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What is transcreation?

What is transcreation?


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What is transcreation?

What does transcreation mean? Transcreation means translating and adapting an original text in a new language whilst making sure it is still appropriate in the context for which it is intended. The person producing the transcreation must understand the desired outcome thoroughly and be given the freedom not only to translate the original but also to make significant changes to it in the process. That is why transcreation is important, to make sure a message is appropriate to and understood by different audiences.

For instance, an example of a sales headline from US English to UK English: the slogan ‘Don’t go postal’ for a brand of super-fast fax machines. In the United States, ‘going postal’ is widely understood as going berserk due to several unfortunate incidents which occurred when stress got the better of some US postal workers late last century.

So, how was this transcreation in UK English? ‘Fax. Relax’. Although the words are completely different, the strap line succeeded in conveying the meaning of the original tag line but without relying on a cultural reference that a UK audience would not have understood.

Transcreation vs Translation

What’s the difference between translation and transcreation? Whilst transcreation focuses on making the necessary changes to adapt a message in a new language so it conveys the same message, translation focuses on the accuracy of the rendering of the original text.

Translation involves the translator adding their own skill and judgement to best capture the essence of what the author of the original document means. Generally, the more abstract a document is, the more variation between two translations of it are likely to be even though they both remain ‘correct’, or ‘accurate’. For instance, there will be more variance in the translation of a poem, due to its personal interpretation, than a set of instructions, where there will be little ambiguity.

On the contrary, whilst translators can be constrained by the original text, transcreations are much more creative and marketing-focused copies, as they can adapt a text to make sure it is suitable for different contexts or audiences.

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