Translation in the field of fashion and beauty: not as easy as it seems

It is unlikely that anyone considers the translation english to bangla of texts about cosmetics, fashion, style something extremely difficult. They will not be singled out as a separate type of translation, like technical or medical texts. Many will say: easy! And then people often have to read books and articles written as if they were translated by a person who has no idea at all what it is and how it is used. Let’s try to understand the main difficulties of such texts.

Each area has its own “terms”
Many modern concepts from the field of beauty, fashion, style cannot be found in dictionaries. Or you will find, but in a different meaning. Moreover, the right word can be used today by thousands of people, but it is not reflected in the dictionaries. This adds a headache for translators who are not familiar with the subject.

The word sponge in many cases can be translated as “sponge”, but when it comes to the sphere of beauty, the simple transcription “sponge” has settled. The reality is that there is a lot of borrowing in this area. Tint, shimmer, highlighter, concealer, kayal… Most often these are anglicisms.

Sometimes borrowing is redundant. In recent years, the word “primer” has become increasingly common, although we already know this product under the name “make-up base”. But more often than not, new words appear to denote a new type of product, a new technique, a new style. Kayal is not just a pencil, but a soft pencil that is suitable for drawing on mucous membranes. Concealer is not a complete synonym for the word “corrector”, because the concealer is designed specifically for the area under the eyes.

“Terminology” is subject to change. So, when plump egg-shaped (less often curly) makeup sponges appeared in the Russian-speaking space, at first they were simply called “make-up sponge”, “make-up sponge” – along with other sponges. And in recent years, the name “beauty blender” has stuck to sponges of this form. This is the name of the sponge not only of the original brand Beautyblender, but also analogues of other companies.

Since these borrowings are not yet fixed in our dictionaries, there are no uniform rules for their spelling. There are discrepancies: kayal, kayal and kayal, beauty blender, beauty blender and beauty blender. Here, the translator can either use the existing knowledge about the traditions of transcription and transliteration, or use search engines to determine the most common option (by exact match, in quotation marks) and use it.

The most correct translation is the one that takes into account the diversity of concepts. Body butter is incorrectly translated simply as “body butter”, because such a formulation is used for liquid oils (oil), and most readers will imagine a liquid substance. Body butter is an oil-based body cream with a thick consistency. We sometimes have such products under the names “solid butter”, “thick butter”, “cream butter”, but more often they are called “body butter” or “cream butter” (less often “butter butter”). Therefore, why bother with long descriptive constructions that will only confuse readers if there are funds on the shelves of stores on which “butter” is written in Russian letters? In this example, you can write “butter (solid butter)”.

There are translators who do not like new anglicisms, even if they are more common than their Russian counterparts. This is where personal aesthetic preference comes into play. You need to remember who the texts you are translating are addressed to. Articles and books about fashion and beauty, as a rule, absorb those who are already in the subject, oriented in terms. Secondly, they are addressed to consumers of these goods – current or potential. That is, those who know how such products are called on sale or will look for them. Therefore, it is logical to use more common translation options.

check yourself
A female translator may have a false feeling that she is not an ignoramus in this topic, and if she does not know something, then most women do not know it (and vice versa). But it is better not to rely on your vision, but to check yourself.

Suppose the source comes across the word espadrilles, and it seems to the translator that “we don’t have such a word”, so we need to describe what it is. But if you type the word “espadrilles” into the search engine, it turns out that many articles containing this word have already been written in Russian, it is under this name that these shoes are sold in online stores, and people are looking for this type of footwear exactly as “espadrilles”.

If you need to check whether a certain word/phrase is used in principle, we drive it into Google and Yandex. If you need to find out how best to translate a word that is not in dictionaries, we ask in large thematic communities dedicated to fashion or beauty.

50 shades of translation
Separately, I want to say about the translation of shades of color. In makeup and clothing, the nuances of color are very important. And even more so in the text on color types. This is a world where there is a difference between milky, vanilla and eggshell color. Therefore, these nuances must also be reflected in the translation, and not just “approximately” designate the color with words known to the broadest masses.

Let’s say the word teal is first encountered in the text, and the translator, without really delving into it, translates it simply as “turquoise”. Then he comes across the word turquoise – and he also translates it as “turquoise”. As if the author accidentally used two different designations. If everything is simple with turquoise and in dictionaries it is precisely “turquoise” (since it also means turquoise stone), then teal is much less common in dictionaries. In the Oxford Dictionary we read: dark greenish-blue colour. Since turquoise is described as greenish-blue color in the same Oxford Dictionary, we have the right to call teal dark turquoise. Or translate literally: dark greenish blue.

So, when translating shades of color, you need to use authoritative sources – dictionaries, encyclopedias, domestic and foreign languages.

There is no need to be afraid of words like “carmine”, “tomato”, “camel hair color (camel)” and replace them with your transcripts – these are well-established names in color.

And it is highly discouraged to describe your personal feelings about color instead of looking for an adequate translation. So, in the translated book “Color and Style” (by the way, the work of the authors Veronica Henderson and Pat Henshaw, who are very authoritative in the topic of color types), there are such unexpected translation options:

rose beige (pink-beige) – “beige”
rose brown (pink brown) – “light chocolate”
mint (mint) – “gray-blue” (and these are not all blunders!).

Nothing else than the translator’s own fantasies can explain this.