lingo speak

adopt the adept to adapt

glance into lingo india’s approach to advertising communication in indian languages in the words of mr. manohar nayak.

‘lingo is my baby. conceived by me, delivered by many. and today it’s being brought up by far too many. today, lingo india belongs to lingo indians. so much so that lingo and india are inseparable. and now, lingo india is a family; and our family spreads over the length and breadth of this entire nation. we’re there in every nook and cranny, crook and nanny, every culture, every flavor this country boasts of.’

what is lingo india into? could you elaborate?
essentially, we are multilingual communicators that translate words into soul, language into emotion and sounds into all the five senses. lingo speaks in native flavor and regional fervor. it is all about local nuances, dictions, cultural milieus and social subtleties. our clients trust us, not to just translate, but transcreate. we understand that indian mindsets, beliefs and attitudes change every 100 kilometers. we also understand, therefore, the need to meet a certain indian in their courtyard, see them eye to eye and talk face to face in the language that they speak. between the language in which an idea is conceived and the language in which it is perceived, there is a huge gap. lingo india fills in that space. so, essentially we render expertise in regional communication. we create and trans-create (as against translate) advertising copy/scripts in various indian languages for print, radio & tv commercials.  lingo india has created a niche for itself. i am happy it has set new benchmarks in creating original language campaigns and producing innovative radio commercials.
so lingo india is not just into languages; you are into radio commercials as well?
yes, we are also into radio creative. there’s a connecting link. radio is very indian. sound designing and voice culture are two offshoots of this passion of ours for language. radio has now become the main umbrella under which this passion enjoys the sweet thud of downpour. and often, brings along with it the earthen scent of wet mud. lingo is all about that “mitti ki khushbu”.
could you tell me a bit about indian languages and regional communication?

we have 1,618 languages including the dialects. as i have already mentioned earlier, we have a new language being spoken every 100 kilometres. we are a polyglot country. we are the tower of babel. our regional communication encompasses 31 states, 6,400 castes, 6 ethnic groups, 29 major festivals…and in what diversity!
to meet a particular person in their space and talk to them in the only language that they understand; and to engage them to associate with the product or service we have for them, does call for specialised task force. a mere translation from english just won’t do. it is important, therefore, that ‘transcreation’ or the role of language copywriting be an integral part of advertising rather than a peripheral one.

it is not that nothing is done in this direction. for example, hindi has deservingly got its due thanks to rekha nigam, piyush pandey, prasoon joshi, and nitesh tiwari to name just a few. we do get to see some great stuff in other languages, but that’s just once in a blue moon. there’s no dearth of regional writers. there are, i am sure, plenty of them around. but we haven’t tapped them. we haven’t attracted them. since we continue to pay these language writers poorly, i guess the real talent is looking elsewhere. we still do have a handful of regional creative writers who are around more for the passion of it than for the peanuts thrown at them.
i am pained that we are not doing enough to explore more. in fact, we are doing nothing. all efforts have gone futile…samajh mein nahin aata… main apni industry ko kaunsi bhasha mein samjhaaoon!

why do you feel they are losing out in terms of importance?
seriously, i fail to understand the ‘why’ of it. it’s apathy. humble ‘languagewala’ always gets looked down upon. translation is always a back-room activity, that is step-motherly. how could one ignore what goes out to mass consumers? more so, when we underline the fact with a figure i.e., nearly 80% of the media budgets are allocated to vernacular media vehicles, we are dragging big bucks to drains. we can continue to ignore regional communication at our own peril.
what do you propose?

through language club we have been proposing broadly 3 initiatives.

  1. a series of workshops for regional writers by advertising creative directors, english copywriters, successful language creatives, client servicing / account management directors, research agencies, tv commercial producers, radio producers and regional linguists.

it’s crucial that the translator [transcreator] understands the creative process in detail and then employs in his native ink to achieve what’s truly effective.

  1. a paradigm shift in the functioning by elevating the language resources from under the  production cell to creative supervision zone.
  2. acceptance and recognition by the ad club and aaai.

it’s seemingly easy and a must do but has remained a tall order. efforts are on.

coming back to your favourite phrase ‘transcreation,’ how do you transcreate scripts? how different it is from translation? could you take me through the process?

translation at best is a faithful rendition, a duplication, a redelivery of the original. it often fails to capture the essence or nativity and ends up in miscommunication. at times, it becomes a howler or a joke. like for example, i detest it when they translate a. b. c. d. as “ a. ba. ka. da.” in almost every indian language. that’s the height of slavery to english. likewise, ‘extraordinary’ is translated as ‘ati saadhaaran’’! once two in one was translated as “do mein ek”!  in both these cases, the translation gives completely the opposite meaning! while translation at best is a clone,  transcreation is a sort of reincarnation.

what’s this process, you asked. there’s no rocket science involved in the process. the most essential ingredient in the process of transcreating is “passion for language” without which the process is a non-starter. secondly, the person translating should be the son of the soil. because every language has its own character, flavour and fragrance attached to it. and the local culture, the traditional values and mindsets are inherent to it. unless one has them running in their veins their ink wouldn’t be right. and in the communication one should be re-creating the intrinsic impulses latent in the original. the idea is to adopt the adept to adapt. like for example, once posed with a task of transcreating the english “two good” to communicate two great benefits, we rendered it in gujarati as “be-jod”. and, “let tax not tax you” was transcreated, again in gujarati as “karni na karo fikar”. in both these cases the copywriter was my friend harshad kapadia. there are many such great examples in southern languages as well. but you will find it difficult to understand.

then, there was a one-line brief: go for tata spare parts only for your tata vehicle. we had cracked a one-liner “sher ko bakri na banaayiye”. and visually had morphed a ‘sher’ into a ‘bakri’. recently, we have transcreated jingles for domino’s, sbi, samsung and sunfeast in multiple languages which are well received. none of them have any bearing on the words used in the original but are not one bit away from the concept.

so, when it comes to transcreation the task is to communicate ideas, images, cultural milieus and associations from one language to another. to do that you need to keep the english script aside.

are you anti-english?

they go hand in hand. every culture has a language of its own and every language has a culture of its own. they are inseparable. the mouthpiece of every culture is language. there’s no cultureless language. period. go ahead, try and measure the loss.

yes, i do agree it’s impossible to do 15 different tv commercials…but one can certainly take an execution route that has an idea or insight of a ‘common shared culture’. a same thought can be interpreted differently in two different languages. the same word can have contradicting meanings in different languages.

how important is culture to a language? how much of it gets lost in translation?

my love for indian languages doesn’t translate to any hatred for english. frankly, english is practically one of our own languages. indian english, now known as indlish, has an entity of its own and it’s here to stay. i am not advocating language fanaticism. i love english, i salute it. if it is dominating it has its reasons to dominate. we can’t do without english in administration, justice, science and technology. it’s our lingua franca. i have no grouse with english per se. my objection is in conceiving ideas in english and then translating them into other indian languages. what is happening is more often than not advertising ideas are conceived in english, scripted in hindi and then literally translated loyally into rest of the languages. we fail to indianise. that’s where my grave concerns are. that’s not to be mistaken for being ‘anti-english’.

can you share a few such examples?
dealing with languages is a delicate affair. branding needs a very careful study. a word in one language can mean great in one language but the same word can mean ‘horrendous’ in another, like, a brand “oomda” means excellent in urdu, whereas it is an unmentionable word in tamil. satkar may mean ‘welcome’ in most of the indian languages, but not in bengali. if you brand a product ‘satkar’ in bengali it’s your funeral because ‘satkar’ means funeral rite in bengali.
here, we see a big printout of what looks like a poem put up in your studio. did you write it? i can see lingo india logo as a sign-off.
no. it wasn’t written by me. it’s a masterpiece. to me, it is like a painting by ravi varma. ravi varma in this case is a very dear friend of nitesh tiwari from leo burnett. he penned it for lingo india. frankly, to me, it is no less an anthem. it is straight from the heart. it has moved me like nothing else has. it covers the essence of indian radio creative. it has that “mitti ki khushbu” crafted so well to engage the listener, holding their ears to the content, and helping them see through the ears. it’s an amazing narration. it’s my bhagavad gita.
what’s the way forward for your baby lingo?
lingo is a grown-up baby. it is only going to grow further. but it’s not about the growth. we have a single mission on our agenda. to indianise indian communication. the scope of communication activity for lingo is as vast and varied as india is. that’s why we are lingo india.

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