How is “transcreation” different from translation?

Generally, translation must take into account the vocabulary, grammar, syntax, idioms, and local usage favored by the target audience, while remaining true to the source text and the context of the original document.

In other words, translation basically means “saying in other words”. 🙂 Nowadays, a word-for-word approach to translation is considered inadequate, and the basic approach is paraphrasing. But transcreation also means paraphrasing. So how are they different anyway? Judging from our 5+ years’ experience with transcreation, the main difference lies in the level and essence of the changes that are introduced into the target text compared to the source text. Transcreation must focus on the emotional response by readers, both in the source and target languages, and is basically about taking a concept in one language and completely recreating it in another one.

When it comes to multilingual advertising, marketing teams choose usually choose transcreation over translation. In fact, one of our clients does not even provide us with a source text to transcreate, but sends a brief to be presented in the desired target language instead.

In many cases, though, marketing experts do not know the target language, and they doubt that their message can be properly adapted to it. Thus, the overall creation process is still about slightly “polishing up” the existing translation through the efforts of copywriters and marketing editors.

The two main approaches to transcreation result in 2 models of dealing with the creation process itself:

Level 1 – This is close to actual copywriting. The content for the desired target audience is created (almost) from scratch, based on a concept or idea shared by the client.

Level 2 – This is close to marketing editing. Translation of the initial source text is adapted, and slightly changed where needed/applicable. It is possible to add or omit portions of text or whole phrases in order to convey the same intent, style, tone, and emotional connotations of the source language.

Obviously, with both level-one and level-two transcreation, sticking to the source is secondary, whereas in translation projects it is obligatory, and omissions/additions are usually not allowed. Therefore, translation and transcreation are related processes, but they are not identical.

So if you would like to check the difference and feel the real effect a transcreated article/slogan/advertisement has on the target audience, please contact us.


Transcreation and translation