What Is Transcreation?

What is transcreation, anyway? Is it different from translation? And how do you know if you need transcreation services for your content?

You’ve got questions; we’ve got answers. Read on to learn about transcreation services and how they can help your business effectively expand into new markets.

What is transcreation? And how are transcreation services different from translation?

Simply put, transcreation is the process of adapting content to a new target audience, changing elements of the material and messaging as needed to keep the same overall emotional impact.

Generally speaking, pure translation involves a more faithful rendering of content from one language to another. Sometimes, this is precisely what you want: information from the first language made understandable to a new audience.  But what if the success of your project depends on more than just information? Or, what if there’s something about the original message that’s keeping a foreign audience from engaging fully? 

Translator, traitor?

“Traduttore, traditore.” In English, that means “translator, traitor.” This old Italian saying implies that there’s no way a translated work can ever exactly replicate the original.  Something always gets lost in translation.

That seems like an overly cynical way of looking at the act of translation. However, it’s true that translators often have to choose between being faithful to the words in the original text, or being faithful to the spirit and meaning. Even the most accurate word-for-word translations can be “betrayals” if abstract elements like idioms aren’t made understandable to your target audience.  That’s why even the most advanced machine translation systems available today are still no substitute for a good human translator.

In advertising and marketing, you’re not just trying to inform your audience. If if you’re doing your job, you’re trying to inspire them, to motivate them, to get them to do something.  Effective adverts and marketing campaigns depend on a combination of subtle emotional cues. Emotions are universal. However, the signals that inspire them often depend on culture.  As just one example, different colours carry different emotional meanings around the world.

That’s where transcreation comes in: by reconsidering the whole project from the ground up, transcreation specialists can achieve the same motivational and emotional impact as the original copy, but for a new audience with different linguistic and cultural expectations. Transcreation can involve elements as diverse as changing the colour scheme, changing the imagery, and rewriting or changing aspects of the copy to more effectively address the target audience.

The result?  A final output that looks as if it was designed and written by a local agency in the target country.

Need some examples?

Take a look at how Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Amazon have localised and transcreated their websites to appeal to different audiences around the world. 

Do you need transcreation or marketing translation?

According to Common Sense Advisory [PDF],

Typical projects that require transcreation include web campaigns that don’t attract customers in other markets, ads that are based on wordplay, humor that is directly related to just one language or culture, or products and services that need to be marketed to diverse demographics within the same market.

Transcreation isn’t always necessary, of course. Sometimes, marketing translation is all you need to create copy that resonates with the target audience.  Marketing translation keeps the original message intact instead of recreating it from scratch. However, it does include translating slogans, jokes and figures of speech to make them relevant to the target audience.

For more on the differences between the two, see Marketing Translation Vs. Transcreation: What’s the Difference? 

So, how do you know which you need? Unless you have a deep understanding of both the original and target culture, you probably don’t.  The answer depends on both your goals and on the nature of the source material. Often, both marketing translation and transcreation are used together on the same project.  A language service provider experienced with both approaches can help you decide when to use each for maximum efficiency and best results.

At K International, we have expert teams of marketers and translators all over the world.

Our multilingual copywriters and designers are ready to be your voice in another language. Our experts use their inside knowledge of the target language and culture to analyse your project.  They’ll help you decide how best to proceed so that the resulting translation retains the full spirit and message of the original, but in a manner that will impact positively on the end users in the target country.

Learn more about how our marketing translation and transcreation services help you get your message out to customers all over the world, and feel free to get in touch.  We’d love to hear from you!

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