English Serbian translation

The offer/ponuda dilemma

May 12, 2015

When translating into English from Serbian – we are very clear on some basic principles, one of those being that a “literal” translation simply will not do. We encounter such translations all the time, and they usually happen when a translator has been “lazy” or simply wasn’t a native speaker of English and couldn’t appreciate that a particular term cannot be used in English.

One very common example (of the many, many we see all the time!) is the Serbian word ponuda. In a business context it means 1) a/the range of products or services that a company has to sell, or a subset of them 2) a particular product or service that is on a special price, for a limited time etc. While 2) CAN be translated as “offer” – e.g. specijalna ponuda, under meaning 1) ponuda cannot be an “offer”. But very often we see phrases like this: “Feel free to contact us for more information on our company’s offer” – meaning to find out what products and services we offer to customers. This is not a good translation. “Offer” as a noun simply can’t be used in English in this way, so when translating from Serbian (and the problem affects other Slavic languages too) we HAVE to find another solution.

Here are is one solution we have used in the past, already hinted at above:

products and/or services – e.g. “Click here to find out more about our [range of] products/services” or “…our product range”

what we have to offer – this is a possible way around the problem as “offer” as a verb can be used: “Click here to see what we have to offer”. Or let’s be more inventive: “Click here to see how our products/services can help you!”

We also often come across the phrase turistička ponuda translated as “tourist offer” – this is a completely non-existent phrase in English and if you “Google” it you will only find it on non-English websites. This is more tricky, we usually translate it something like this:

industry – this can work sometimes, e.g. Razvoj domaće turističke ponude can be “Development of the local tourism industry” – no, it’s not quite the same, but that is what translation is all about, finding acceptable alternatives.

Or (maybe better):

programmes/programming – this is often a good option: Serbian Beogradska turistička ponuda could be translated “Tourist programming/programmes in Belgrade”.

Or:

options – maybe you can work around it this way (with the same example as above) and say: “Options for tourists in Belgrade”.

However the translator decides, we hope we have put across the main point – that ponuda cannot be translated into English directly, and this is where the art of translation comes into play, and this is the kind of thought we put into every translation we carry out.