Selecting the right service: Translation vs Transcreation

Home » Blog » Selecting the right service: Translation vs Transcreation
Transcreation advertising

The difference between transcreation and translation may have blurred lines, but this article will help you re-focus on what service is right for you and your needs. Translation and transcreation share a unified goal, yet their processes to reach that goal are polar opposites. To understand their differences, we first need to understand what they mean independently.

Think words: Translation

Translation can be described as replacing words in one language with the corresponding words in another language. This can be reflected in either literal, human or machine translation. Translation attempts to recreate the same meaning from one language into another while maintaining the same message intent. In other words, translation is about translating in a precise manner. Translation is therefore best suited for highly specialised technical content and manuals, as translators maintain knowledge of specialised terminology to be able to translate source text naturally and idiomatically.

However, sometimes the end goal is to promote or persuade a target audience with a message. This is one example where transcreation can be an asset in recreating a brand’s essence in another language.

“All translation is a compromise – the effort to be literal and the effort to be idiomatic.”
Benjamin Jowett

Think feelings: Transcreation (translation + creation)

Unlike translation projects, most transcreation projects begin with a creative brief that allows the transcreator to write a new copy from scratch. Where translation seeks to convey a meaning accurately, transcreation takes into account the original style and tone of the initial copy. More so, transcreation seeks to hook a target audience while still maintaining the same feel as the original text. A good example of transcreation will incorporate a feeling of cultural familiarity to attract consumers of a new market.

Transcreation merits artistic license, as writers seek to customise cultural nuances and idioms so that the message resonates with a different target audience and target market. This involves assessing the source text and reproducing a localised version. This means transcreators must excel at both translating and creative writing in order to stay true to the original text and brand voice and at the same time tailor the message to a particular market. It is for this reason that transcreation is often linked to marketing and advertising campaigns, where the end goal is to recreate the same ‘feel’ of the campaign, yet works for a culturally diverse audience. Rather than producing the same message in another language, transcreation is about rousing the same reaction from the target audience as the source audience. Transcreation therefore incorporates writing with rhythmic or linguistic features, hence the term ‘creative translation’. This is exactly what makes transcreation a challenging task that requires creativity as well as intimate linguistic dexterity to produce a relevant and localised message.


Transcreation in action 

To truly understand how transcreation looks we simply need to look at a few famous global marketing campaigns.  

Intel’s tagline “Sponsors of tomorrow” defines their forward-thinking approach to technological development. When translated into Portuguese, Intel’s tagline instead implied to Brazil’s consumers that they would not deliver on their promises. Intel then took to transcreation to reflect the true meaning of their tagline. They came up with “Intel: In love with the future”. This resonated more with Brazil’s market, because it reflected their seemingly passionate culture.Japanese car manufacturer Mitsubishi changed the name of the Mitsubishi Pajero (originally named after the Leopardus pajeros) at the last minute, because ‘pajero’ was of course less than appealing for the Spanish-speaking market. Mitsubishi opted for Mitsubishi Montero, which had much more impact.

What about localisation? 

The concept of adjusting source text to a target market sounds similar to localisation, but again there are distinct differences between transcreation and localisation: 

  1. Meaning: Localisation carries the same meaning as the source text, even in the other language. Transcreation customises a text’s meaning entirely so that it rings true for the audience in question. As long as the new version reflects the same feeling as the source text, it is irrelevant if the words are completely different in the new language. 
  2. Content: Localisation is ideal for mobile and web applications, games and software. For example, we have localised our 2M Website for France and Spain. This was not just a matter of translating our English content into French and Spanish, but tailoring our information to what is of most interest to the respective consumers. It involves multilingual SEO and in-depth research about local personas and what drives conversions to properly understand the market and how to connect with them.  Transcreation on the other hand carries a persuasive tone and clear intent that makes it ideal for brand slogans and marketing text. Transcreation goes further than addressing cultural appropriateness to consider nuances and local phrases in the final message.  
  3. Emotion: We have already established that the goal of transcreation is to evoke the same emotions from a target market as it does the source market. This strong emotional component does not necessarily exist in localisation, because it’s more about tapping into the region’s culture rather than instilling a certain emotion in the target audience. 

Is Transcreation the crème de la crème of language services? 

Translation and transcreation services are equally professional services, but for different reasons. If you are looking to translate informational content, translation services are what you need. If you are looking to translate literature, advertising or humour, transcreation is the obvious choice. At the end of the day, it all comes down to aligning your needs with the right service.  


Related Articles

Introducing 2M Language AI

At 2M, we strive to make language accessible and timely to anyone, located anywhere.  Launching today, 2M …

Read more

Meet 2M at IMARC 2023

One week until IMARC 2023. If you are attending and want to meet the 2M team, you …

Read more