Les Jolies Traductrices (LJT)

How to translate beauty content successfully?

Article co-authored by Kenza Belhaddad and Floriane François

In the fascinating world of beauty translation, we’re all wondering how to capture the beauty of the texts to be translated to convey it in another language and adapt it to another culture. In fact, each word is important, and every nuance holds profound significance. As a mentor specializing in this beauty-full field, I want to share with you the indispensable strategies for translating your cosmetic content successfully. Let’s dive in!

Step 1 : Analyzing the source text

First things first! The first step is to read the source text to understand its overall meaning. If the text is very long, I advise you to identify the key sections such as the introduction, development, and conclusion, and focus on them in order to understand the overall message.

Then, you will be able to analyze the text either in digital format in a simple Word document or on paper if you prefer to annotate the text with your own hand. You can also do it quickly without writing anything down if it’s an exercise you’re used to doing and if the text is relatively short.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of elements to analyze in a beauty text:

  • The cosmetic brand: Identify the cosmetic brand for which you are translating the content, and don’t hesitate to visit its website to discover its brand identity, its values, and the image it sends to its customers.
  • The author and its intent: identify the author of the text and try to determine why, and for what purpose he/she wrote this article. Is it a scientist who wants to prove the effectiveness of a formula, a salesperson who wants to train their sales teams, an HR person who wants to train their staff, or a marketing team who wants to communicate about a new product?
  • The date and context: by knowing the date of the document, it is possible to know more about the context. Are there any trends that could have inspired this new product?
  • The genre of the text: in cosmetic translation, we may have to translate several types of documents, each of which has its own characteristics. It can be a technical text (product sheet, user manual, etc.), marketing content (blog post, social media post, etc.) or even a commercial document (sales presentation).
  • The form of speech: Recognizing the form of speech specific to the cosmetic field, whether narrative (telling a product story), descriptive (describing the characteristics), argumentative (convincing of the benefits), explanatory (detailing the components), informative (providing useful information), injunctive (encouraging purchase), expressive (emphasizing the experience), is essential.
  • The language register: depending on the target audience the brand has chosen to address, it will use a different level of language (familiar and light for teenagers, generally fluent, or even formal for some luxury brands).
  • The subject of the text: what is the text about and what cosmetic niche are we in (skincare, makeup, hair, manicure, perfumes, etc.)?
  • The main idea: if we had to remember only one thing from this text, what would it be? For example, in the case of a product description, this could be the promise of that product.
  • Arguments: For example, to support the promise of a product, there may be evidence of its effectiveness (test results, list of ingredients and benefits, etc.).
  • The conclusion: In marketing texts, you will often find a call to action. This helps to confirm the author’s intent.

Step 2: Conducting Documentary Research

Before translating, you should research the information to deepen your knowledge of the subject. An expert translator will need to spend less time on documentary research than a beginner translator. Indeed, by researching a particular field and translating texts in that field, the translator will accumulate essential knowledge. 

If you’re new to beauty translation, don’t panic! Here are some tips for your documentary research:

  • After analyzing the key elements of the source text, you should have spotted some keywords. Don’t hesitate to look up the definitions of these terms, and possibly synonyms, to make sure you understand what they mean.
  • Consider consulting general resources on the topic of the text. Today, there are a lot of blogs that explain some cosmetic concepts, as well as online encyclopedias and dictionaries. Just be sure to select your sources carefully.
  • Search for reference materials. Some documents may be quite close to the one you need to translate, so remember to keep them on hand.

On a daily basis, keep up to date with market trends, and familiarize yourself with technical terms and key ingredients.

Step 3: Conducting Terminology Research

Once again, an expert translator will save a lot of time at this stage since they will have already built up a glossary and will add to it as these translations are made.

Some translation agencies may provide a glossary with the project, but this is not always the case.

Here, there are two teams: those who prefer to pick up unfamiliar terms and find their translation BEFORE translating, and those who prefer to do their research DURING the translation. No matter which method you choose, what matters in the end is the quality of your translation. You need to be accurate while translating technical terms related to ingredients, product properties, and application methods.

For terminology research, one of the most useful tools I can recommend is INCI, which stands for International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients. This website will give you access to the list of ingredients that you can find in a product, including those that you will need to translate. You will find the accurate translation of the ingredient’s technical terms.

Step 4: Translating

That’s not all, but our job is first and foremost to translate!

So, you can now open your project in your CAT software, and translate it, making sure to transcribe the style of the source text, respect the usage of the target language and respect the client’s style guide.

Rely on translation processes, such as modulation for example. This process involves changing the point of view when translating from one language to another. Or transposition, which is a change in grammatical category when a word is translated from one language to another.

Don’t forget to consider cultural differences to ensure that the message is understandable and appealing to the target audience. Puns and linguistic nuances can be difficult to translate, but they are often essential in the cosmetic field. Find relevant equivalents in the target language.

Step 5: Carrying Out Quality Control

Before delivering your work, it is imperative to carry out a quality control.

To do this, you need to run the spellchecker and the QA Checker in your CAT software, but proofreading the target text with a clear mind is also recommended.

You can perform proofreading in two steps:

  • Bilingual proofreading to compare the source text and the target text to verify that no information has been forgotten and that the meaning has been correctly rendered.
  • Unilingual proofreading to focus on the grammatical spelling and typographical errors that remain in the target text.

In a nutshell, it all starts with a good understanding of the original text, including the key ideas. Next, a documentary search must be carried out to ensure that the translation is relevant. You also have to be super precise with the terminology, while creating a detailed glossary to keep the message authentic. Translation itself is a delicate exercise that requires creativity and linguistic precision, as well as a good understanding of cultural differences. Finally, the quality is rigorously verified to ensure that the translation crosses linguistic boundaries and offers a great experience to readers in the world of beauty. By following this method with seriousness and professionalism, your cosmetic translation will appeal to a wide international audience!

Want to go further? By joining the LJT Academy, you’ll learn about key concepts and terminology in the sector, as well as gaining access to and collaborating on our collaborative glossary! Click here for more information.

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