Fan Yi (文化与翻译, Culture and Translation). Ed. Guo Jianzhong Beijing: China’s Foreign Language Translation Publishing Company, 2001. 83-93
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