Should We Translate the Company Names?

I was translating the subtitles of the movie, ‘ The Yes Men Fix The World’. Very funny one, by the way. However, the details confused me- as usual.

In the movie, there is a chemical company. Its names is Dow Chemicals. We understand that we are not supposed to translate ‘Dow’, but what about ‘Chemicals’. I was about to translate it as ‘Dow Kimya’ (kimya means chemicals in Turkish) and I saw the name of the other chemical company, which is ‘Union Carbide’. If there was only ‘Dow Chemicals’, I would translate it right away as ‘Dow Kimya’ because it sounds perfectly normal in Turkish; however the name of the other company crossed me up 🙂 In the case of Union Carbide, both of the words have Turkish equivalents but when translated, they do not make any sense- at least for the audience who have no idea about chemical terminology.

In the end, I left the names of the companies as they are. I could have translated the first one but then the text would be inconsistent. Both or none. I chose not to translate at all. What would you do?

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mario Chávez on September 19, 2011 at 01:00

    Company names are considered trademarked property and should not be translated. That’s translation 101 for many of us in the profession.

    Since many multinationals have branches and affiliates in foreign countries, however, using the main company name (untranslated) or the affiliate company’s name (in the local language) will depend on the purpose of the document and the legal relationship between the main company and its affiliates.

    Now, when it comes to movies, as well as with other media, it’s best to double check with the customer.


  2. Dear Sir,
    I normally transliterate or left it in source language(English) according to the requirement of Domain’s subject matter. One think i always do is to keep the uniformity of those words(Particular names, Brands etc) in the whole translation.


  3. Sorry kindly replace think with thing 😀


  4. Posted by Zeina S on September 19, 2011 at 08:37

    i will leave the company name as it is adding something to clarify that they are talking about a company (sharikat Dow Chemicals (in Arabic))


  5. This is one big challenge for my language as well (Serbian) and is the cause of many discussions. As the general rule is “write as you speak, speak as it is written”, this implies transliterating the names of companies, brands, etc.

    However, at the time this rule was set, there was no such thing as brands or company names. Another problem is the Cyrillic alphabet. It is true that we use Latin alphabet as well, and that most of the global company and brand names come from the English speaking countries or in English. Leaving it in the original would imply leaving the original names of Chinese companies in Chinese, of Arabic ones in Arabic?

    It is a very delicate issue. I normally solve it by transliterating or translating it, while leaving the original in English in brackets the first time it appears.


  6. Posted by George tabisz on October 21, 2011 at 20:06

    I would leave the company name as it appears in the source document and would provide a translation only if the company has a translated name that it itself uses in the target language.


  7. Posted by George Tabisz on October 21, 2011 at 20:11

    I would leave the company name as it appears in the source document, unless the company itself provides a translated name which it uses in the target language.


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