The translation of skincare & makeup products : strategies applied in Mainland China & Taiwan
Chua, Qiao Han
Date of Issue2017
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
With globalisation and the increased use of technology, many companies have created their own websites to reach out to consumers. This is evident in the skincare and makeup industry, which is highly competitive as products offerings by different brands are similar and consumers can choose from a wide selection. Therefore, websites will help these brands to market their products to more consumers. However, expansion to other countries or regions may require changes to be made to their websites in order to cater to the local market. Translation becomes a major issue for these companies when the region of expansion is very different from their home countries, in terms of language and culture. Abundant research has been done on brand name translation, but given that retail brands have numerous product offerings and product names often serve as the first source of information for consumers, the translation of product names is also very crucial. English to Chinese translation of product names is especially challenging due to the fundamental differences in the two languages. Language is not the only difficulty in translation, culture is another dimension that has to be considered. The selection of Mainland China and Taiwan as the two regions of interest will highlight the language and cultural issues in translation. The focus of this paper is on the translation strategies used in product name translation on the Mainland China and Taiwan websites of international skincare and makeup brands, with the aim of providing practical guidance to brands contemplating online expansion into these two regions. A content analysis of product name translations from the Mainland China and Taiwan websites of ten skincare and makeup brands revealed that the translations strategies used for both regions are similar. Semantic translation that conveys the exact meaning of the original is a strategy that is not favoured by majority of the brands. Instead, addition and omission strategies are employed to make changes to the meaning expressed in the translated product names. However, most of the additions or omissions are made to the product functions, rather than the product type. This suggests that it is important to retain the original product type in the translated product names, whereas product functions can be edited according to market preferences. A comparison of corresponding translations on the Mainland China and Taiwan websites also shows that different translations are used in most instances, which is an indication that localisation plays a salient role in product name translation. These findings provide insights into the translation strategies and translations of successful skincare and makeup brands. Thus, brands considering product name translation for the Mainland China and Taiwan markets can use the findings in this paper as a reference or starting point to decide on their translation strategies.