Translating Colors


You have done your due diligence. Your Marketing collateral or website or any other customer-facing materials are being professionally translated by a trusted provider. Soon they will be ready for graphic design and/or the staging site. At first glance, it may appear more time and cost-effective to leverage the existing layout and design usually created for English-speaking Caucasian customers in the USA. But using the same color combination in graphic design for other cultural markets even in the USA could create a huge disconnect, have negative effects, and result in NO sale.

Let´s go back to the basics. You are translating your materials to a language other than English because you understand that reaching out to prospects and clients in their own language – even if they live in the USA – creates rapport and trust. It could result in long lasting relationships.  However, it is not enough to use their language of preference; the whole sales effort needs to be culturally relevant.  Sometimes, simple changes to the color pallet and imagery in the design will do the trick without having to reinvent the wheel, or implement a separate targeted offering.

Colors without a doubt have a far reaching effect. However, choosing an inappropriate color can denote something totally different and bring up different emotions from culture to culture. For example, white may signify purity in one culture and death or misfortune in another.

Given the nature of their business, a professional translation provider works closely with multilingual and multicultural designers who understand the color symbolism and the positive and negative implications that certain colors might have for the target market. With a smile they can help you choose the proper colors so that you can connect with our clients in a memorable and relevant way.

Here some examples of color significance. While the list is not complete, it gives you an idea of the symbolism is different cultures. Enjoy!

Red: In Western cultures, red is mainly used to represent love, anger, danger, and excitement. But in Eastern cultures it is used to represent luck, prosperity, and fertility. In India and China, for instance, brides wear red because, according to ancient tradition, it brings good luck. In Japan, red is “the sacred color” and is identified with the sun, comfort and the source of life which is the reason why predominantly red kimonos are believed to bring fortune and happiness. In Korea, red writing denotes death.

Blue: In the West and in Japan too, blue symbolizes tranquility, stability, trust, confidence, order, loyalty, etc. But it can denote immortality, coolness or indifference in China.

Green: This color is used in Western cultures to denote nature, conservation, growth, and health. Among its negative meanings are envy, jealousy, and inexperience. Green is the sacred color of Islam and is a sign of respect and veneration. In China, green can represent disgrace. For example, if a man wears a “green hat”, it means that his wife has been unfaithful to him. In North Africa, green symbolizes corruption. In Japan, green signifies eternal life.

Yellow:  In Western cultures, yellow is used to grab attention and symbolizes liveliness, happiness, energy and conflict too. Yellow is sacred, and is the color often used in celebrations of spring in India. Yellow is an auspicious color in Buddhism, and stands for wisdom. It represents the value of courage and was used to signify nobility in Japan.

Pink: This color is used to denote affection, tenderness, and innocence, in Western cultures. It was traditionally used to symbolize trust in Korea.  But nowadays, pink is the color of youth culture in Korea and in Japan where it is strongly identified with the concept of kawaii, or cute.

White: In the West, it denotes purity, simplicity, cleanliness, and peace. But it denotes death in many Eastern cultures, although in Japan it is often the customary color used for special and ceremonial occasions because of its pristine appearance.

Purple: This color can be used to denote royalty, nobility, mystery, magic in the Western culture. It is the royal color in Japan. But purple is the color of mourning in Thailand, and it denotes the values of faith and virtue in Egypt.

Language Concepts Consulting is a boutique provider of multilingual translation services. Languages we translate from and into include: English, French, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Vietnamese and many more. We partner with organizations looking to penetrate and/or serve the multicultural markets in the USA, and Latin America. We provide native-quality and culturally-sensitive translations that get our client’s message across and resonates with their target audience.

For more information, please give us a call at 480.626.2926 or visit us at

Kathy Paredes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.