Once the owner of a traditional restaurant in Spain asked me to re-translate his menu from Spanish to English. Probably because when he handed it to me, I had to laugh. On offer were “ham dust” and “roasted ham”.
“Oh, you’re gonna laugh? Then you translate it!” Ok, fair enough!
These were innocent mistakes – Google Translate says that “Pernil Asado” is “roasted ham”.
But Pernil Asado isn’t what we call ham. It’s a crispy, juicy, spit-roasted pork shoulder that’s been overnight-marinated in an aioli, spices rubbed into skin, slow-cooked to peel-off-the-bone tenderness, then flame-roasted for texture. It tests the resolve of a half-hearted vegetarian (and disgusts a full-hearted one).
But “pork roast” wouldn’t have done it justice either, so I settled for “roasted pork shoulder”.
Translation is at best an echo
Here’s the thing – translation is a form of writing or, in this case, a form of copywriting.
But what is a translation, really? It’s a rendering or a conversion of one thing to another.
Your challenge is to render your expertise. You normally talk about it in maxims or sayings – about user experience, or software implementation, features, conversions, or some other benefit. You speak in lists and repeat observations that resonate and bring energy to conversations.
Or you might not really put your expertise into words at all – you just do things expertly and make your clients really happy. Those clients get it; they work with you for months and it becomes obvious to them you’re really good at what you do.
But what about the rest of us? For our benefit, you need to do translation work. Or copywriting or whatever word you want to use.