You get what you pay for

Guess what – I found a couple of mistakes in a large ad in the J. Post, and I'm not going to complain about it!

You know why? Because I believe it's not humanly possible to do a good job under the circumstances imposed by the J. Post. I know. From personal experience.
The Lord (or someone) is my witness that I do not want to translate ads for the Post, nor for any other newspaper, for pennies. I don't think anyone should. But since I myself have been known to cave in, I can't go blaming anyone else.

Thus goes the story:
A few years ago, in-between jobs, when I was panicking that I'd never find work, a certain respectable translation agency, let's call it Translations Galore, offered me a certain project. Not having anything better at the time, I accepted. The pay was low, but still higher than their competitors, The Gang, were offering; it was easy – the stuff flowed from eyes to fingers to keyboard practically by itself; it was interesting; and it kept coming. In addition, my contact person there was really nice.

Time passed. I only do the occasional job for that agency. But I do have a soft spot for them. So when the girl in question calls me and begs me to translate an ad, I sometimes say yes.

Now, the terms are scandalous: the pay is lousy; turnaround time is between "right now", and "it's been 25 minutes, where the hell is that ad?!"; and the texts, well, you know what Israeli copywriting is like. Either awful or too wisecracking for its own good.

So I do what I can. Sometimes I'm inspired and the translation is good; sometimes I'm not inspired, and since there's no time to agonize, consult, or polish, I just do it and send it off. I have been an accomplice. Guilty as charged.

I can't help but wonder at the big, rich companies, who pay their advertising agencies a fortune to produce ads and place them in the printed media, yet don't give a hoot about the English version of those ads, and are apparently unwilling to pay for a professional translation or copywriting.

So next time you fume, snicker or laugh at a poor translation of an ad in an English-language Israeli newspaper, magazine or billboard, keep in mind that, often, the advertiser gets what it pays for.

* * *

Slightly different angle on the same subject:
I came across a large ad, in Hebrew, for a certain model of Toyota.
At the bottom of the ad, there were three short lines of text that looked like a slogan, yet fell so flat that I couldn't believe they were really supposed to be a slogan:

(Hayom, machar, Toyota)
A quick glance at Toyota pages on the Internet revealed that this is the literal translation of one of Toyota's tag lines, or catch phrases:

I find that in English it has quite a nice ring, or cadence.
Once again: The company must have paid a pretty penny to the company who came up with that slogan. The Israeli representative or agency must have paid a pretty shekel to place the Hebrew ad. Why on earth would they make do with such a silly literal translation of the slogan? If it's not important, why not just skip it; and if it is – do it properly.


Yam Erez said...

This reminded me of an ad that ran repeatedly on page 2 of Haaretz English for the Soldiers' Welfare Association. I don't recall the rest of the copy, but the first line, beneath a photo of some IDF soldiers was: "They don't ask questions." The Hebrew, which I assume was הם לא שואלים שאלות...OK, I get it, but "They don't ask questions"...? Huh...???

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