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Transcreation: Adding a Creative Touch to Translation

As companies go increasingly global, communicating with customers in other countries becomes a rising challenge. Despite the boom of the Internet and other digital technologies, the fact remains that the world shares no one common language. Translation is traditionally used to convey information in other languages. More and more these days, though, translation is being complemented by transcreation. 

Translation vs. Transcreation: What They Are

Generally speaking, translation focuses on the meanings of individual words and phrases to offer the interpretation which comes closest to the words originally written. On the other hand, transcreation is more about making underlying messages behind individual words ring true to customers from other cultures in their native languages.

Definitions

The concept of transcreation has evolved over recent years as a blending of the words “translation” and “creation.” However, there is still no universally accepted definition.

Nataly Kelly, localization lead at Hubspot, is one expert who has written widely about transcreation. “The term ‘transcreation’ describes the process of adapting content for a given target audience to make sure that it resonates with the intended effect,” Kelly explains.

“Transcreation is required when the people creating the source content have a specific purpose in mind that cannot be accomplished through translation alone. For this reason, the content must be transcreated in order for it to achieve that purpose.”

As some others have phrased it,  the goal of transcreation is to get the same kind of response from people who speak different languages, something that translation itself doesn’t necessarily accomplish that well.

The response can be as simple as inspiring customers in international markets to purchase your product. 

Roles in Localization: Language and Cultural Appropriateness

Brands also need to pay very close attention to the cultural appropriateness of language and other aspects of messaging. People in other countries may not understand cultural references of words, images, and colors used in marketing campaigns in your home country, which may have different meanings in their cultures. Sometimes, the discrepancies that show up can be laughable and even embarrassing,

Product names with innocuous meanings in their native tongues can be offensive elsewhere. Puffs, for instance, marketed its tissues in Germany under the company brand name, even though “puff” in German is a slang term for a brothel. 

Similarities and Differences

Whether performing translation or transcreation services, language services professionals still need to be mindful of cultural appropriateness. The big difference is that, as its name implies, transcreation adds an element of creativity to the process of conveying ideas in other languages. Beyond that, translation and transcreation differ along the lines of best uses, qualifications of team members, timing, and costs. 

Best Uses

Word-for-word translation works best for situations requiring precise communication of factual information, whether that’s a product instruction manual, an insert about a company’s exchange and return policies, or a restaurant menu, for instance. 

Even minor typos in these factual materials can cause confusion. For example, on English menus in other countries, “tonic water” has been mistranslated as “toxic water.” Likewise, the vegetable “rabe” has been misspelled as “rape.” Beyond that, restaurants often err by offering “crap” instead of “crab.”

On the flip side, transcreation works best when literal translation might backfire, altering the meaning of the underlying messaging. For example, in entering the Latin American market, the American Dairy Association (ADA) used literal translation to convey its “Got milk?” slogan. To native Spanish-speakers, the message came across as, “Are you lactating?” 

Professional Qualifications

Typically, professional translators are well trained in both translation and localization. The translator must comprehend the source language well enough to provide accuracy and completeness in the target language or dialect. Also, many translators specialize in areas like marketing, technology, medical, or legal. Most translators are able to support cultural adaptation and transcreation, at least to some extent.

In contrast, professional transcreators tend to be marketing or advertising copywriters. They specialize in writing copy in the target language and might even have limited knowledge of the source language. Their hallmark is their creativity in achieving the desired effect in the target language.

Timing 

The industry standard for the volume of translation by professional linguists is 2,000 to 2,500 words per day. That figure doesn’t apply in marketing because marketing content includes at least some copy requiring transcreation. Transcreation is much more time-consuming to deliver because it is a creative process.

Pricing

Generally, professional translators are paid by the word. Transcreation is priced on an hourly or project basis, much like copywriting, graphic design, and other services offered by most marketing agencies. Consequently, transcreation can cost more than translation. However, transcreation can be well worth spending more time and money on because it allows you to better express your underlying intent or direct your customer reaction in a culturally appropriate way. Ultimately, you are better able to achieve greater user satisfaction and build brand engagement, loyalty, and sales revenues when customers recognize that you “speak their language.” 

The Importance of Investing in Translation and Transcreation Services

While they are distinctly different, both translation and transcreation serve essential roles for businesses looking to connect with those who speak languages besides their native tongues or those from other cultures. Investing in quality translation and transcreation services can make a big difference in your business’s ability to bridge those cultural and language gaps and avoid embarrassing and costly mishaps.

Whether you need transcription or transcreation, BIG Language Solutions has everything it takes to bring you the best possible service across all industries. We translate into more than 200 languages and have access to translators and interpreters who are experts in marketing and a multitude of other subject areas. Our expertise extends to regulatory issues too, such as trademark laws in foreign countries. We also run our own in-house graphics studio and multimedia production facilities with full localization capabilities.

Now BIG is becoming bigger and better: our new online security platform, LanguageVault, meets a longstanding industry challenge of securing content through the translation cycle, for end-to-end data protection and privacy. To learn more about BIG’s services, contact us today

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