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Karolina Krajewska

Prof. Aniela Korzeniowska

Contemporary Approaches in Translation Studies I
Term paper
January 2013

English advertising slogans in Poland: a Skopos theory perspective
The Skopos theory is very often used as framework for advertising translation. Since
advertisements are purely functional texts and their goal is to inform the target market consumers
of the existence of product and convince them to buy it, the focus on the function and goal of
translation is particularly important and the source text considerably less pertinent then in the
case of other types of texts. Taking into consideration the process of globalization, advertisement
translation becomes more and more popular, since numerous companies decide to enter foreign
markets and sell their products in new cultural and linguistic context. In Poland many translated
advertising campaigns, which can be attributed to Skopos theory in their disregard of source text,
are very successful. However, a new technique can also be observed on the Polish market to
leave the slogans untranslated. More and more often companies decide to retain the English
slogan, which is a surprising translation choice. How can it be justified? How can an untranslated
slogan fulfill the skopos?
In terms of the communicative function of language, advertisements are operative text-
types, which means that they aim at achieving an extralinguistic effect, namely making the
viewer buy the product. Their linguistic function is mainly vocative, since they call upon action
from the consumers. However, the informative function of advertisements is also recognized (Cui
10), so although the main concern in advertisements is persuasiveness there is also a message that
needs to be conveyed. How does it work in the case of slogans in English, to which more than a
half of the public will remain oblivious or which they will misunderstand (Gerritsen et al. 351)?
Perhaps the meaning is not conveyed solely through semantic means.
In marketing, the advertisements which remain in their source form and are simply
transplanted to the target context are a symptom of the standardization approach (Gerritsen et
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al. 351), a term closely related to globalization of markets. The situation when no translation to
the target language is provided is labeled by Gerritsen and others as an extreme standardization
(351). The first obvious reason to choose the extreme standardization approach in translating an
advertising campaign is purely economical kept in their original form advertisements do not
generate the high costs of translation, adaptation, and registration. Moreover, the advertisers do
generally believe that in general, the better-educated throughout Europe [] can be reached
with English (Gerritsen et al. 352), which is not necessarily true, as various research reveals
(Bogdanova 13). It is also worth noting, that not only the better-educated are targeted by
But even though the message conveyed in an English slogan might be misunderstood or
only partially understood by the consumers, the sole fact of the use of English is a message in
According to researchers such as Takahashi (1990), Martin (2002), Alm (2003),
Piller (2003), Kelly-Holmes (2005), Ustinova and Bhatia (2005), and Shinhee
Lee (2006), English is used because it enhances the image of a product.
According to them, the use of English has a symbolic meaning; it is associated
with a modern, urban, cosmopolitan, and upper class way of life and it increases
the prestige associated with a product, and consequently the price that can be
charged for it. (Gerritsen et al. 352)
This statement is even more significant in the context of the nations of the former Eastern
European block. In the countries which experienced the Communist regime, the English language
still functions as a symbol of capitalism and free market (Bogdanova 15). The use of English
creates a new reality for the consumers enabling them to feel more prestigious and comfortable
(Chopicki 84), which may easily be the skopos of any advertisement translation. As pointed out
by Griffin in the conclusion to his study from 1997, the Polish mind equates English with
vibrant capitalism, affluent lifestyles, technological advances, and global leadership (39).
Although his research was done in the 1990s, his findings are still relevant. Even now we are
eager to shed the Communist legacy and embrace the West (Griffin 34) and English is a
symbol of the lifestyle we strive for (Chopicki 11). It comes as no surprise that advertisers
exploit this desire.
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The fact that only a part of the consumers will understand what the slogan means can also
be perceived as purposeful strategy employed in fulfilling the skopos. The association of English
with modernity, technology and a fashionable lifestyle makes an effective tool to reach young
audience. Younger people are more likely to know English well, because of obligatory classes in
English in school, which were only introduced in Poland in the 1990s. If the advertiser states in
the translation brief that the product is targeting young consumers, the decision to leave the
slogan in its original form may well be the best available option. Moreover, as hypothesized by
Gerritsen and others the higher the percentage of people in a country who are able to hold a
conversation in English [] the less expensive the product will be considered to be (354),
which means that paradoxically the lack of understanding in many of the consumers might work
to the advantage of the product image and price.
From the linguistic point of view, the untranslated slogans may also be justified. English
and Polish differ in many respects, especially those which concern the language of advertising
and particularly slogans. As proposed by Chopicki and witek, English is considerably more
concise and flexible than Polish; it uses more metaphorical language and easily accepts concrete,
down-to-earth nouns and strings of intensifiers (559). Furthermore, Polish lacks some specialized
and professional terminology due to the 50 years long hold back under the Communist regime
(Chopicki 556-557). Jan Golicki, referenced by Chopicki and witek, traces this impairment
back to the long standing lack of sovereignty and lack of proper middle class in Poland and
believes that all non-literary discourse in Polish is deficient (557). Consequently, it often appears
that the Polish equivalent is much longer, more complicated and rough than the English term
(Gerritsen et al. 353), which deprives the original slogan of the necessary smoothness and
catchiness. These differences render slogan translation extremely hard and possibly heighten the
costs of translation. Thus, the decision to stay with the English phrase is likely to better satisfy
the skopos.
[A]n advertisement is meaningless if it cannot [] make profit (Cui 22). Even though
the English slogans often remain unintelligible to Polish consumers, they are very meaningful.
The sole fact of using English is a powerful message in itself, connoting modernity, technological
advancement, freedom, enviable lifestyle and youthfulness. This special status of English in
Poland, the overwhelming globalization tendencies and the difficulties of translation into Polish,
a language which still struggles with some historically conditioned deficiencies, all together
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construct a reality where the decision not to translate better fulfills the goal of translation. This
direct transplantation of linguistic elements creates space for alternative foreign means of
depicting the reality. The persuasive character of the language of advertising further reinforces
the influence of this language on our idiolect, our everyday life and our perception. The effects
of such influence are questionable or even harmful, as Chopicki warns his readers (11). Without
doubt the English slogans in Polish advertisements are worthy of further study.
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Works cited

Bogdanova, Maya. Use of English in advertising and journalistic discourse of the Expanding
circle: data from Bulgarian magazines. Stockholm: Stockholms Universitet, 2010. Web
Chopicki, Wadysaw, witek, Jerzy. Angielski w polskiej reklamie. Warszawa-Krakw:
Wydawnictwo naukowe PWN, 2000. Print.
Cui, Ying. The Goal of Advertisement Translation: With Reference to C-E/E-C
Advertisements. Journal of Language & Translation 10-2 September 2009: 7-33. Web
Gerritsen, Marinel, Catherine Nickerson, Hooft A. van, Meurs F. van, Hubert Korzilius, Ulrike
Nederstigt, Marianne Starren, and Roger Crijns. "English in Product Advertisements in
Non-English-Speaking Countries in Western Europe: Product Image and Comprehension
of the Text." Journal of Global Marketing 23.4 (2010): 349-365. Print.
Griffin, Jeff. Global English invades Poland. An analysis of the use of English in Polish
magazine advertisements. English Today 13(2) (1997): 3441. Print.