Are You Having A Laugh? The Challenge Of Translating Humour For Copywriters

Is humour best avoided when you're writing for a worldwide audience? There are hazards, but the most skilled copywriters and transcreators can still raise a global laugh.
Are You Having A Laugh? The Challenge Of Translating Humour For Copywriters
Photo by Antonino Visalli / Unsplash
In: Transcreation

We all know the art of writing excellent copy is to capture attention, and one of the most effective ways to engage with your reader is to use humour. After all, a laugh goes a long way in making you and your business relatable, likeable and trustworthy.

But there's one glaring deterrent to littering your copy with gags: will the joke travel well?

A world of pun

Humour is subjective at best, but you can open a Pandora's box of pitfalls when translating jokes into other languages. What is hilarious in one language can be meaningless or even offensive in another.

Sure, some humour is universal, but when even American jokes fall flat on British ears, and vice versa, adding in the intricacies of different languages gets complicated. Tied as it often is to some hyper-specific cultural or linguistic context, it's no surprise that humour can easily get lost in translation.

English phrases that have different meanings in other countries - QI

Just wait until you hear what โ€˜12 monthsโ€™ sounds like in Estonian ๐Ÿ˜ณ

Posted by BBC Comedy on Friday, January 21, 2022

Roll up for the LOLs

From wordplay to puns and irony to inflexion, there's plenty of risk of falling flat. However, it doesn't mean you should always hold back and pull the punchline. Challenges exist, but humour can transcend languages and cultural references correctly.

Budweiser's 'Wassup' campaign became a global cultural phenomenon with its story of a group of buds enjoying their Buds. Of course, all that ad needed was a single slang word in one language to resonate across cultural barriers. But it does provide a glimmer of hope that cross-market giggles are possible, especially when the copy is kept simple and short.

Budweiser Wassup Campaign -

Translation vs Transcreation

But one word isn't always enough. And in that case, the best way to avoid stumbling blocks is to transcreate your copy. Arguably the Rolls Royce of translation services, transcreation cleverly adapts text from one language to another, keeping every element of the desired nuance, style, tone and intention of the original and fitting it perfectly within its new context.

Highly skilled transcreators are flexible and inventive enough to use their expertise to craft a joke into a localised version that will keep its spirit intact.

Imagine, for example, the myriad ways it's possible to take the English pun of "I'm friends with 25 letters of the alphabet, I don't know y," and transcreate it worldwide. It's an actual art form that keeps the comedy in play by considering cultural differences, sentence structures and word choice. Collaborating closely with transcreators, you can tweak jokes to elicit the same audience response, from Tahiti to Timbuktu.

So, while there are undoubted challenges in this field, with enough preparation, some caution and plenty of hard work, there's no reason translation has to be a roadblock to humour in copy.

Everybody loves to laugh; our job as copywriters and transcreators is to find the funny wherever the joke lands. The power of laughter bridges gaps eases tensions and humanises brands. Embrace it, adapt it and let your words resonate universally.

Ready to harness humour for your global audience? Let's chat.

More from Bwritr Sarl
Great! Youโ€™ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to Bwritr Sarl.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.