The article Website Translation and Destination Image Marketing: A Case Study of Reunion Island was recently brought to my attention by a friend. This study, first published in December 2013 by Jean-Pierre Tang-Taye (IAE University of Reunion) and Craig Standing (Edith Cowan University), was also published in 2016 in the Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research: pp. 611-633).
It compares representations of Reunion Island’s image as a tourist destination on the internet using French and English versions of websites to investigate the issues surrounding language translation. Although many of Reunion’s tourists come from mainland France (≈75-80%), as well as French-speaking Belgium and Switzerland, the island has been attempting to diversify and enlarge its market share by targeting clients from other countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. This means making information about the island available in languages other than French, with English being the main, but not only, linguistic vehicle.
The study’s main goal was to flag potential divergences between English and French versions that could lead, previsit, to an unintentional distortion of the destination image for foreign customers. The authors looked at websites developed by local tourism industry suppliers in French and subsequently translated into English. The sample of 109 websites was selected through a search in March 2011 of website links using keywords associated with Reunion Island, tourism, and vacation and with Google as the search engine. Websites using an English version translated using Google Translate were excluded, as were those that were not exclusively tourism-related, nor showing Reunion Island as the main tourism destination, or for which the English version was not available, leaving a section of only 17 sites.
Bearing in mind that issues related to website quality impact negatively on consumers’ decision making, to my mind some of the most interesting points of this study are as follows:
- A significant number of words were used literally in French and not translated at all (e.g. île, vacances).
- Crucial tourism words for the volcanic, mountainous, and multicultural Reunion Island such as scenery, indigenous, beach, cuisine, gite, and lava appear in the French versions but do not appear at all in the English version, although it could be expected that these features would be highlighted on a tourism website.
- Reunion’s overall image may be seen as different depending on the language used, meaning the destination image for the island is marketed differently according to the language. (The study authors excluded the idea that these different images might be intentional marketing due to translation errors such as “Reunion” translated as “meeting” and “lentils” translated as “lenses”).
- Of 17 websites analysed, only 2 of them gave a consistent image to site visitors, so the image of Reunion Island is very different between language versions.
- Although the websites studied were retrieved from the top list of tourism websites providing information on Reunion as a destination, language translation was of very poor quality.
- The study demonstrated a failure to implement effective and consistent destination marketing by tourism organisations, resulting in confusion for the consumer.
- The importance and difficulty of translation were highlighted, and this showed that translation is not always a straightforward matter. The study put translation back in focus by considering it not only as a technical issue but also a marketing and strategic issue.
- A translation, even if it is excellent, will not always guarantee a positive impact on marketing. An efficient multilingual website does not necessarily imply a successful website but it is a necessary condition for one.
- In Reunion managers of tourism-related organisations do not seem to have been monitoring and evaluating their websites efficiently. The study authors propose to include translation as a component of tourism website quality evaluation.
- Reunion Island tourism stakeholders failed to implement effective destination island marketing.
- Former colonies such as Reunion have trouble enlarging their cultural background and inherited language (French in this case) to a much bigger English-speaking market.
Admittedly the study did not differentiate between private and public actors, or take into account the size of the companies involved or the financial investment dedicated to their websites and translation. It was also based on sites in 2011 and it can be argued that the situation is better today. But from a purely anecdotal point of view a quick glance at my round-up of translation fails in Reunion Island, many of them from current tourism industry websites, begs to differ.
All in all, there is still a long way to go before an acceptable level of translation is achieved for Reunion Island tourism websites, and a similar image is provided irrespective of what language is used.
P.S. All photos are from the UNESCO World Heritage photo gallery of the Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island.
As I was away in Australia (attending the FIT congress) for part of July and August, I’m doing a combined round-up of interesting stories about language and translation that you may have missed over the past two months, especially if you’ve also been away travelling.
- Talking of Australia, what is the real story behind some of those Australian slang terms like ‘grommies’ ‘tea bags’ and ‘esky-lidders’?
‘Budgie smugglers’ have become synonymous with speedo-style swimwear (Credit: Stuart Westmorland/Getty Images)
You Say Melon, I Say Lemon: translator Deborah Smith as a brilliant sous chef who attempted to recreate the original chef’s recipe abroad with ingredients not found in her country.
John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence (via Wikimedia Commons)
The plaque shows the lyrics of Galway Bay and three translations into Irish, Latin, and French
Photo of a page of « Jambonlaissé » (Davina Sammarcelli)
June 9th saw the announcement of the results of Bab.la’s 2017 Language Lovers competition, and I was delighted to come 2nd * in the Twitter category! (Full results here). What else has been happening in the world of language and translation during the month of June?
What country is this, and where does its name come from?
A cuckoo, from whence the etymology of cuckold
Bugles were originally made from the horns of oxen
Recep Tayyip Erdogan takes a new step in his campaign against foreign influences
On a final note you might like to check out my latest podcast for English language learners, which is on a rather unusual subject (there are video and audio versions).
* Another milestone this month was the fact my Facebook page reached 1000 followers!
The major translation-related news this month has of course been that during its 71st session on 24 May 2017 the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 288 recognising “The role of professional translation in connecting nations and fostering peace, understanding and development“. Without further ado, here’s your May round-up of popular articles about translation and language.
- Is the translation sector “undergoing a wrenching change that will make life hard for the timid”? asks Lane Greene in The Economist article Why translators have the blues.
- In the Financial Times, prizewinning translator Deborah Smith writes about the pleasures and pitfalls of literary translation.
A copy of La Tour’s ‘Saint Jerome Reading’ (c1636), depicting the priest known for translating the Bible into Latin. © Getty
“Gift” means “poison” in German. This may lead to confusion.
- Squint and cross-eyed: as a former childhood squinter I found this article about the differences between UK & US English usage of these terms interesting.
- Also on the subject of US English, Susie Dent explored the history of how Americanisms have entered British English on this BBC Radio 4 programme, and a Mental Floss video looks at how British and American spelling parted ways.
- How Noah Webster, author of An American Dictionary of the English Language, invented the word ‘immigration’.
On a final note, don’t forget to vote for your favourite language-related blogs, Facebook pages, Youtube channels and Twitter accounts in Bab.la’s annual Top 100 Language Lovers competition. I’ve been nominated in the Twitter category for the 5th year running. You only have until June 6th to vote (which you can do by clicking the red logo at the top right of the page)!
The 3 Phases of the Top 100 Language Lovers 2017 Competition: Nominations, Voting, Results
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Easter fell during the month of April this year and I found out that the Hungarian word for the holiday is húsvét, which literally means ‘meat-taking’ (with reference to the end of Lent). Anyway here’s your April round-up of popular articles about language, interpreting, and translation.
Translation platforms cannot replace humans
Three little letters, 645 meanings.
The term double-headed has sometimes been part of the lexicon of duplicity, much like double-hearted.
- There’s still a week before the second round of the French presidential election, which will be followed by the country’s legislative elections on June 11th and 18th. If you’re not fluent in French, here’s a handy guide to some terms used in the elections.
How do you say ‘fake news’ in French?
Did you know that the Finnish word for March, maaliskuu, is believed to come from the word maallinen in the sense of “earthly”, because snow begins to melt and first spots of bare earth can be seen? Anyway here’s your March round-up of popular articles about translation and language.
In 2006 Alitalia listed $39.00 for a business class fare from Toronto to Cyprus instead of the usual $3,900. Estimated cost to the carrier: $7.7m.
Now you can say ‘mansplaining’ in 35 languages
Does the available vocabulary for sex leave something to be desired?
Would you use these solicitors?
Humour en français :
- Quand quelqu’un ne connaît pas un métier cela donne lieu à des demandes totalement insolites (ici des demandes faites à des agences web).
Here, in ascending order, are the 10 most popular* tweets about translation and language that I shared during 2016 on my @Smart_Translate Twitter account:
Example of an unpronounceable word; ‘unpronounceable’ is the opposite of its meaning
Is ‘languid’ a word that describes itself? [Lady Lilith, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti]
Some of the 250 translations into different language of “Le Petit Prince”
Do you have a favourite article published in 2016 you’d like to share? Don’t hesitate to leave it in the comments below.
* ‘most popular’ = most clicked on, according to Hootsuite.
November 2nd-5th saw ATA‘s 57th Annual Conference held in San Francisco, and colleagues Paula Arturo and Claire Cox have both blogged about it. The list of future ATA conference sites and dates is here. Anyway here’s your November round-up of popular articles about language and translation.
Simon explains how to get clients to come to you
“It looks, especially if you speak British English, as if Clinton was making a claim about the sanity level of Jeremy Corbyn”
The Norwegian Mr Bump.
- Finally a quiz: Do you know these 25 Scottish words and phrases?
October 9th was world Hangeul Day. Do you know anything about Korea’s alphabet, which – because it was deliberately invented – is sometimes called the most scientific writing system in the world? Anyway, here’s your October round-up of popular articles about language and translation.
Donald Trump has been criticised for his lewd remarks about women
Der ‘Oldtimer’ is a German word for a classic or vintage car (Credit: Alamy)
Stradbroke Island in Queensland, Australia, faces a campaign to refer to it only by its Indigenous Australian name, Minjerribah. Photograph: naphakm/Getty Images
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was made famous in the 1964 film Mary Poppins
- Can you guess the language in this short quiz, using your knowledge of alphabets, language associations, and some educated guessing?
Here’s your round-up of popular articles about translation and language for the month of September.
- Errors can change a life when it comes to legal translation.
- People have been told to use a new name for the country previously referred to as the Czech Republic: ‘Czechia’ in English, Tchequie in French and Tschechien in German. All are translations of Cesko in Czech.
Bridges span the River Vltava in Prague, the capital city of Czechia (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Being ill: office job vs freelancing
Fixed gear bikes are very popular with hipsters
Poster for International Translation Day 2016