Translation or transcreation?

Do you need translation or transcreation services? If you’re not sure, here’s a short guide to the difference between these two services.

Centuries old craft

Translation is the centuries-old craft of rendering the meaning of words or text in another language, as accurately and literally as possible. Letters, contracts, transcripts, subtitles, official documents etc. are the domain of the professional translator.

Word-for-word translation (metaphrasing) is at heart a communication tool, whereas transcreation is more akin to paraphrasing (conveying/clarifying the essential message in different words). Having said that, due to the vast differences between languages, the most effective translations are rarely “word-for-word”, but take into account linguistic/cultural differences while remaining as true to the original content as possible.

Commercial communication

You could say the aim of much transcreation is “commercial communication”, i.e. conveying an adapted message in order to engage consumers and translate (as it were) to sales. Transcreation is a modern coinage that first surfaced in the 1960s and was established in the 1990s. In essence, transcreation is translation with the added elements of creative adaptation/content. It is usually used in advertising/marketing/branding, particularly on a global scale.

In essence, transcreation is translation with the added elements of creative adaptation/content.

Unlike translation, transcreation can include adaptation of visuals (logos, colours, graphics, fonts, etc), and be driven by decisions on humour content, context, casting, retail positioning and much more. Sometimes the umbrella term for this type of adaptation is called localization. And unlike translation, the focus is not the content itself, but how the target audience responds to it.

Creative leeway

Transcreation also involves a higher degree of creative leeway than translation. The exception is probably literary translation (in particular poetry), which usually involves a fair amount of creative input from the translator. Just how much creative leeway the transcreator has depends on the brief and on the client.

Even with straightforward translation, the translator’s input may be necessary regarding stylistic streamlining or text length adjustment – editing, in other words. As a rule though, it is not the job of the translator to add or remove content to any significant extent. This sort of judgement is more in line with transcreation.


Transcreators are marketing-savvy language creatives

Translators are language experts but transcreators are marketing-savvy language creatives. Transcreators will adapt/advise on the message according to local market tastes, advertising regulations, media environment, overall global strategy and any other relevant issues. In this respect transcreators may find themselves liaising with local marketing managers who have expertise in the brand and the local target audience. Translators on the other hand are more likely to work with reviewers and editors.

Want to name/market a product in Japan? You need transcreation. https://www.wedojapan.com/naming-product-japan/

Want to read an in-depth case study of a successfully transcreated E to J product? https://www.wedojapan.com/kitkats-big-japan-break/

But whatever you do, don’t get lost in translation/transcreation.

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