Translators’ forums are filled with highly amusing menu translations from restaurants around the world. While linguists may find these funny, restaurant owners should not. In fact, menu translation often is an essential part of a restaurant’s success, needs to communicate many messages and should be handled with care and attention.
The menu, including in translation, is a key element in a restaurant’s image. First, customers judge a restaurant not only on the merits of its food but also its dressings. Restaurant owners thus invest incredible amount of capital in plates, silverware, glasses, tables, chairs, wall coverings and menu design. They sometimes forget the fact, especially in non-English speaking countries, the translation is the only menu seen by many diners. Given the impact of tourist spending in the restaurant trade, a proper translation creates a good impression while spelling and vocabulary errors lead to, at minimum, laughing. Some potential diners may not enter a restaurant if the menu in their language is laughable. Since the investment in translation is essentially a fixed cost that can be spread over many years even taking into account occasional updates, proper translation is a worthwhile and cost-effective investment for restaurant owners.
Proper translation involves the weighed choice of vocabulary and clean text as well as application of marketing language. Choosing the correct word for an ingredient or type of sauce involves understanding whether an equivalent term exists in the target language and if the foreign term will be understood to the average customer that would dine in that restaurant. An example is with gravy or au jus. The translator needs to choose the word that most of the diners will understood while projecting the desired image. Of course, thorough QA is required to eliminate all obvious errors of spelling and grammar, including homonyms (e.g., sea and see) in order to render the menu a guide to the food, not a source of amusement. Finally, the language chosen should be specific and enticing enough to cause the diner to want to order the dish. For, example, grilled marinated chicken accompanied by spiced rice sounds much more tempting than chicken with rice. Menu translation is the elegant dance between earth and sky.
Restaurateurs should seek a translator that has the required subject knowledge, ability to produce marketing language and communication skills. Clearly, the ideal translator must be thoroughly familiar with both the names of ingredients and dishes in the target language. Applying that knowledge, the linguist needs to create descriptions in line with the restaurant image and customers, going beyond merely statements of the dish and feeding the desire to order it. In many cases, it may be necessary to communicate with the chef or restaurant manager to add or confirm details, which entails dialogue on both sides. In any case, restaurant owners should hire only translators with the proper set of skills working in their native language even if they are more expensive as menu translation is far from simple. Google translate is not an effective solution, however tempting it may appear.
The dining experience ideally is about the food and company. The goal of all restaurant owners is for the customer to leave with the memory of the meal and the desire to return. A poor translation of a menu spoils that effect by making the menu memorable not because of its culinary content but its linguistic issues. This situation is easily avoidable by simple paying for a professional translation. Restaurant owners should remember that he who laughs last does not necessarily laugh best.
* Place picture captions to help the blind accesss the Internet.
Picture credit:Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/prawny-162579/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1206941">Prawny</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1206941">Pixabay</a>