As you probably all know by now, the first gaff of the Olympics has already taken place and it’s not even officially started yet. The problem occurred when the South Korean flag was shown next to images of the North Korean womens football team at Hampden Park.

So offended by this were the North Korean team that they left the pitch for an hour and only returned when the screens were corrected to show the proper flag.

This is the second language issue, we know of, to effect the games. First Capital Connect has already been caught in the “lost in translation” trap. When a security poster they’d had translated into Arabic, was branded ‘gibberish’.

If your business uses the wrong cultural references what happens?

The reaction of the North Korean team was a very visible protest at the cultural slight of showing the wrong flag. But if you offend someone in your marketing by using the wrong cultural references what do you think they do? Very few will complain or protest, most will just move to the next company who have done everything right. Meaning you may just have lost out on a huge contract, you never even got a sniff of.

Getting culture correct

Culture is much more than just language, using the right images (and flags!) should also be part of the localisation you carry out on anything you are considering having translated. We can help you to do this; our translators are all in country so they can check over your completed brochures, adverts, websites etc and ensure that not only is the language correct but that the cultural references are ok as well.

Should flags be used to show which language is being used?

Using flags to denote language selection on a translated website is a bad idea. Lots of languages are not country exclusive. As an example, which flag would best show that a site is in English? The Union Jack or the Stars and Stripes? The same issue arises for other languages, if you have your website translated into Arabic, what flag should you use? There are so many Arab speaking countries that no flag covers them all.

The solution to this is to write the language selection in the actual language of the translation, sounds simple but so many people miss it.