Search Icon

Blog

Our latest news & views

What is transcreation? Everything you need to know

By Josian Phillips, 

Your translation services provider might leave you slightly perplexed, throwing the word “transcreation” into their sentences. Well, let’s send that befuddlement packing, and tell you everything you need to know about transcreation.

The term transcreation applies to the worlds of global marketing and, more specifically, advertising. It is a fusion of the words “translate” and “creation”, which helps explain the act of translating a message while following a creative process that takes into consideration cultural differences of the target country, region or group of people. 

But how does transcreation fit in alongside a simple translation and – here comes another term – localisation? 

Well, a basic translation is appropriate for content such as contracts, instruction or technical manuals. This material doesn’t include much in the way of subjectivity, so fixed words and phrases will apply, with little or no creativity required on the part of the translator.

Localisation goes a step further. It’s used in, for example, video games, educational content and web pages, and takes into account the language and culture of the target audience. It captures the original ‘look and feel’ of the document rather than delivering a straight translation. The word “skinny jeans”, for example, would not translate literally into French, where localisation to “un jean cigarette” would work. Similarly, localisation for the Muslim countries, for example, would exclude inappropriate references to pork and beer.

Transcreation is used for copywriting and image selection, for example. It tailors the message from one language to another while maintaining the intent, style, tone and context of the original message. It should evoke the same emotion in the audience as the source material, transcending the boundaries of culture and language. A transcreation will also consider any associated images, making sure they are suitable for the target market. 

In the marketing industry, the term “transcreation” is sometimes referred to as a “creative translation”, “cross-market copywriting”, “marketing translation” or “cultural adaptation” and various other similar renditions. 

A top translation service provider will have a wide and deep roster of specialist translators who understand the marketing industry and have the target language as their mother tongue. Transcreation involves great skill and good judgement on the translator’s part, making sure they capture the essence of the message that the original author intended. This involves subtle nuance, making it unlikely that two translators would come up with the same text, even though they may both be equally accurate. The more abstract the content, the more variation you will find. 

For example, compare a legal document translation to the translation of a poem. The legal document will be a straight translation, relying heavily on formal, unambiguous legal terms. A poem, however, is highly subjective and emotionally charged, so to translate it involves a lot of creativity on the part of the translator.  For a successful transcreation, the translator must fully understand the desired outcome and be permitted to use their creative licence in the translation process. 

Take our transcreation work with National Geographic Kids, for example. In collaboration with LEGO City, National Geographic planned a global launch of The Jungle Explorer’s Handbook, a 32-page guide to surviving the perils of the jungle, along with the monthly issue of National Geographic Kids magazine. It required translating into 12 languages. 

We were an obvious choice of translation services partner, as child-centric content is one of our specialist areas. Check out our work with Mattel, for example, the world’s leading marketing, design and manufacturing company of toys and family products.

The transcreation challenge was to translate the educational messages contained in this award-winning handbook into the 12 target languages, while retaining its fast pace, addictive tone and cheerful style. We were able to select the most suitable translators from our merry band across the globe, and we set them to work. They each followed the transcreation process to deliver fantastic work that delighted children across the world from France to the US to China. Which, of course, pleased our client, who said: “The translated files look amazing.” Here’s a page from the Russian version of the handbook.

As you’ve possibly gathered, not only does this involve highly attuned transcreation skills, but we also needed to get the typesetting right for each language – more on that here. 

If you’d like to talk through your transcreation requirements or would just like a quick chat, we’re happy to help. You can call 01225 580 770 or get in touch here.

Follow us for the latest
translation news and opinions