Transcreation: The Complete Guide

22.08.2022

In today’s world, transcreation has become a resourceful phenomenon for B2C and B2B companies. And understandably so. More and more businesses are expanding cross-border. And with it, they realize that they’re not catering to a new language. Instead, they are entering into a new culture. And culture is much more than language.

While you may know the gist of it, it’s essential to understand all the subtle differences between translation and transcreation so you know when to ask for one service or the other. 

Should every piece of online content be transcreated?

Can every translation provider be a good transcreation provider?

What should I expect as an ultimate result of a transcreation assignment?

Ready? Buckle up.

What Is Transcreation?

vintage advertisement posters

The word ‘transcreation’ is a fusion of translation and creation.

We are all familiar with translation: transferring meaning from source to target language.  

But the transcreation's aim goes beyond mere transferring of meaning. Transcreation helps us to deliver the target-language content in a way that also resonates with the cultural and social context in the target culture.

The Origins of Transcreation

The history of transcreation is long and complex, but it can be traced back to the early days of advertising. In the early twentieth century, some advertisers realized that simply translating their ads verbatim was not always effective in reaching foreign markets.

They realized they needed to adapt their message to appeal to the target audience better. However, it was not until the 1970s that transcreation gained widespread recognition as a distinct field different from translation. Many times, we compare the transcreation process to localization.

While both are interlinked, transcreation is a supplementary source used to localize the source message to correspond to the receiver’s language.

Transcreation examples

Example 1: Coca-Cola (good practice)

smashed coca-cola can with red feather coming out agains a turquoise backround

The brand has been winning hearts worldwide through ‘One Brand’ marketing campaigns.

They celebrate local communities by acknowledging what’s important to them and then attempting transcreation of personalized content for various festivities and rituals such as Ramadan, Holi, Easter, Eid, Christmas, etc. 

But the primary notion of all their marketing campaigns resonates with the same ideology: happiness comes with Coca-Cola.

Example 2: KFC (bad practice)

white KFC slogan It's finger lickin' good on a red wooden background

Well, we all have had KFC in our lives. And it is definitely ‘finger-lickin' good.’ But do you know that, unfortunately, the famous chicken company went to China with their renowned slogan and faced a severe backlash, as it translated to “Eat your fingers off.”

Bad transcreation example, right?

Later, KFC quickly changed the slogan and now has established over 40% of the food industry in China. We all learn from our mistakes.

Connotations of Words and Culture

Woman's hands covered in yellow, blue, pink and green powder used during Diwali

An example to share is the word ‘owl’ and how the meaning of the word differs in different parts of the world. 

In South Asia, the word ‘owl’ has a negative connotation and is perceived as an insult. In the western world, owls are denoted as competent and intelligent.

To call someone an owl in the western world is to applaud their intelligence, while calling someone an owl in south Asia can become a daring task.

So, Is Transcreation The Same as Creative Translation?

Old Favorit typewriter with sheet of white paper inside

Transcreation is a process that goes beyond simply translating the meaning of words from one language to another. It also involves considering the cultural context and ensuring that the message is conveyed in a way that is appropriate for the target audience. This often consists in adjusting the tone, style, and content of the original message. 

In contrast, creative translation focuses primarily on ensuring that the original message’s meaning is preserved. While this can require some creativity, it does not involve making significant changes to the content of the message. As a result, transcreation can be a more effective way to communicate when working with text that carries considerable cultural significance or when trying to convey a complex message.

Transcreation is not just creative translation copy. It is a strategy through which the original intent of the source message is re-engineered for the target audience. This is done by paying careful attention to the cultural notions of the target audience so that their values, language connotations, and sentiments are preserved in the process.

Transcreation is a responsibility that shoulders the entire burden of the brand story. A subtle change in the message can cost millions of dollars to marketing and advertising agencies.

3 Reasons Transcreation Requires More Than Just Translators

red brush applying red paint against a light blue background

1. Transcreation goes beyond the mere meaning

As mentioned earlier, transcreation requires more than just transferring meaning from the source language. It helps to convey the message with a personalized touch to the global audience, minding the cultural sensitivities of the target culture.

2. Transcreation starts from a creative brief, not a source text 

Transcreation requires cultural and creative briefs from the native speaker to “re-engineer” the content. Therefore, the transcreation process doesn’t start from a source-language file to translate. Instead, it begins with a brief that gives pointers on what needs to be achieved in the delivered text. 

3. Transcreating requires help from copywriters and marketers

Transcreation involves a group of copywriters, native speakers of the target market, creative writers, and professional translators to ensure that the cultural and social characteristics of the target market are respected in the text. 

What Does The Transcreation Process look like?

Get the creativity flowing written on a wall next to a light switch

Step 1: Creative Brief

First, for an efficient transcreation process, you will need to have a brief written by your marketing team, which will include the source language message and a description of the intended effect and connotations. This is a crucial part because the transcreator will consider the source content merely as a reference and focus more on the descriptive part of the brief to craft a viable solution for the target-language culture.

Step 2: Transcreation into the target language

The original content is adapted in the second step to fit the target audience’s needs and preferences. This may involve changing the piece’s tone, style, or structure.

Step 3: Proofreading & Testing

Once the transcreation is complete, it will need to be proofread and edited by a second linguist or native speaker to ensure accuracy. Only after all of these steps have been completed will the transcreation process be complete.

Step 4: Back-translation

As transcreations can detract significantly from the wording of source text, it is often supplemented with a back-translation. It's a verbatim rendering into the source language serving to show the client what is being said in the target language. It's useful if a business ordering the service doesn't have in-country people in target markets to assess the viability of the transcreation.  

Transcreation for Businesses

Office floor behind glass wall taken seen from outside

While transcreation is mainly associated with marketing and advertising agencies, it is of great use in businesses. Unfortunately, sometimes, companies lose their potential clients because their value is lost somewhere in (a bad) translation. 

In a globalized economy, businesses need to communicate across cultures. However, simply translating marketing materials into different languages is not enough. To connect with a foreign audience, companies need to think about the cultural context and create relevant and engaging content. This is where transcreation comes in. 

Transcreation is adapting content to a new language and culture while maintaining the original intent. It goes beyond translation to ensure that the content resonates with the target audience. 

As a result, transcreation can be an essential tool for businesses that want to succeed in a global market.

Where is Transcreation Used?

It is used in the following industries;

  • Food Industry

TL;DR: Transcreation Teaches Us an Important Lesson:

orange loudspeaker on orange wall

To think of transcreation as merely an approach to advertisement is an unjustifiable excuse. It is important to note that transcreation has helped save lives.

In an interview on live television, a US Medical Practitioner stated it is crucial to communicate the proper dosage while keeping in mind the local market. For example, a tablespoon of syrup can mean entirely different things in the different parts of the world.

Studying the target market before beginning the transcreation process is a requisite. For example, it has been reported that Intel, the software giant, had to change its famous slogan “Sponsors of Tomorrow” for its marketing campaigns in Brazil. The message in Portuguese implied Intel could not fulfill its promises. Through transcreation, Intel changed its slogan to “In love with future” to put forward the true vision of the brand.

Looking For an Experienced Transcreation Provider?

Black and white headshots of 16 LingPerfect Transcreation experts

With transcreation services, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every project is unique, and the right transcreation partner will take the time to understand your specific needs and objectives. 

At LingPerfect, we have a team of experienced transcreation specialists who are experts in a wide range of industries and subject-matter areas. So whether you need help communicating your brand to a new audience or translating complex technical documents, we have the expertise and resources to get the job done right. 

Contact us today to learn more about our transcreation services and how we can help you achieve your communication goals.

FAQ

Is Transcreation Important?



Yes, transcreation can be very useful and is widely used in the marketing and advertising industry. If you are looking to expand your business globally, consider transcreation to convey your message to target markets.

How do you determine the quality of transcreation?

One key factor to look at is the qualifications of the transcreator. Ideally, the transcreator should be a native speaker of the target language with extensive experience in translating complex texts. 
In addition, it is vital to check that the transcreation accurately reflects the original text's meaning. This can be done by comparing the two side-by-side or by checking with someone familiar with both the source and the target languages. 

Finally, it is worth considering whether the transcreation reads smoothly and fluently in the target language. A good transcreation should read like an original text rather than a literal translation. By taking all these factors into account, you can be sure to choose a high-quality transcreation that accurately reflects the meaning of the original text.


Who can best provide transcreation services?

Transcreation services are best provided by those intimately familiar with both the source and target cultures. This could include bilingual individuals who have lived in both places or native speakers of the target language who have extensive knowledge of the source culture. 

In either case, it is essential to use someone who understands the language and the context in which the materials will be used. Only then can they accurately convey the original message while making it relevant to the target audience.

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