Recipe Book Translation

traducción técnica de libros de cocina

For many countries, gastronomy is a hallmark: it’s culture and tradition. Every country, and even every region, has traditional dishes, preparation methods, and common ingredients and condiments. Food from other countries is becoming increasingly popular and more and more ethnic restaurants are opening up in cities. 

This trend makes its way into our homes as cookbooks with recipes that are far from traditional and use more exotic ingredients and cooking methods. 

That’s why, within the publishing industry, culinary or recipe book translation is experiencing a growing need for translation services that use professional translators who are specialised in the area.

At first glance, it may appear straightforward, but not all recipes are basic or easy to understand: there are highly technical recipe books for professional chefs, ingredients that are very similar but not identical, and cookery concepts that don’t exist in other cultures. In any event, the translation of a recipe book must be left to a professional with knowledge of both the publishing and culinary industries.

The reader will follow the text carefully, word for word, and it therefore must be very well formulated so that the person cooking the dish doesn’t run into any problems whilst preparing it. It’s also full of specific vocabulary, particularly verbs and units of measurement that, among other things, require adaptation, not only of the measures, but also the utensils used, for example.

Often, little importance is placed on translation, but the truth is that it’s essential for increasing the product target audience and the return on investment for a recipe book. Most importantly, a translation by a professional is essential so that the reader perfectly understands all the content, values the material and recommends it to others.

No one would recommend a book to a friend that they’ve barely understood or that hasn’t come in useful because they had to convert all the measures themselves, right?

Recipes are instructive texts, which is why it’s important to transmit the message accurately and precisely. Otherwise, the text wouldn’t fulfil its function, failing in its purpose. Leave it to a professional translator and problem solved!

What you need to consider with these texts

  1. In addition to translation methods and techniques for resolving cultural and language difficulties that may arise, the translator must be up to date with culinary trends.
  • The different units of measurement and their equivalents in the language the book is being translated into must be taken into account. In a typical English recipe we may come across the abbreviation “fl. oz”. In a Spanish translation, for example, offering the measure in fluid ounces wouldn’t suffice; instead, it would have to be converted into millilitres, which is a volume measure used to indicate the contents of a small container that holds liquid. 
  • The availability of the ingredients in the country where the book is to be sold must be researched. In some recipes, ingredients and even brands are suggested that may not be available where the language the book is being translated into is spoken. In that case, an explanation would have to be given, as well as a suitable alternative. Here, we want to highlight the importance of knowing not just the source and target languages when translating recipes, but also the culture. Can you imagine what would happen if it wasn’t a professional translation and a dish containing beef, for example, hadn’t been adapted for readers in India?
  • An in-depth understanding of the text and awareness of the responsibility that translation entails. Allergensare a good example, as any mistake during translation may have dangerous consequences for the health of consumers. Not only could it cause allergic reactions, but also poisoning or other health problems if the ingredients or processing aren’t stated correctly.
  • Knowledge of the cooking utensils or appliances for the different steps of a recipe. Some types, brands or models are not commercialised in the target region. The solution would involve adding a description of the process so that the reader can replicate it.
  • The translator needs to know the cultural eating pattern where the book was written and how it differs from the pattern where it is going to be commercialised, as well as the typical dishes. Literally translating the names of traditional dishes is a relatively common mistake; it creates confusion as, in the majority of cases, the translation is meaningless. This is particularly common in the translations of bar and restaurant menus, where you can find complete phrases that don’t mean anything or are even offensive to customers, as the necessary importance isn’t placed on translation and people tend to resort to machine translation tools. 
  • As well as potential differences between the use of foods, food ingredients or condiments, there are also different ways of cooking, cutting or handling foods that may be considered strange in other places.

We want to stress the importance of leaving your project to a professional translation agency. Adapting a product to another culture is a way of expanding and making your work known, and we want to help you on your journey. 

Don’t worry if you can’t decide whether or not to translate your book, it’s normal! It’s a very big step and there are many things to consider. Get in touch without obligation so that we can look into your project and offer the best possible advice. You don’t need to go it alone; we’ll be by your side.

Don’t worry about the culinary speciality or the country where you want to sell your recipe book, we can take on French, Italian, Thai recipe books, etc. We’re here to help you however we can!

Author: Paula Jiménez Rivera