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Translation of Menus for Tourism

One of the most important reasons for translating a menu is to increase the chance of client choosing the restaurant. That is why many restaurants display translations of the menu into many languages.

If you imagine being on holiday and you come across a street lined with restaurants each competing for your business. The prices may vary, but often the menus are largely identical. In such case a key decision maker may be how comfortable you feel about ordering food.

The best solution to this problem consists of 3 parts. 1) A photo of the dish 2) A translation of the name 3) Translation of the description. This is generally further enhanced by displaying flags above each menu to allow the potential client to more easily understand that menus are available for their language.

The reason for providing a description is of particular importance and this is where translation extends its art. As example, let’s consider the Scottish delicacy ‘Haggis’. In this instance (depending on the language being translated into) it would be ideal if the translation of the name remains ‘Haggis’ as the client may be specifically wishing to try this delicacy. This falls pretty much into the same area as names like ‘Pizza’ where no translation may be applicable for the target language.

Then we have the description. For a Pizza you will have the name of the type of Pizza. Let’s say ‘Pizza Roma’. As pretty much everybody knows what a pizza is like, you can get by with listing the translation of the ingredients used for the topping and this should satisfy the client.

But with Haggis a simple translation of its ingredients would not be suitable! If you just translated ‘Sheep’s stomach, heart, lungs, suet, oatmeal, etc.’ it is not exactly doing the dish a service. So instead you must further consider the source document for the translation and make it sound appealing. Perhaps this might start with ‘a traditional Scottish dish.

For a successful menu translation the process should often commence with rewriting the source language menu. Write a short, attractive and informative description of each dish.

Another reason for having translations of your menu is to assist the restaurant team efficiency for when the client is trying to order. I always feel sorry for the waiter trying to explain what each dish is and struggling to find the word. Both the waiter and client often give up. If you have an explanation within the menu then this will avoid/reduce this issue and allow the waiter to focus on good service.

Hence, I recommend that if you want to attract clients to eat in your establishment who speak a variety other languages then I suggest menu translation. If you want to avoid your waiters trying to translate items when they can be looking after more clients…..menu translation.