Now a days the moment you turn on your TV, you are bound to see commercial advertisements running all the day. Some are crisp and catchy. Some run for minutes, leaving the viewer confused on what they are trying to tell ! The main reason behind such confusing advertisements is that they are culturally alien to the vernacular viewers.
The concept, the actors, the scene, the way they speak the language… every thing is alien to the target viewers. I am taking Tamil Nadu audience as a sample audience for our discussion.But my observations are applicable to all regional language consumers equally. Imagine a foreigner appearing with his family members, speaking in their language (later dubbed into Tamil through a soft-ware) promoting sale of Kanchipuram saree in Tamil Nadu ! That’s the way the commercial advertisements are aired in TV and print media now.
In fact, 95% of Tamil commercial advertisements released in TV and print media does not reach the target audience as aimed. That means the message intended is not understood by the viewers, the way its intended to be understood. Crores of money spent on those advertisements goes down the drains as its purpose is not achieved. Main reason -the horrible word- to- word translation done by some American soft- ware perhaps compiled by a Chinese engineer !
The software does not know Tamil usage, culture or how Tamil is spoken by the native speakers.’ Translator is a traitor’ so says a popular Italian saying. Every language has its own charm. Tamil, being an old classical language, has its own rules of speech, the software can never understand. Word- to -word translation by software ,renders absurd meanings. For example,”Ladies and Gentlemen” used in the beginning of a public speech in English, if translated by soft -ware will be” Pengalum, Ghanavankalum “ in Tamil which is not the way Tamil meetings begin.” Periyorale, Thaimargale”( Elders and mothers) is the accepted usage and the software translation is considered offensive and is bound to trigger a burst of laughter !.
The ‘ Push’ sign on the doors is translated as “ Thallu” which is considered as very rude .”Thallavum” is the right translation. Tamil sentences do not begin with verbs. For example ‘ Clean India’, is not ‘Thooymaiakku Indiavai’ but’ Indiavay Thooymaiyakkungal’. So this reverse translation found in advertisements sounds odd and offensive to local speakers. Sometimes some advertisements sound quite funny as well. Discovery Channel has a program entitled’ Man vs Wild’which they have ‘beautifully’ translated into Tamil as’ Man versus Wild ‘in Tamil letters! SBI in their Tamil advertisements has translated the slogan’ Banker to the Nation’ as ‘Indian vovvaruvarin Vangi’ The more appropriate translation would be ‘Naatin ore Desiya Vangi’ and that’s how it can be put in Tamil.
Ultimately the aim of any advertisement agency should be to enter the mind and heart of the viewer,steal his attention and convey their message stealthily.’Kinley’ water commercial did it and stays in every ones heart .They should not offend local sensibilities and irritate them. The latest Cadburys advertisement in Tamil is, probably the worst.
‘Sappidu Meimaranthupoyidu’ sounds so rude, the target group would decide to stop buying it after watching the advertisement!.’Sappittuparunga,Mei maranthu poyiduveenga !’is the way a Tamilian would understand it and like. Moreover, the tone and voice and rendering of the slogans in these advertisements, clearly reveal the fact that the speakers do not have native tongues. The advertisement companies may choose local people for convenience and they may not be aware of this fact for want of feed back.All commercial advertisements in India seem to be conceived in English or Hindi ,shot with some locally available cast and costumes and just dubbed through software into regional languages. So easy for them,but local audience would definitely prefer a Rajinikanth to someone unknown, to promote a product !
The best advertisement that can penetrate regional audience should be culture specific and with a proper manual translation. Let not the money you spend on advertisements go down the drains.. Let your message reach your target audience and reap the results. Be sensitive and considerate towards your target audience. After all if your advertisement does not reach them, dear advertisement agencies, you are the losers and not them
!Remember India has a whopping 100 crore population speaking regional languages and you wouldn’t surely like to lose such a wide market !
By: A.Sreenivasa Sundar
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