Translation vs. Transcreation – Yes, they are different

February 24, 2017

 

It was only a few weeks ago when this LinkedIn article caused a debate online about transcreation and whether it is a new type of service or an industry lie. Some of the comments and answers underneath the post gave me the opportunity to write this blog post, expressing my own view. My take is drawn from my own experience as both translator and transcreator.

 

A few months before reading this on LinkedIn, I was presenting at the Translation and the Creative Industries Conference held at the University of Westminster in London. At the time, a lot of presentations from other speakers focused on transcreation without necessarily making a clear distinction between transcreation and translation. As it was expected, just the use of the word 'transcreation’ sparked a huge debate among supporters and sceptics in the audience.

 

It is now clear that people love to debate about transcreation. But, what it's also clear, at least to me, is that translation and transcreation are two different things. I am a language professional who does both so my initial thought was that perhaps colleagues are sceptical about transcreation because maybe they haven't been involved in a transcreation project before. I am certainly not supporting that the two disciplines are not similar, but at the same time, they are not the same.

Why am I saying that they are two different things?

 

Firstly, let’s take a look at some definitions.

 

Translation

The Oxford Dictionary defines translation as "The process of translating words or text from one language into another" and gives the example of "the translation of the Bible into English".

 

Transcreation

The word transcreation hasn’t quite made it in the dictionaries yet. But let’s take a look at the various definitions provided by companies in the field:

 

Lionbridge states that "Transcreation is the process of recreating precise brand content for multilingual consumption. Standard translation and localisation services don’t effectively preserve the creative and emotional intent of content that allows it to best resonate in other languages and cultures. Transcreation adapts the intent of the original text based on cultural nuances, ensuring it will be successful internationally."

 

Conversis say that "Transcreation gets beneath the essence and the emotion of the brand. It takes values, concepts and key messages and recreates them in different markets, bringing together marketing, linguistics, creative copywriting and design, whilst taking account of tone, nuance, colour and style."

 

In my experience, translation can be found within transcreation. However, transcreation does not always exist within translation. My own definition of transcreation is that it is creative translation during which style, tone of voice and key brand messages are kept intact. It is copywriting in a second language inspired by the language of the original.

On the one hand, when I translate a legal text from English into Greek, I cannot and I should not be creative. I need to be accurate, consistent, true and precise, yet the text still needs to flow and be readable. The purpose of my text is to convey information. I pay attention to terminology. If I need to reorder sentences because syntactically it is the correct thing to do for the Greek language, then I am not being creative, I am being a good Greek translator that doesn’t translate literally. Usually, I get paid based on the number of words to be translated.

 

On the other hand, when I transcreate a TV script for a beauty product, I receive a copywriting brief. I watch previous advertisements. I work with video specialists. I ensure the text fits the timings of the voice over. I convey brand messages that appeal to a specific audience. I do not translate. I re-write, ensuring that the Greek message is suitable for Greek television. I create taglines. I market re-position straplines for logos. Usually, I get paid per hour and I supply two different copies along with a rational backing all of my choices and back translations. So quite a different job.

The core message is that transcreation is a new discipline which combines qualities from a variety of existing services such as translation and copywriting. It is also fair to say that it mostly takes place within the marketing and advertising industries where words are working together with images, music, logos and brand messages to achieve one goal: make consumers buy something by appealing to their emotion. 

 

Transcreation is creative translation, however, this doesn’t mean that translation for other industries isn’t creative. The term ‘creative’ in the context of transcreation is associated with the creative departments of graphic designers, illustrators, and video producers rather than creativity as an ability itself. This means transcreation is to take something a creative created and transfer it into a different market.

 

It's also important to note that a good few years ago, translation was relevant to translating essays, literature and books in general. Then, technology came along and we started using the term 'localisation' to respond to more modern market needs such as website and software localisation. As globalisation took over, marketing implementation became common practice and gave birth to transcreation.

  • What is your experience?

  • Are you a translator and a transcreator?

  • Do you agree with me? Let me know!

  • You don't agree with me? Again, let me know!

Vasiliki is a Consultant, Chartered Linguist and Translator. She is the founder of Greek to Me Translations, a company that helps businesses communicate their brand, products and messages to their target audience. She can help your organisation achieve a global presence by implementing a translation process that works, using translation technologies and best practices. She believes that translation strategy, when well-embedded within the overall business strategy, delivers not only words but vision. Find out more about how she can help you or get in touch with her at vp@grtome.com to discuss your translation process and any challenges you have.

 

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