CommGap International Language Services


Politically Correct?

April 5th, 2013

Importance of Being Politically Correct in Translating

In today’s global village political correctness is essential to ensure that one does not inadvertently hurt or antagonize the variety of people we interact with. When political correctness is not implemented on a personal level, it leads to socially inept usage. However, when businesses fail to be politically correct it can lead to a loss of revenue as well.

A Critical Mistake

For instance, Mango, the Spanish fashion retailer was forced to apologize for advertising “slave style” jewelry. The company had described the jewelry in French as Esclave meaning slave.

Division Created

Given Mango’s presence in the e-commerce world and the vast number of people who have been impacted by the slave trade, there were protests against the line.

The incident highlights the importance of proper translation by professionals who are aware of the political correctness of terms. A translator who is politically aware would have been able to alert Mango to the potential backlash for using a sensitive term such as slave to describe fashion jewelry.

A fabulous or sharp professional translator is more than just an expert in multiple languages. They are also aware of the culture and contexts of words used in various countries and languages and are able to advise their clients about the political correctness of various usages. Despite this, political correctness, according to some, is undermining free speech in America and did contribute to the attacks on 9-11. But in terms of translation, certain sensitivities have to be rendered, respected, and honored.

A Mango Misstep

For instance, Mango was unable to perceive the negative impact of the word slave on people who had been at the receiving end of the slave trade, whereas a politically aware translator would have been able to spot the issue and raise their concerns with Mango.

Not just Replacing a Word for a Word

A professional translator is not someone who just substitutes words from one language with words in another in a mechanical fashion, but uses their discretion to ensure that the true intent behind the words is conveyed. This is possible only when the translator is aware of the history and culture of the people using both the source and the target language.