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Chinaplas' best (and worst) translations

By: Nina Ying Sun

June 3, 2014

Doing business in China as a multinational company usually is a bilingual or multilingual process. Translation plays such a key role in many aspects — but especially in branding and marketing, and I feel compelled to share two brilliant examples I saw at Chinaplas.

As we know, injection molding press maker Engel strategically positioned its new unit Wintec to make “commodity” machines. But how do you translate that into Chinese? Actually the direct translation is not effective in conveying the intended meaning here. Actually it’s kind of confusing. It doesn’t sound right and it doesn’t sound good.

Wintec came up with a smart solution. It basically ignored the English word, and instead used a Chinese phrase that means “mid/high-end.” It accurately delivers Wintec’s branding strategy in the marketplace and it sounds nice.

The other example is Dow Chemical’s Pack Studios. In fact, Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics Business President Diego Donoso told me that the Shanghai site is the only place where they translated “Pack Studios” to the local language. The company simply uses the English name for its other Pack Studios in Freeport, Texas (of course); Horgen, Switzerland; and São Paulo.

Donoso didn’t say why they made an exception for China. But I suspect it may have a lot to do with the overwhelming importance of the local language in the Chinese market. However, the word “studio” doesn’t translate that great. The direct translation sounds rather small, dull and unimpressive.

So instead, Dow named its Shanghai Pack Studios “Pack Master(s).” It’s witty, to the point, and culturally adept.

Now is the time to reveal the worst translation I came across around Chinaplas. It was an email from a Western public relations person to Chinese journalists. The public relations person was thoughtful enough to have the email translated into Chinese. The problem was the greeting line — instead of “Dear editor,” it said “Dear editing tool.” I didn’t find that flattering.

My guess is the error was caused by the use of an automatic translation tool. With the increasing availability of translation websites, plug-ins, apps and other tools, life becomes easier and the world becomes smaller. But use them with discretion. Do not rely on them for important materials without having it proofread by a native speaker.

Sun is the managing editor of PNChina.com and assistant managing editor of Plastics News.