Translation or transcreation – what is the best option for your business?

  • Translation or transcreation – what is the best option for your business?

    Translation or transcreation – what is the best option for your business?

    What is translation and transcreation? What is the difference between the two? How you can tell if your text needs transcreation and when?

    Recently I was invited to a meeting organised by one of my clients during which we discussed one of the most important issues in translation industry – where is the line between translation and transcreation? When does transcreation begin? What texts qualify for transcreation and what projects can be quoted as a standard translation? Not every project needs transcreation but every transcreated text is also a translation. So what is the difference between the two?

    What exactly is transcreation?

    Translation is a very general term for many processes that aim at rendering the message from one language to another. Transcreation, on the other hand, involves additional writing and translation techniques and creative skills and is usually used in ads but also in many websites and business materials such as white papers. Here is a nice example of transcreation:

    When German brand Haribo decided to introduce their products to the British market, they had to change the whole tagline to sound as catchy in English as it sounds in German. It was obvious that rhyme was the key to success, so the German tagline “Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso” was transcreated into “Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo”.

    From translator’s point of view

    During the meeting there were many participants, some of them also translators, who said that translation is when you have to translate business or technical texts and transcreation needs creative approach. Some of them argued that transcreation is usually used in marketing and simply means creative translation as marketing texts are quite a challenge to translators. Well, it’s all true, but how exactly you define a text or project that needs to be transcreated? How can you tell the difference between translation and transcreation process and adjust your services to client’s needs? Exactly – client’s needs. This is what is missing here.

    How to say if your text needs transcreation?

    Before translators start their work they have to  ask their customers several questions – where the text will be used, what is the target audience and what the customer wants to achieve? This will certainly help both businesses and their translators achieve their goals. Why there is no simple definition of transcreation? Because it is not true to say that all business documents qualify for business translations and all marketing projects for transcreation. Simply because there are as many documents and texts as there are companies with their own  style guides, vision, preferences and strategy. The target audience is not less important here. Companies whose clients are young people or teenagers will use rather simple, spoken and creative language to communicate with them, other companies such as luxury brands will prefer more formal style in their marketing materials. So knowledge of company’s target audience and goals are key to success. So one more time:

    Before any translation project ask yourself these three questions:

    1. Where the text will be used – is it for marketing campaign – for billboards, leaflets, brochures, TV commercials? Or for business presentation or other company’s documents.
    2. What is the target audience – what are company’s prospects and customers?  Are they young people want to have fun or well-off customers searching for luxury products?
    3. What is the purpose of the text – is it meant to inspire, make people buy or accentuate the benefits of a new product?

    This will certainly help you decide what to go for – translation or transcreation.

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    Hanna Gembus

    Hanna Gembus is a professional Polish English and Polish German translator and communication specialist based in the United Kingdom providing translation, content, interpreting and market research services to small, medium-sized and large companies and organisations. She specialises in business, marketing and e-commerce, using linguistic and cultural knowledge to help both start-ups and established companies improve their presence on the market and increase sales.

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