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Beyond Translation: Transcreation

Transcreation is a relatively new concept and one closely tied to international marketing. Unlike “translation,” which involves taking an original text and producing a faithful and accurate version of the original meaning in a target language, “transcreation” means going beyond reproducing meaning to creating something that will have the same emotional impact in another culture. As the term suggests, there is a greater degree of creativity involved in transcreation than in the everyday translation job.

In a sense, most translation involves some element of transcreation. For instance, we’ve written before about the creativity involved intranslating idioms. Translating “he’s still wet behind the ears,” literally into another language might just cause foreign readers to scratch their heads. Most texts that aren’t purely technical have some elements that demand creativity on the part of the translator.

The act of transcreation applies this process to an entire text. Advertising is the biggest example of an area in which transcreation is necessary in order for the impact of the original advertising concept to be maintained across language and culture.

In marketing, transcreation is definitely on the rise. In a survey of 380 respondents by Common Sense Advisory, 25 “percent of respondents expected transcreation – as a percentage of total translation activities – to grow between six and 10% during 2010, while almost 30% anticipate that it will grow by more than 10%.” See “Apple’s Secret to Booming International Sales,” by Rebecca Ray in Chief Marketer.

crossword and word search puzzles in English and Spanish

Advertising isn’t the only area where translation services can demand a strong element of transcreation. For example, in a recent job for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), we translated an activity book their Poison Control Center aimed at educating children about environmental dangers. The book contained crossword and word search puzzles that had to be completely recreated in Spanish to serve their purposes.

We faced another challenge in translating some training materials from French to English for a leadership coaching firm. The firm had come up with an acronym to describe the different components of their team facilitation process. The acronym was also a word in English and the client wanted to keep the acronym. Unfortunately, the words that it stood for and the processes they described could not simply be translated while maintaining the same acronym. Instead, alternative words and descriptions had to be worked out to maintain the acronym while conveying the same process and connotations.

(MTM Linguasoft)


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