The Name issue of Magazine: how and whether to translate them

Magazine translation is one of my favorite fields, which is mainly about fashion, lifestyle or brand marketing. I love such jobs because they are about stories-telling and allow creative translation. Besides those happy feelings, there are some tricky things in the way. One of such things is the translation of magazine names.

Magazine name itself

The translation of the magazine name itself is a top creative job. It is expected to produce a target name which should have the same reference, response and even sound. For example, Harper’s BAZAAR has a localized Chinese name 时尚芭莎. To mimic the pronunciation of BAZAAR the simplified Chinese name applies 芭莎, a creative transliteration which not only sounds in a similar way but also introduces meanings of beauty and feminine charming, referring to some expected coverage of the magazine. The other two characters 时尚 in the zh_cn name refer to fashion and style which covers the general subject of the magazine. This is a very typical contemporary example of magazine name translation.

Although magazines are expected to have localized names to be published regionally, both the localized contents and target readers prefer to use the source name which is also the magazine owners’ copyrighted assets. For example, Elle has a very long simplified Chinese name 世界时装之苑 whose back translation is the world fashion garden. But the zh_cn name is seldom mentioned in magazine writing or daily communication, just Elle is enough. Because the localized name is not catchy, and is too long. Most importantly, the target readers of Elle are more comfortable to use the English name Elle. You may blame the translation which does not do a good job like what 芭莎 for BAZAAR, but it is a truth that the target readers may prefer the name to be left in English.

Theme name for each issue

Besides the magazine name itself, some magazines have theme names or so for each issue, which is a keyword phrase concluding the whole issue’s contents. If magazine name is required to be localized due to legal consideration, it is another question as for whether to localize these theme names.

Some clients prefer to keep it untranslated, some prefer a creative translation which conveys the equivalent reference and accuracy, and some just ask to combine the above two: an intact source name with a creative translation bracketed or vice versa. In fact there is no best practice on this issue and no one-for-all solution because different brands and clients have different preference/position. The key is to double check with the client about their preference while also provide your suggestion. Otherwise you might waste your time to do something the client’s does not need.

I would be much excited if asked to translate such names because it is like giving a name to a human-being, with so many wonderful things to consider and also including so many hopes and wishes. But again, the first thing is to ensure the name is expected to be localized. You know, there are clients who really want their names untouched and the client’s requirements should be considered.

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