On Multilingual Translation It’s America the Beautiful…and the Ugly
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On Multilingual Translation It’s America the Beautiful…and the Ugly

I don’t know of a translation industry professional who doesn’t love when global brands show off their multilingual commitment. So HURRAH to the Coca-Cola marketing team for using Monday night’s Super Bowl show to highlight the linguistic diversity of the United States.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the ad in all its many-languages-one-country glory:

It’s got all the best elements, right? A song, America the Beautiful, which can stand alone with its strong imagery. A diverse cast of young and old, thick and thin, male and female, and families of all kinds. And the broad spectrum of location shots that take us from the expansive mountain forest to the indoor bowling alley.

And then the languages. The Coca-Cola ad features 7 languages: English, Spanish, Hindi, Keres, Tagalog, Senegalese French and Hebrew.

Seriously, what’s not to like?

(Yeah, I’m naive like that every now and again.)

Surprisingly, or at least to us language lovers, there was a backlash among some elements of U.S. society. No, not from those who are opposed to the beverage industry’s effect on the American waistline. (Hm. Maybe America’s diversity isn’t completely represented in this ad!) Instead the backlash came from those who proclaimed that the U.S. has only one language that matters.

News to me.

I’m a Brazilian. I mean, I am as American as a continental American can be. I have also lived in the U.S. for quite some time, walking city streets where I can hear Italian, French, Vietnamese, Chinese, and so many variants of Spanish that even “American Spanish” is too limited here. I’ll order my sushi from a Japanese menu, walk down the street for an Italian ice, and maybe close out the evening with a French wine. And what’s that I’m driving? It’s got too many parts from all over the world to call itself any one place.

So I don’t get it. There’s wealth in a multi-ethnic world and — within good old U.S. borders — a multi-ethnic, multilingual populace.

What’s more, come on folks, Coca-Cola has been defining its global brand in global terms for a long, long time. Who doesn’t remember that this is the brand that said I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony? (Confess, how many of you older readers actually sang that line as you read it?)

They’ve got a saying in America: haters gonna hate. Yeah. But let’s just ignore them this time and bask in the multilingual American glow for a while.

Have a Coke and a smile. And maybe click some love back to Coca-Cola on this one.