Translation Industry News | 05.11.2009

Extreme localisation

First there were extreme sports, now it seems that extreme localisation is pouring over into the world of translation. We are referring to the story reported last week that Spar, the food retail giant, have decided to pilot a scheme in which local slang is being used on the descriptive labels of certain bottles of their own branded wine, instead of the recognized wine terminology. Apparently, the “translated” labels can be found on bottles for sale in Scotland, Newcastle, Liverpool and the Black Country. In Scotland the label is said to read: “A totally sotatin bevy. It’s bricht an’foo o’ flavur, wi plum, curranty fruit, mackin it taste awffy braw. A youngane’s colour wi cherries an black fruit on the nose, it has a laldy kick tae it, tha runs fae the front tae the back ac’yer mooth.” The Black Country’s version was: “Ayup, this mint bokkle of Merlot is grait ter goo with yoewer bostin fittle. Full bodoid an fruity with a hint of a bag of suck, the whiffs of rasberroys an straberroys collide in yaw chops. Bloomin aida, its red fruits aw a bit of a suproise, boot this saft wine is a bostin choice! Go on – gie it a goo!”

Some might say that the localised descriptions are rather incomprehensible, even to speakers of the local dialect in question; some may call it a light-hearted marketing experiment; others may even call it condescending – but what cannot be denied is that this somewhat unique approach has certainly drawn attention to the wine industry and has also highlighted the fact that local dialects are still a salient feature of any community. Whichever side of the fence people sit on, reactions have been strong.

Spar have a turnover in excess of £2.7 billion in the UK alone and employ more than 50,000 people, which means that any such marketing decisions are not taken lightly. They also have a strong local bias whereby locally produced goods are stocked in many of their outlets and their Living Local project assesses the “positive impact of local sourcing and better collaboration between the community and its businesses.” Perhaps their new wine labels stemmed from their focus on community spirit.

Whether this suits everybody’s palate remains to be seen, but it has certainly been a talking point, which at the end of the day, is what language is all about.

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