Analysis of Advertisement Translation from the Perspective of Pragmatic Failure3
xiaoxiao 1月前 3
Analysis of Advertisement Translation from the
Perspective of Pragmatic Failure
Chapter 1 Introduction
With the rapid economic development across different regions, advertisement translation becomes popular. As a medium for marketing products, advertisement is playing an important role in our daily life. So we need to pay much attention to it. As the main function of advertisement is to realize the function of promoting products or to convince consumers of the quality of certain products or services, how to make the advertised products and services more appealing remains an important issue, especially under the context of emergence of new words and mixture of new concepts. For example, there is an English advertisement advertising a kind of orange juice: The Orangemostest Drink in the World. This advertisement was once thought to be unable to be translated into Chinese due to the temporarily-created word: orangemostest. To solve the problems in advertisement translation effectively, this paper gives detailed study and analysis of most up-to-date advertisement in order to find out translation techniques that answer the pressing calls of the ever-changing advertisement translation.
Based on Thomas’s theory of pragmatic failure, the thesis analyzes pragmalinguistic failure and sociopragmatic failure through several inappropriate practical advertisement translations. Pragmatic failures in translation include pragmalinguistic failure caused by pragmatic transfer, and sociopragmatic failure resulting from different associative meanings, values, thinking patterns and cultural vacancy between the original and target languages. Advertisement translation is a
communication between the original and target languages. So this requires that the translator should not only consider the semantic context, but also take the cultural connotations into account in the process of advertisement translation. Only in this way can the translated advertisement appeal to the consumers’ interest and reach the commercial aim.
1.2 Research Rationale and Objective
The use of language in advertisement is embedded in its own specific culture. Advertisement translation is a cross-cultural communication interaction. In order to promote the sales of the product concerned in the international market, the translator should not only adopt various strategies flexibly to translate advertisement texts, but also take the cultural connotations into consideration.
In the past, there have been some researches done on pragmatic failure, and every outcome of the specialists is significant for the next research. However, as time passes by, there have been great changes in many aspects that will certainly have impact on the theoretical outcomes, therefore, the theories of pragmatic failure have to be flexible so as to be still able to analyze the changing environment, and only on that condition can they be meaningful for our practical use. The paper will make an overview and general understanding of the important theories of pragmatic failure, and analyze the two kinds of pragmatic failure, that is, pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic failures according to Thomas, in some practical examples of advertisement translation. The study in this paper is expected to be beneficial to the translators in the process of the advertisement translation.
Chapter 2 Literature Review
2.1 Research Abroad
The expression “advertisement translation” was first addressed by Hurbin (1972) in his article Can One Translate the Language of Advertising? Hurbin put forward the possibilities of advertisement translation if the glossaries based on specific product categories were created. This notion was not surprising as 1970s was a time when functional equivalence was prevalent. Despite the fact that Hurbin’s notion was lacking in creativity in advertisement translation. He did provide the significance of investigating advertisement translation as well as insights of a possible general rule that translators use intuitively when translating advertisement. Similarly, Venuti (2000) posited that a translator’s task was to choose the most appropriate translation from a number of possible versions for any source text and that the notion of equivalence, submitted to lexical, grammatical and stylistic analysis, was established on the basis of text type and social function. In this case, creating glossaries would benefit translators when conducting advertisement translation.
With the rapid economic development across different regions, advertisement translation becomes popular since 1990s. Guidere (2008) probed into the connection between advertisement and its translation in his book Translating Advertisement. This book was published under the context that there were increasing needs of advertisement translation from one language to multiple languages to have products and services reach global customers. Through thorough analysis of international advertisements of multinational firms, Guidere pointed out that the effectiveness of the translated advertisement should be what translators aimed at. However, the evaluation of the effectiveness remains unsolved.
2.2 Research at Home
With the rapid economic growth, studies on advertisement translation in China
have become popular in recent years, especially since China’s entry into WTO. Tan Weiguo (2003), a famous Chinese linguist, in his article Translation of Rhetoric Devices in Chinese and English Advertisement Translation, considers being literal, free and flexible as three methods in advertisement translation. According to him, literal translation is still applicable to some advertisements, while others seem to pay more attention to free and flexible conducts.
Likewise, according to Zhang Meifang (2002), it is the expected purpose or function that determines translation methods and strategies. Therefore, the translated advertisement should be able to appeal to the target consumers’ interest and reach the commercial aim, which requires that the translator should consider the cultural connotations as well as the semantic context in the process of advertisement translation in order to avoid pragmatic failures.
Chapter 3 Theoretical Framework
3.1 Definition of Pragmatic Failure
Pragmatic failure used in this thesis is first discussed in linguistic works of Jenny Thomas. She gives the term “pragmatic failure” to the inability to understand “What is meant by what is said.” (Jenny Thomas, 1983: 91). By issuing the term, she exclusively refers to “the misunderstandings which arise, not from an inability on the part of the hearer to understand the intended sense/reference of the speaker’s words in the context in which they are uttered, but from an inability to recognize that this particular hearer should recognize it.”(94). That is to say, pragmatic failure does not mean that the hearer is not able to understand the meaning of the speaker’s words in the context, but that he is not able to recognize the true meaning of the speaker’s utterance, which the speaker intended that the hearer should.
In her book, Jenny Thomas set a theoretical framework for the analysis of pragmatic failure. After that, many more linguists expressed their opinions in this aspect. He Ziran, one of the famous Chinese linguists, says in his masterpiece A Survey of Pragmatics that “due to the fact that the expected perfect communication effect is not achieved, the failure made in people’s speech communication is called pragmatic failure.”(He Ziran, 1988: 226). He still mentions that the word “error” or “mistake” can not be used in place of this term, because this kind of failure does not come from the grammatical errors of language. If the speaker’s utterance is grammatically right, but on the inappropriate occasion, or does not accord with the habitual expressions of native speakers, this type of failure is taken as pragmatic failure.
3.2 Classification of Pragmatic Failure
Pragmatic failure means that the pragmatic meaning expressed by non-native
speakers is different from the one used by native speakers. According to Thomas, there are two kinds of pragmatic failure, namely pragmalinguistic failure and sociopragmatic failure. Pragmalinguistic failure is caused by pragmatic transfer, and sociopragmatic failure results from different associative meanings, values, thinking patterns and cultural vacancy between the original and target languages.
3.2.1 Pragmalinguistic Failure
Pragmalinguistic failure may arise from the mother tongue to the target language of utterances which are semantically equivalent, but, which, because of different “interpretive bias”, turn to convey a different pragmatic force in the target language. (Jenny Thomas, 1983:101). Pragmalinguistic failure is caused by pragmatic transfer, that is, by the non-native speakers for not recognizing the temporal linguistic context. Take Chinese-English communication for example, if the Chinese learners misuse some English words or expression or misunderstand the correct English words or expressions, their English expressions is tinted by their native language habitual expressions. In the following conversation, pragmalinguistic failure is found (Speaker A is a foreigner who wants to ask speaker B, a Chinese, a question.)
A: Excuse me. Is that the Great Wall Hotel? B: Yes, of course.
In English, the phrase “of course” in this context implies “the question should not have been asked”. In fact, the Chinese equivalent of the phrase is“当然啦”, just meaning “You are right. I am very sure about it.” However, in English, the utterance of speaker B seems a little harsh, gives the hearer a feeling of what he asked is a stupid question, and leads to some misunderstanding. Therefore, pragmalinguistic failure takes place.
Sociopragmatic failure occurs when the speaker’s utterance is improper, impolite or offensive because of his unconsciousness of social and cultural differences
among communicators. Sociopragmatic failure is connected to the social conditions where the language is used, and stems from cross-culturally different perceptions of what constitutes appropriate linguistic behavior. Sociopragmatic failure also has something to do with the communicator’s ability to judge how, when and why to speak. Sociopragmatic failure involves cross-cultural mistakes in the assessment of social difference, of what constitutes an imposition, of when an attempt at a “face- threatening act” should be abandoned, and cross-cultural mistakes in evaluating relative power, rights, and obligations, etc.(Jenny Thomas, 1983:104)
Owing to the failure to understand the differences between the speaker’s and hearer’s cultural background, the speaker chooses an incorrect linguistic form. Here the differences may involve the status, the discussed topic, the acquaintance level about the topic of the both sides. For example, as we know, in Chinese “谢谢” is the equivalent of “Thank you” in English. However, the usage of “Thank you” is somewhat different from “谢谢” in Chinese. “Thank you” is always used in English when the speakers are praised by others. In contrast, Chinese people usually say “过奖，过奖”or “惭愧，惭愧”to show politeness and self abasement when they are praised. It is improper to transfer it into English conversation. For instance, (Speaker B is a Chinese scholar who went to America for a visit. She was at a party when one of her friends, speaker A, praised her clothes. ) A: That’s a lovely dress you have on. B: No, no, it is just a very ordinary dress.
Speaker B responded to her friend with Chinese pragmatic habit after she was paid a compliment. However, it is a sociopragmatic failure, for the hearer may think the speaker was laughing at him for not distinguishing the good and bad clothing. Sociopragmatic failure is just the same as cross-cultural failure, for both refer to the cross-cultural breakdown caused by failing to recognize the differences between cultures, which is however always ignored by the communicators in cross-cultural communication.
Chapter 4 Analysis of Advertisement Translation from the
Perspective of Pragmatic Failure
4.1 Manifestations of Pragmatic Failure in Advertisement Translation
Advertisement translation is a special communication which mainly involves three parts: the source text (ST) of advertisement, the translator, and the translated text (TT) of advertisement. In the process of advertisement translation, the translator first communicates with the advertiser, understanding his intention and the advertisement designed by him, and then, the translator communicates with the target readers, trying to transmit the advertiser’s idea to the target readers and convince them. The proper translation of advertisement must be accurate. This, however, is not enough. In the analysis of current advertisement translation between Chinese and English, we find that inappropriate translations due to pragmatic failure make the advertising communication fail to achieve the expected effects. What is worse, this pragmatic failure may transmit a misleading, even a wrong message in the advertisement. Now we will analyze some examples of pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic failures in advertisement translation.
4.1.1 Examples of Pragmalinguitic Failure
ST: 本品可即购即食，使用方便。 TT: Opening and Eating immediately.
The original aim of this advertisement is to highlight the convenience of the food in terms of eating. However, the translation of “即” into “immediately” is a total failure resulting from the simple translation of the pragmatic meaning of Chinese word “立即” to that of the English word “immediately”. The first impression of “eating immediately” in foreigners’ mind is that if this food is not eaten at once, it will
rot soon. Even worse, it will, to some extent, damage the image of the product. Theoretically, the occurrence of this pragmalinguistic failure is due to the fact that the mechanical transference of pragmatic meaning of Chinese into English causes the different reflections in different cognitive models. According to the habitual expression of westerners’, the expression “Ready to serve” can exhibit the real pragmatic equivalence to the Chinese expression “本品可即购即食，使用方便”.
TT:Xikou Thousand-sheeted cake is homemade, by using natural foods and traditional technology. The cake tastes good, smells good and is crisp. .
The expression“Xikou Thousand-sheeted cake” from its Chinese name “溪口千层饼” is also confusing. The foreigners may tell from the translation that this cake has about one thousand layers. But that is not the fact. Here, it should be modified as “Xikou multi-sheeted cake”. This pragmalinguistic failure is mainly because of the strict transference of Chinese word to English word, and vice versa. Here we can see that if the English translation is the complete transference of Chinese word or structure to that of English, such a translation, on the one hand, cannot get the same effects among English-native speakers as that among Chinese, and on the other hand it also causes communicative breakdown. From this example, we can see that if the advertisement translation cannot cater to the westerners’ cognitive model, pragmalinguistic failure will occur.
ST: Your ideal skin. See it. Feel it. Have it. Poreless. Lineless.
Even-toned. Balanced. Smooth.
TT: 你理想的皮肤，瞧瞧它，抚摸它，占有它。 无细孔，无皱纹。
The aim of this advertisement is to emphasize the effect of this skin care product.
However, the Chinese translation above may confuse Chinese consumers. This communication is not very successful due to the pragmalinguistic failure resulting from pragmatic transfer, to be exact, from literal translation short of necessary flexibility: there is no subject in the Chinese sentence “无细孔，无皱纹”, which does not accord with the Chinese habitual expressions and which is likely to make the Chinese consumers confused about whether “无细孔，无皱纹”refers to the skin or the skin care product. By resorting to the translation method of ellipsis and supplements, we can amend this translation better by saying “你的皮肤无细孔，无皱纹”.
4.1.2 Examples of Sociopragmatic Failure
ST: KC-30D 窗式空调器1985年获得轻工业部颁发的优质产品奖。KCS-12 窗式
空调器1987年获得天津市消费者协会颁发的“月季花花环奖”。KC-20 窗式 空调器1986年获天津市优质产品奖。以上空调器，1988年被授予“用户最 喜爱产品”称号。
TT: KC-30D room air conditioner got “the quality product” prize of the Ministry of Light Industry of P.R.C. in 1985. KCS-12 room air conditioner got the Rose Cup of Tianjin Consumer Association in 1987. KC-20 room air conditioner got “the quality product” prize of Tianjin in 1986. These products were awarded the title of “The most popular product of the users” in 1988.
This translation of the advertisement names the prizes of the products one by one just as the original Chinese one, but the prizes which are paid attention by the Chinese are not important in the eyes of the westerners. Although there are no grammatical mistakes in the translation, these kinds of translated advertisements can not attract the eyes of the foreigners. In cross-cultural communication, people always measure and judge the values of the other people in different cultures with their own criteria. Failing to realize these differences while translating advertisement will cause cross- cultural pragmatic failure. Here, the translated text can be modified as:
TT: KC-30D room air conditioner, as well as KCS-12 and KC-20 air conditioners, was awarded the title of “The most popular product of the users” in 1988.
ST: 建筑仪器厂是国内首家生产建筑仪器的国营专业工厂，已有30 余年历史， 归于国家城乡建设环境保护部，隶属天津市电子仪表工业管理局。 TT: Construction Instrument Factory was the first state run enterprise to produce
construction instrument and has a history of more than 30 years. It has been one of the key enterprises under the Ministry of Town and Country Construction and Environmental Protection and Tianjin Electronics Instrument Bureau.
In Chinese advertisement, people always trust the government authority. On the contrary, in English advertisements, the quality of products stands out in the first place. Therefore, when any native speakers in English read the translation of the Chinese advertisement above, they will get confused about whether it is an advertisement or a government document. The cause of this phenomenon is the great difference between Chinese and English mode of thinking. Besides, foreigners know little about the organization of China’s government. This “faithfulness” of the original advertisement will doubtlessly result in cross-cultural pragmatic failure. So, in the translated text,“It has been one of the key enterprises under the Ministry of Town and Country Construction and Environmental Protection and Tianjin Electronics Instrument Bureau.”can be just left out.
ST: 经过几代技术人员的努力，汲取现代先进工艺之精华，该产品保持了口味纯 正、糖体晶莹的特点又增添了芬芳浓郁、咀嚼适口的感觉，令您时而不忘。 TT: It is the result of many years of intensive studies done by the technical personnel of our factory, and it is refined with modern advanced technology. This product has a glittering luster, a thick fragrance as well as a pure and delicious taste. Once you eat this sweet, you will never forget it.
This translation of advertisements is a typical example of the problem in discussion. The emphasis on science and technology is understandable in view of Chinese special situation. As a developing country, China is in bad need of the
advanced science and technology, and Chinese people are anxious to learn the advanced scientific knowledge. Therefore, people believe in science, admire science and are willing to pay for the hi-tech of the products. However, many western countries have already entered the hi-tech production era based on the intensive technology. In this case, westerners like natural goods more. As far as their psychology is concerned, if this ginseng sweet advertisement is translated directly into English according to Chinese value, it can’t catch westerners’ attention, not to speak of the persuasive force. To avoid this sociopragmatic failure, this translation can be revised like this:
TT: The natural flavor is improved by years of research with state-of-the-art technology. Our Candy preserves its glistening amber-like jelly, the natural fragrance of the virgin forest. It melts on your tongue with a lasting sweetness.
4.2 Strategies for Advertisement Translation to Avoid Pragmatic Failure
4.2.1 Adapting Word Translating to Target Linguistic Convention
Chinese and English advertisements respectively have their own unique lexical features. Chinese advertisers like to use fixed patterns, set idioms and classical Chinese poetic characters with a melody, since they have the characteristic of being brief with significant meanings. They usually have a strong sense of rhythm in the form of coordination, superposition, and parallelism. This type of “phraseology” can be seen only in Chinese expressions, while in English advertisements, commendatory words are often adopted since they can make advertising language appealing, convincing and impressive.
Now that Chinese and English advertisements each have their own lexical features, during translating practice, translators should respect these differences and try to adapt to the target language, otherwise the advertisement will fail to achieve the effect.
TT: …It is safe to use, easy to operate, efficient and quick.
In Chinese advertisement, people like to use four-character phraseology in a structure of parallelism like the example above, for it has a natural sense of rhythm and can be read easily; however, there is no such structure in English. When this four-character phraseology is translated into English in a word-by-word way, the advertisement bores foreign customers, and will not attract them.
In this example, the symmetrical structure of four characters“使用安全”, “操作简便”, “高效便捷”, is used to highlight the advantage and high quality of the product. These characters are applicable to Chinese advertisement and then satisfy the Chinese readers’ expectation. However, when they are rendered into phrases like “safe to use,” “easy to operate,” “efficient and quick”, the renderings are verbose and reduplicate, and don’t fit the linguistic features of English advertisements. The differences call for the translators to make some adaptation, so it should be better if the English translation is revised like this:
TT: …It is safe, easy and efficient.
4.2.2 Adapting Sentence Translating to Target Linguistic Convention
In English advertisement, brevity is admired and redundancy is unbearable. However, in Chinese advertisement, the function of parallel structure is highlighted greatly.
ST: Live with Focus. （Ford Focus） TT: 生活有“焦点”，才是真享受。
The two versions in the example above are different in structure, the ST is just a
simple sentence, and we find that the underlined part in the TT has no counterpart in the ST at all. If it was translated word by word without adding any interpretative information, the Chinese customers would feel confused. So this kind of adaptation is needed to help the target customers make sense of the advertisements.
In some advertisements, some proverbs or poems are quoted to strengthen the appealing power of the advertisement. If the translator imitates certain popular proverbs, the advertisement would achieve the function of attracting the target readers’ attention. Here is an example of the advertisements being translated with a target proverb or poem:
TT: Better a dinner where there Zhuyeqing Spirit is, than a stalled OX and Zhuyeqing without.
In this example, the Chinese version imitates the structure of a famous Chinese poem“宁可食无肉，不可居无竹”which expresses the virtue of being modest and upright in life. And the translated version follows an English proverb “Better a dinner of herbs where there love is, than a stalled OX and hatred there with”. In this way, the translated version may have the same effect on its English readers as the original has on its Chinese readers. This imitation makes the translation quite vivid and appealing to the target audience. So imitating a poem or a proverb can be a very effective way in advertisement translation. A good imitation will produce good effect on the advertisement. However, if we translate literally, it is difficult to transfer the beauty of the original copy, which employs the rhetoric devices of repetition and parallelism.
4.2.3 Considering Cultural Compensation
In the practice of advertising translation, sometimes, the culture-coded words in the source text may not have equivalents in the target language. When the original effect is lost in literal translation, there will be a cultural default which causes an
understanding gap in the target readers. For the purpose of minimizing the understanding difficulties caused by the cultural default, cultural compensation is to be made in the course of translation process.
Here is an advertisement of the nutritional quail eggs in Hubei Province in China.
TT: Quail eggs were named as Animal Ginseng in Compendium of Materia Medica.
In the example, 《本草纲目》is translated into English as “Compendium of Materia Medica”. To Chinese, when 《本草纲目》is mentioned, most people will immediately realize that it is an authoritative medicine book complied by Li Shizhen, a famous ancient Chinese medical master. The purpose of choosing 《本草纲目》is to emphasize the authority of the source and thus the consumers shall be persuaded to believe what the advertisement says is true. However, the English version can not achieve such a purpose, if the target language readers are not familiar with the Chinese history or culture, especially the background information of the book. Therefore, in the translation, 《本草纲目》should be explained to compensate the cultural default, and the better version will be:
TT: Quail eggs were named as Animal Ginseng in Compendium of Materia Medica,
which is universally recognized as the bible of Chinese medicine for centuries.
Chapter 5 Conclusion
Commercial advertisement is pervasive in our life. As an essential component of a commercial market, advertisement is going deeply into various parts of our lives. The intensification of international exchanges and the severe competition set a higher demand for advertisement translation. However, some advertisements may not be successful to fulfill the needs of the target consumers. These advertisements may transmit the misleading and wrong messages, and the original advertisers’ intentions can’t be fully expressed. Therefore, such advertisements fail to attract the customers to the products.
This paper tries to make a significant study of the pragmatic failure in advertisement translation between Chinese and English. By analyzing a number of examples of advertisement translation, this thesis demonstrates how Thomas and He Ziran’s theories of pragmatic failure work in cross-cultural advertisement translation. Through the analysis above, the study of pragmatic failure can not only enhance the accuracy and precision of advertisement translation but also draw the target consumers’ attention to the products. The study is also expected to be beneficial to the translators with their translating job.
Despite the efforts the author has made, this thesis has its limitations. The process of making linguistic choices involves many social, cultural and cognitive factors, and the causes of pragmatic failure are very complicated as well. This paper also can’t cover all the above-mentioned fields or the whole range of pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic factors. In spite of these limitations, the author still hopes that this paper can improve, to some extent, the effectiveness of Chinese and English advertisement translation through the analyses and studies above.
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