Translation Case Study: Beverage List (English to Chinese)

Nina - Principle Translator Translation

Translators often encounter unique terms and phases which require additional research and study. The process could be interesting and sometimes challenging. Our main goal is delivering faithful, accurate, and professional translation, and we would like to share some of our experiences with everyone.

One of Lux Studio’s returning customers is an international restaurant chain. Recently, we were requested to perform a translation service for their beverage list. One of the drinks on the menu was “Hakutake Shiro soju (white label)“. All the letters were in English but the sound of the words clearly indicated that it’s a type of Japanese alcohol. Our English to Chinese translator had to spend a little bit more effort in decoding the brand name and the product, and a few extra steps were involved.

According to an official Japanese to Chinese dictionary, the translation would be 高桥四朗烧酒 (白标). However when applying so-called common sense in reviewing this translation, it is obvious that something is wrong.  高桥 would be a Japanese surname, and perhaps the name of the company, but 四郎 literally means “the fourth son in the family”. If you were the manufacturer of a global brand, would this be an attractive name for your flagship product?

A quick Google search result on Hakutake Shiro guided us to the official company page, <http://www.hakutake.co.jp/company_eng/>.

 

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Browsing through the product pages and we have located the photo of the beverage we are interested in.

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Clicking on the “Japanese” hyperlink and we are now in the official Japanese home page: <http://www.hakutake.co.jp/index.html>.

 

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We then click on the “Chinese (Simplified)” link which looks like”中文 (简体)”: <http://www.hakutake.co.jp/ch/>.

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We then go through the range of products and find the exact beverage we are interested in. And yes! Now we have the official manufacturer preferred name, “高桥酒造米烧酒 (白)”.

<http://www.hakutake.co.jp/ch/products/shiro.html>

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Just to be trip sure we went to the Japanese site again and confirmed the original Japanese name.

 

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We then went to a few popular online forums and major beverage exhibition website to complete our search. We noticed that on many occasions, “本格米” was used instead of  just “米” which means rice. It was also found that, often in Chinese culture,  the Japanese version of the Kanji, or Chinese characters, are used in Chinese publications when describing local Japanese terms. For example, “Teriyaki” means cooked with a glaze of soy sauce, which in Chinese, it is “红烧”, but almost in all Chinese restaurants, it is labeled as “照烧” where 照烧 is the original Japanese Kanji characters. So in our case, taking this cultural element into consideration, our final version of the translation delivered to the customer was “高桥酒造本格米烧酒 (白标)”.

This is just one of the many examples of Lux Studio taking pride in our service, and ensuring that every fine detail is taken care of. Our customers value and respect it, and many have come back for our quality and professional services. Share with us your insights and experiences with translation—we would love to hear from you!