What Is Transcreation? A Guide for Translators and Their Managers
10 min. read
You enter a new market, translate your content, and wait for customers to flock in.
It’s a great strategy for untapped markets, of which there are none.
The truth is translation does not cut it for crowded markets. Therefore, savy businesses increasingly opt for transcreation.
Keep reading to discover:
Pro tip: To manage your transcreation project, use a professional localization suite. It will help you establish seamless collaboration between translators, designers, and developers to save time and money. Learn more.
Transcreation is a portmanteau of two terms: translation and creation. Transcreation is also referred to as creative translation.
Rather than simply translating content, transcreators recreate content to achieve its intended impact on the audience. To this end, transcreators might adjust the content’s style, tone, voice, idioms, and humor.
While the two are closely related, there is a number of differences between transcreation and translation.
- Transcreation aims for impact, not for accuracy
Translation focuses on word-for-word or phrase-for-phrase accuracy, while transcreation concentrates on the intent. Transcreated content evokes the same thoughts and feelings in the target audience as the original text.
- Transcreation is more creative than translation
Translators often use machine translation tools. However, these tools lack the emotional intelligence necessary to ensure the intended impact on the audience. Therefore, they are of little use to transcreators.
- Transcreation requires a detailed brief
Transcreators need a detailed creative brief is to grasp the nuances of the market, product, and its users. The brief also helps them understand the content’s intended emotional impact of the audience.
- Transcreation does not require translation memory
Professional translators often use translation memory to save time by recycling language from previously translated texts. However, there’s little use for translation memory in transcreation. It’s a creative process that requires originality and unique output every single time.
- Transcreators charge per hour rather than per word
Translators are usually paid by the word count because translation is a fairly straightforward and easily calculable process. Transcreation, on the other hand, requires extensive research and creativity. For this reason, transcreators charge per hour or per project.
- Transcreation is more costly than translation
Because of the hourly rates as well as the involvement of larger teams, transcreation projects are always more costly than translation.
As transcreation costs more, there must be a good reason for a company to invest in it. Let’s look at the benefits of transcreation to understand whether it’s worth the expense.
Raise brand awareness and recognition
By adapting your marketing content to the cultural context of a specific market, transcreation helps the target audience relate to the core message. It also helps to build brand recognition and gives companies a chance to stand out in a saturated marketplace.
Increase acceptance of your marketing message
Target customers in different locations have different needs, pain points and desires. To successfully captivate your audience, transcreate your marketing message needs to reflect the specific needs and preferences of a particular market.
The goal of transcreation is to evoke the intended emotions in the target audience, motivating them to become your customers. As long as you stay attentive their needs and leverage trancreation effectively, your sales will grow.
Demonstrate cultural sensitivity
When you create unique and culturally relevant content, you show your deep understanding of and commitment to your target audience. On top of that, transcreation allows you to avoid cultural misunderstandings that can undermine your company’s reputation.
What kind of content normally requires transcreation?
Generally speaking, it’s the texts and messages that depend on the emotive response from the audience. These most common use cases for transcreation are detailed below.
Advertising and marketing
Ads, content, brochures, slogans, or social media posts won’t work unless they captivate the audience.
In addition to eliciting the intended emotional response, marketing content should appeal to the right cultural values helping customers associate with your brand. A word-for-word translation simply won’t cut it.
Literature is another content domain that depends on its ability to evoke emotions in the audience. However, what causes joy or sadness in one part of the world, could have the opposite effect elsewhere.
The works of literature require reimagining to fit the target culture and language. This may involve adapting characters, settings, or themes while retaining the same message and the intent of the original work.
TV shows or films often need to be transcreated to stand a chance with foreign audiences.
To make them accessible and understandable to watchers from other cultures, the adaptations go beyond translating the dialogues from one language to another. They include humor, visual cues, cultural references, characters, or even the plot.
Video games and mobile apps
Video game and software companies transcreate their products for different markets to make them resonate better with the local audience. This can improve their popularity and boost their sales.
Whe done right, transcreation helps your target audience to resonate with your product or marketing message.
Let’s look at the examples of successful transcreation below.
When Gotham Entertainment published Spider-Man India in 2004, they transcreated the comic book to make it more culturally relevant for Indian readers. The story was set in Mumbai, Peter Parker became Pavitr Prabhakar, and Green Goblin was swapped with demons. As a result, Indian comic readers favorably received the story.
Haribo slogan transcreation
Haribo’s English slogan is an example of marketing transcreation done right.
Haribo’s orgianal advertising slogan goes “Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso,” which translates from German as “Haribo makes children happy, and grownups too”. For the American market, the company came up with “Kids and grownups love it so, the happy world of Haribo.”
Examples of Bad Transcreation
As the examples below demonstrate, transcreating advertising slogans doesn’t always go well.
Pepsi slogan transcreation
Pepsi dropped the ball with transcreating their slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi generation” into Chinese. Why? Simply because the Chinese version turned out to mean “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”.
Source: Big Translation
McDonald’s slogan transcreation
McDonald’s has successfully transcreated its iconic “I’m Lovin’ It” slogan into multiple languages. However, the company has also fumbled the slogan transcretion for many locations.
After multiple attempts, the company gave up on translating the slogan into Swedish, Danish and Italian.
If you are getting ready for market expansion, consider how to manage your transcreation project.
1. Choose the right translator
Are native speakers the best transcreators?
Not necessarily. A native speaker of the source language who’s lived in the target country for a while can do an equally good job. Generally, though, native translators have a better understanding of the linguistic or cultural nuances of their languages.
If you’re not sure who to hire, why not use a local language service provider?
In many ways, local translation agencies that provide transcreation services are a safer bet than trying to hire freelance transcreators yourself. That’s because they have a better understanding of the culture that your content is aimed at. They can also lean into their local networks to enlist the best translators, marketers or copywriters for the job.
2. Define the purpose of the text
Make sure you identify and define the intent of the text. Is it to sell? Boost brand awareness? Answering these questions is necessary for the transcreation team to craft content that matches its original purpose in the target language.
3. Provide a detailed brief about the project
Once you have the purpose figured out, create a clear brief for the transcreation services provider. The brief should include:
the intent of the message
product and its unique selling points
All this information is crucial for creating compelling content that achieves its objectives.
4. Oversee the transcreation process
Transcreation is an iterative process and more often than not the first version of the content won’t be the best. To speed up the process, keep the feedback loops tight to guide your transcreators. Create efficient communication channels so that all team members can easily exchange ideas.
Pro tip: To manage your transcreation project effectively, use a professional localization solution – Centus. The solution has been designed to streamline cooperation between translators, designers, developers and managers. Learn more.
Transcreation could be a rewarding alternative to traditional translation. If you’re thinking of giving your career a twist and looking in this direction, here are a few tips that will help you start.
Make sure you understand the brief
The brief is the key document that gives you insights into who you’re writing for and the aim of the message. If your brief is not detailed or clear enough, follow up with the client to ensure you’re on the same page. This will save you both a lot of time down the line.
There’s a big chance that your client has already done the bulk of the job while working on the brief. However, as you’re the one responsible for the final outcome, research your target market, the audience, and the product you’re writing about.
Dig into the source text and extract the message
Extracting the message from the source text is a must for translators to be able to convey it to the target audience. Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward and sometimes it takes a fair bit of digging to unearth.
Consider the cultural background
Now that you know the message, understand how it fits into the cultural, historical, religious, and political reality of its recipients.
Plan and draft
Step away from the source text and look for ways of communicating the intended message to your target audience. As this is the most creative part of the process, give yourself time and space to leave the ideas aside for a while and let them mature.
Create your final copy. At this stage, you should rely on your research and brainstorming notes, rather than the source text. In fact, having the original text around can hinder the process as you may unconsciously follow its structure.
If you want your message heard outside your cultural circle, transcreate it.
Transcreation is a time-consuming and expensive process because it requires content recreation to make it culturally relevant for the target audience. Nevertheless, the extra cost is worth it for marketing campaigns, literature, and audiovisual content.
To ensure the high quality of transcreation, engage a professional transcreation agency that is familiar with the target market and users.
What are the origins of transcreation?
The origin of the word transcreation goes back to 1960s and 70s, when translators specializing in literary translation realized literal translation was not enough to convey the original message of the text.
What is the difference between transcreation and localization?
Transcreation and localization are similar in the sense that they require changes to the content to make it linguistically and culturally appropriate. However, localization is a wider process as it may involve changes to the product’s design, UI, and payment system, among others.
What is an example of transcreation?
An example of transcreation is the adaptation of the setting and characters of a story to make them more relatable to an audience from a different culture.
Are creative translation and transcreation the same?
Creative translation and transcreation are mistakenly used interchangeably.
Creative translators have more freedom to paraphrase content while adhering to the structure and tone of the original message.
Transcreators, on the other hand, re-create content from scratch to preserve its essence rather than structure.
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