Martin Eichler

28. June 2022

Interest in transcreation is on the rise and presents an interesting opportunity for you to expand your skill set

An original and elaborate marketing text is one way that brands can build a relationship with new and existing customers. It also helps brands to increase their visibility and stand out from their competitors. And thanks to transcreation, brands can maintain a consistent brand voice when they expand globally. It's a new kind of service that's been experiencing a steady rise of interested clients as of late.

Ordinary translation, marketing translation, transcreation

Ad effectiveness rests in corporate hands. However, when a company needs text ads translated in a way that’s culturally relevant and takes into account local nuances, customs, dialects, or humor, a simple Google search will lead them to creative translation, or transcreation.

Transcreation can most accurately be characterised as “free rein” or “creative freedom.” When it comes to creative translations, it’s not uncommon for the original idea to be fully adapted, as the translation might otherwise result in an embarrassing marketing faux pas in the target country if done incorrectly.

The possibilities offered by making creative modifications to a particular source text can be best described by the following pyramid:

When translating, the translator will keep the content of the source text consistent and accurate even in the target language. Although the translator will adapt the syntax and grammar to match the target language, it’s important that he or she stays true to the original source material.

Localised translations reflect cultural nuances, so they delve deeper than standard translations do. A localised translation not only takes into account linguistic subtleties but also technical factors that are at play such as units of measurement (e.g. miles vs. kilometres), how numbers are written, date formats, etc. Localised translation is also used in a digital environment for programming and coding, SEO texts, or social media.

Marketing translation is meant to provoke an emotional reaction (the desire to buy a product/service), so it goes beyond the actual translation of the source text; and for the translator, it’s partially a creative process. The translation of marketing materials usually involves elements of transcreation in order to ensure that advert messages are understood by customers in a foreign language.

However, sometimes customising the tone and style of the source material is not enough. Instead, the aim of a campaign must be creatively transformed in a way that establishes an emotional connection with international customers who are accustomed to a completely different set of cultural norms and understandings. That’s where transcreations step in.

The goal of a transcreation is still to attract new customers, but the message might be drastically different from that of the original version. The words, overall tone, and visuals can completely stray away from the source material.

One example is a vehicle model by Japanese automobile manufacturer Mitsubishi, which we know as the “Pajero”, but in Spain they call “Montero.” This is because the original name has a vulgar meaning in Spanish.

Another example is Pepsi‘s slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi generation”, which received an unfortunate mistranslation into Chinese as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.”

In Portuguese, Intel‘s popular slogan: “Intel: Sponsors of Tomorrow” hints at the company being very slow (something will happen “tomorrow”, not today). Thus, for the Brazilian market, they changed it to: “Intel: In Love with the Future.”

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6 basic differences between ordinary translations and transcreations

1. Transcreation is most often used in advertisement texts

Someone reading a translation of an instruction manual is unlikely to expect an exhilarating, out-of-this-world reading experience. They simply want to find out how to operate a device. For this purpose, a standard translation will suffice. On the other hand, the internet is chock-full of translation fails in which a mistranslated slogan ended up costing companies millions in reputational damages. It’s in situations like these where it’s always best to hire a translator who specialises in transcreation.

2. “Transcreators” are more like creative writers than actual translators

Whereas translators are expected to have a flawless command of the target language, transcreators are often copywriters for advert texts or other content and possess masterful wordsmithing abilities. An advantage of hiring a transcreator is their ability to form a more personalised message that strikes the right chord with the target audience.

3. Transcreation is more subjective

In order to put together a proper transcreation, translators need creative freedom and trust from their clients, which they earn through honest work and preparation. It’s not uncommon for a transcreation to give rise to a completely new idea that transcreators will consider to be subjectively better for customers in the target country based on their experience.

4. Transcreation is always preceded by a creative brief

A translator can start putting together a standard translation the moment they receive all the necessary documents from the client. But when a text is being adapted for a foreign audience, a creative brief plays a key role in the early stages of the process before the transcreator can even begin working. The transcreator must have not only an in-depth understanding of the company and its products, services, and customers, but also (and perhaps most importantly) an understanding of the main idea that the adapted text must convey.

The creative brief usually comes in a questionnaire format and features very specific questions. The more the client takes care to fill out the brief thoroughly, the better the end result he or she can expect of the transcreation. Among the most basic questions includes, for example:

5. The author of the adapted text has the chance to influence the entire ad campaign as a whole

A translator rarely has the opportunity to intervene in other parts of the project than the translation of a text. When adapting a text for a foreign audience, a translator is generally welcome to use his or her knowledge of the cultural nuances of the target country. The translator may also advise the client on adjusting the colour scheme of certain visual elements or the use of graphic symbols that might otherwise pose as counterproductive.

6. Transcreation is more expensive

Adapting a marketing text into something that works for a foreign audience can be quite a chore. Before the translator even thinks about touching the keyboard, he or she will spend time studying the creative brief, gathering information, and researching the client’s competitors. The translator may then leave several suggestions, which are then run by the client for his or her approval before the final version of the text takes form.

Transcreation is a word game to find the most appropriate way to express an emotion

Words are a powerful working tool. Surely, you know this not only as professionals in your field but also from everyday life. The right choice of words can motivate people to do great things, but change just one small thing and the reader will no longer react in the way you wanted them to.

The way we perceive language tone, in principle, works similarly to language itself. Long-established cultural norms determine what feelings a word evokes in us. And aside from that, every reader adds their own individual emotional weight to a word.

The part of the brain known as the amygdala is responsible for forming a relationship between the written word and our emotional responses. Everyone’s amygdala plays a role in understanding language, though with varying degrees of intensity. When reading words, the reader interprets their meaning and adds a layer of emotional context to them, thereby creating words with emotional significance.

An experienced transcreator will recognise these norms and expectations and deliberately choose words to convey a specific emotion that the reader is meant to take away from reading the transcreation text. This is a sign of true mastery of text adaptation.

Translators possess the best skills to create excellent creative translations

Although transcreations are a more niche and advanced form of translation, translators are by far the best equipped at becoming great authors of transcreation texts. Especially those who have experience with localisation.

Localisation experts know full well how the wording of a text can vary slightly. They’re used to thinking outside the box in order to create a result that’s both comparable to the original and understood by the customer within their own cultural context. A good localisation expert will also be familiar with a number of literary styles that allow them to be creative with words.

Transcreation can present a unique opportunity for translators to challenge themselves and expand their portfolio of professional services they offer.

Are you interested in this new opportunity? Hone new skills with the help of a transcreation course from TAUS.

I'm convinced everyone needs their own mission and goal in life. My mission is to connect people. With TMS, CMS, CAT tools, and CRM. Translation technology is my forte and I will be happy to guide you through it.