Our customers often tell us they need a fluent or creative translation of their texts. “We are looking for a partner who can provide us with fluent translations.” “You do understand that these texts cannot be translated literally, right?”
At Delingua, we understand this very well. Different texts require different approaches: sometimes the translation needs to be as word-for-word as possible, sometimes a more creative approach is required, and sometimes the goal is to evoke a certain emotional reaction. Legal texts and advertisements could be regarded as polar opposites. It is clear, of course, that the boundaries between all three approaches are blurred and translation solutions for texts can vary a lot from situation to situation, and even within the same text. Language, language variant, target audience, target country, publication channel, the company’s own communications policy or tone of voiceand the world around us are always more or less involved in translation solutions. Something that used to mean a harmless board game or a beer brand is now a permanent source of negative emotion. Saying you are “relaxing with a Corona” just isn’t the same anymore.
In this blog, I delve deeper into the secrets of creative translation and the service we call transcreation. As the name suggests, the same service involves both the delivery of a message from one language into another (trans) and producing a new one (creation). Sometimes it can be difficult to determine what the actual transcreation is and what, on the other hand, is “fluent translation”, which often involves text-enriching editing but not the actual creation of a new one. Indeed, some consider everything that goes beyond ordinary translation to be transcreation. Whatever the concepts, the most important thing is that the translation works the way the customer wants it to.
How is transcreation different from copywriting?
Transcreation always involves changing the language. In marketing, both transcreation and copywriting aim to strike a chord and attract attention, arouse interest and, ultimately, push the reader towards making a purchase decision. Copywriting starts with a briefing and a sheet of blank paper. In transcreation the editor does not start from scratch but from a combination of source text and a briefing to create something new. Transcreation is usually done by a translator, but a copywriter who is proficient in both languages may well make two different language versions of the same idea. Now, you may be wondering why the concept of transcreation exists – why not just assign a target language copywriter to do the job! The trick is that in transcreation we want to preserve the original idea of the source language. It might be a mood, a mental landscape, imagination or verbal trick.
In the world of translation, transcreation is a strange bird in the sense that in doing it one seems to become a reader of the target text, or at least crawl inside the reader’s head to look at the world from their point of view more closely than in an ordinary translation. It means taking an idea and representing it in another language so that it evokes the desired feelings and associations in the reader. Of course, the translator must understand the target culture well in order to avoid unwanted associations. Teamwork is the best option here and those involved in the project should, ideally, be experts in both languages and cultures. Proper language use and normal translation practices should not be forgotten. So, commas must, of course, be in the right places and the units and currencies correctly translated. Creativity alone is not enough.
When is transcreation needed?
Your contact at the translation agency is a professional who will know when a non-standard translation is needed and will be able to provide you with either editing or transcreation after asking specific questions. So, just relax and leave the assessment to us.
If you want to think about this yourself, here are a few tips:
A normal good translation is usually sufficient for legal texts, guidelines, service descriptions, bulletins, internal company documents and other types of factual texts. Translating these is not easier or more difficult than creative texts but, in translating them, creativity is less often the key to a good outcome. These translations require knowledge of specialist conventions and terminology.
Edited translations might be needed for marketing-oriented or other slightly more prose-like texts. Online and magazine articles, blogs, brochures, presentations and travel texts are often worth editing. Editing enriches the translation to make the text more engaging and idiomatic for the target audience, but the main emphasis is still on conveying the information in the text. Editing is also suitable for cases where a text needs to be edited due to requirements related to character constraints or the channel of publication. Examples of these include publications with the same layout for all languages or there is a preference for short words in texts read on mobile devices.
Text that requires transcreation is often an advertisement, slogan, poem, column, social media publication, lyrics, articles written in a distinctive tone of voice or other similar texts. Figures of speech, expressions and culture-specific phrases are signs of a text in need of transcreation. For fun, try a direct translation yourself. Does the literal translation sound odd or could it work as it is? If a direct word-to-word translation sounds strange, you probably need transcreation. Playing around with spellings or how the text sounds, such as alliteration, rhythm, emphasis or onomatopoeia, usually requires creativity and artistry from the translator as well. Transcreation is always a time-based service.
We cannot and do not want to give specific instructions on whether you need transcreation or not, but a good translation partner will certainly be able to advise and help you. All texts and customers are different, and especially in transcreation projects the dialogue between the customer and the translation agency or translator is important.
Have you come across transcreation or needed it yourself? If you would like to discuss this further or need a quote, please feel free to contact us!