Understanding transcreation part 1

Understanding Transcreation

What is transcreation and when is it used?

When we think about communicating between languages and producing multilingual content we automatically think about translation. But in today’s fast-paced business environment where interaction between cultures is commonplace, there is now much more emphasis on how translation is achieved and making sure it impacts its audience in the right way.

Depending on the purpose of what needs to be communicated and its desired effect, several strategies exist. Translation in essence is a straightforward approach that concentrates on transferring text into another language whilst retaining the same meaning. Localization takes the text a stage further and focuses on adapting it culturally for its new audience. Deciding on whether a human-powered strategy is best or if AI-boosted machine translation can be used, is also an important consideration.

Transcreation is another approach to developing multilingual content that aims to recreate the same reaction with a target audience as the original. Particularly useful for marketing and advertising content, transcreation is a creative and flexible strategy that puts reinterpretation of the material at its core.

So, let’s go a little deeper and demystify what transcreation is and how it works.

  • Transcreation: a definition

Transcreation is a merging of the words translation and creation and as this implies, it is a creative approach to the reworking of content in another language.

Transcreation aims to grab the attention of a new audience in a new language, even if that means a re-imagination of the concept. It is a dynamic process that prioritizes the cultural nuances and linguistic sensitivities of the target viewers, readers or listeners.

If we think of translation as a spectrum with the most direct, word-for-word technique at one end and re-imagining from scratch at the other, transcreation is towards the ‘from scratch’ end.

How is transcreation different from translation?

In translation the text in the original language (usually referred to as the source text) is the starting point for all new versions in new languages. Translators study the source text and aim to transfer its tone of voice, meaning and purpose to their target language. The original text guides all aspects of the translator’s work, even when adaptations are made to take into account different cultural norms (localization).

In contrast, transcreation usually starts with a brief. A brief describes the broad objectives of the project and can include elements like who the project is for, what its purpose is and the overall stylistic guidelines. The transcreation process therefore begins with assessing the goals of the piece of content and how best to achieve them. In this respect a transcreation doesn’t have to follow the format or conventions of a source text, it is a freer approach and begins with fresh ideas on a fresh page.

Some translators can also perform transcreation but often native language copywriters are called on even if they have no knowledge of the original language. The priority is creating a unique experience for a different audience and understanding that audience’s character, tastes, humor and any other cultural characteristics. The most important aspect of this work is knowing how to make the most powerful impact in a new setting.

Because transcreation work is often more complex than translation and can take longer, it is also more costly. That’s why it’s important to carefully assess your needs with your language services provider so they can advise on the best translation solution for you.

When is transcreation used?

In an increasingly global world getting your message across isn’t always easy. You’ve probably developed a great advertising campaign and catchy slogan in your home market but will that be effective with a new audience in a new language? Can the same sentiment be reproduced through translation or is a whole new approach needed? What’s the best way to make a new connection?

Careful research into what makes your target market tick will hopefully give you some answers and if you decide that the original idea needs a refit, that’s when you could consider transcreation.

Transcreation is often most appropriate when the copy required is for marketing, advertising or creative projects. Often (but not always) provoking an emotional response from the audience is the desired outcome and transcreation is the best way to achieve this.

It can be adapted to lots of formats and is commonly used for print or digital adverts, social media, video games, television and film, website content, and leaflets or brochures, amongst others.

Transcreation makes sure your content has a big impact whatever the language.

In part 2 of our miniseries on transcreation we’ll look at some great – and some not-so-great – examples of this strategy. Observing how other businesses use transcreation is a good starting point for assessing if it might work for your company’s content. We’ll also focus in more detail on the significant benefits transcreation brings.

Feel free to get in touch with us if you’d like to ask us anything at all about transcreation (or any type of translation for that matter!) and how it could work for your business.

Your personal contact

Marie-Laure Vinckx

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