Translating restaurant menus is more complex than it may seem. In every country you will always find dishes for which a literal translation will not work. You should therefore use a native professional who knows the culture of both countries and knows how to reinterpret the names and ingredients correctly.
Not only is the reputation of the restaurant at stake, but there can also be very embarrassing mistakes and even serious consequences in cases of allergies etc., if you don’t use a native professional.
Why you should translate restaurant menus
Imagine going to an Indian or Japanese restaurant and the menu has not been translated into your language. You would find it impossible to decide what to eat and would probably decide to go to a restaurant that does have a translated menu that you can understand.
The main reason for translating a restaurant menu is to make everyone who visits the establishment feel comfortable and understand what is being offered.
This is especially relevant in tourist areas, where restaurants should identify the nationalities of their main customers and adapt the language of the menu accordingly.
It is also very important to translate the menus correctly to make sure that allergens are understood and clear. You don't want to poison a foreign tourist.
What skills should a restaurant menu translator have?
Gastronomy is closely linked to the culture of a place, so a restaurant menu translator must be very familiar with the customs of the country. This is why the translation of restaurant menus is usually done by native translators who live in the country and have a perfect knowledge of both cultures.
Some recipes such as vichyssoise, for example, have become famous while retaining their original name in many countries. But this is not always the case. There are many details that can make a difference in the translation of a menu that only a native person who knows the cuisine well and has previous experience in the field knows.
This is the only way to achieve a well-translated menu that customers can understand and trust. Because, as we will see below, translation errors can be a serious problem.
Translation errors and their consequences
Many people think that translating restaurant menus with Google Translator is fine and that there is no need to use a professional. And it is true that for some basic vocabulary such as "bread", "coffee" or "beer" it can be useful. But with more complex dishes, the results provided by the tool may not be accurate.
- A grilled fish (pescado a la plancha in Spanish) has been translated into English as fish to the iron
- Peppers with bonito (a mackerel-like fish in Spain) has been translated into English as peppers with beautiful
- And there are many more examples
Poor translations on the menu can not only damage the restaurant’s reputation, but can also lead to confusion or even, as we said at the beginning, to someone suffering an allergic reaction to an ingredient that they need to avoid.
Why it is important to translate and describe dishes on restaurant menus
Another recommendation when translating restaurant menus is to add a brief description of the preparation of the dishes next to the name of the dish. In this way, diners who are not familiar with the local cuisine can easily understand what ingredients it contains and how it is prepared.
This is more important in restaurants with elaborate menus ... hamburgers or hot dogs are the same anywhere in the world and do not need much explanation.
How to hire a professional translator for restaurant menus?
You should look for a reliable, qualified professional who is a native speaker and has experience in the field of gastronomy. It is important that they meet these requirements so that you get a faithful and high-quality translation of your menu.
You can start with an English version, which will generally serve all of your international clients. And then, if you need to expand the range of menus translated into other languages, you can hire the services of a professional translator.
FAQ about translating restaurant menus
The translation of a restaurant menu varies depending on the length and complexity of the menu. It is best to send the documents to the translator so that they can assess what is needed and give you a personalised quote.
This will depend on the nationality of the majority of your customers. Analyse your clientele and decide which language is predominant.
As we have seen, the literal translation of the names of some dishes does not work. A professional translator will know how to reinterpret the meaning in the target language so that customers can understand it perfectly.
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