Lost in Translation

Lost in TranslationTranslated word-for-word, the French phrase “Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué” means “Don’t sell the bearskin before killing the bear.” But as this isn’t a common phrase in the U.S., Tongue Tied (Manchester) Ltd. notes that it is often translated as “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” Drastically different words, same meaning.  

My son recently studied abroad in Montpellier, France. For six months he spoke nothing but French. I asked him to translate the phrase and was surprised when he replied with the “counting chickens” version. This got me thinking about how, in client/agency communication, what is said is often “translated” into something completely different after it goes through our perceptive filters. And because of this, agencies and clients have to work especially hard to avoid misunderstandings. 

PRSA-SV President Dave McCoullough posted a great blog from the client’s perspective on the top ten reasons agency/client relationships fail. I can’t wait to read his next installment from the agency perspective. I bet “lack of communication” tops the list.

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