How is Transcreation Different from Translation?

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What is Transcreation?

Every industry or study focus has its own set of vocabulary and lexicon. Sometimes, these terms can seem a bit confusing and all roll into one another. Other terms are very specific and unless you're really in the thick of it, you'll probably never need to use them. Today, we at Idiomatic would like to discuss term within the language industry that causes quite a bit of confusion, but is a very important one to know. That term is transcreation.

So, let's get on with it -- what is transcreation and how is it different than a plain old translation? Transcreation, which is a mixing of the words translation and creation, is extremely useful for translation for advertising, branding materials, b2b marketing content or generally speaking any sort of marketing communications.

But is transcreation any different than a more generalized translation? As a rule of thumb, translation tries to mirror the original source text as much as possible. Practical examples of this are legal documents, pharmaceutical trials and instruction manuals. 

But when it comes to advertising and marketing, the stakes are a little different. Conversely, the key here is to create a Call To Action for the target audience, in whatever language and culture that may be. Which means that when you translate, while it is important (obviously) to preserve the original meaning of the source text, you’re also conveying the tone and emotion of the words, and adapting, where necessary, to ensure they appeal to your new audience. At this point, we are also wading through a figurative minefield of dealing with the fact that some things sound good in one language, but not in another. At worst, a literal translation can result in a big faux paus in the target language. What is one to do?

What Is An Example of (Bad) Transcreation?

Sometimes, the best way of teaching what to do is by showing people what not to do. Rather than give a good example of transcreation, let's look at a bad example first. Quite some time ago, American Airlines wanted to get into the Latin American market. This airline wanted to emphasize the luxury of its planes, even boasting leather seats. In order to promote that, their slogan was "fly in leather", which was later translated into Spanish as "Vuela en cuero". Had American Airlines hired a transcreation company, rather than simply translating the term word for word, they would have realized that "Vuela en cuero" means "Fly in the nude". In short, a good transcreation ignores specific wording, focusing rather on the visceral meaning of the original text to appeal to an audience. 

How Can I Get a Good Transcreation?

The most important thing for transcreation is working with a professional whom you can trust. Idiomatic USA, for example, has years of experience providing transcreation services for clients all across the world, and works with native marketing and language experts. We have "boots on the ground" who understand how to appeal to your target market and give body to your idea. 

What can you, as the client, do? This type of project applies continuous collaboration, so don't be shy! Get all of the important info on the project on to paper. You know what your idea better than anyone else, so give as much information as possible to help the agency, such as Idiomatic, understand your vision. Give them everything from who the target audience is to what the finished visuals are going to look like. Express your ideas coherently, and make yourself available. 

It's easy to assume that when working with languages you don’t speak, you -- as the client -- have a minimal role. Not at all the case! Encourage your team to explain their translation choices whenever they’ve had to make a tough call, and be ready to talk it through with them. Trust in the experts -- that's why you're paying them after all -- but your knowledge and vision should play an important role.

Do you need transcreation services? Idiomatic USA is happy to discuss your project ideas! Get in touch here

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