The 2 minute guide to creative translation, a.k.a. transcreation

What is the difference between translation and transcreation?

Creative translation, aka transcreation, can be simply defined as translation applied to creative works. As translation always requires a degree of creativity, a rethinking of how to say each sentence, transcreation can be distinguished from the usual translation process by requiring an additional level of creativity to convey the same message, tone, intent, effect as the source work. It's a mix of localisation (tailoring a translation for a specific locality, readership), traditional translation and creative thought.

It usually differs from traditional translation by involving source text that is highly localised to speak to a particular market in their terms, on their level. The challenge of transcreation is to take that local wordplay or reference and, while retaining -- or improving on -- the style, message and effect of the original, making it work in the target market. It has to ring as true to the target reader as it would to the reader of the source text.

If this process isn't handled sensitively it could have a negative impact on the entire campaign, and quite possibly the brand behind it. And that's it, in a nutshell.

The 5 top considerations to look out for when transcreating your creative works

  • Your translation agency or team need to be fully aware of the pitfalls of a poorly translated creative campaign.
  • They need to understand the target market and readership as well as you do.
  • The source creative copy will ideally be based on a universal sentiment to enable translation. Certain references won't translate and will need rewriting.
  • Any and all artwork used in the campaign needs to be shared with the transcreation team.
  • Planned locations for the display of the works need to be shared with the team also, to cover any of the more obscure sensitivity issues.

For examples of transcreation done well, see Wikipedia's transcreation examples and the following section for transcreation not handled correctly.

So there, in brief, is what to look for in a transcreation project, and why you might like to offer this is a specific service to your clients. Do get in touch if you would like more information on how a transcreation project is structured and we'd be happy to point you in the right direction.

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