The Power of Transcreation

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

As you may already know, translating consists of reading and understanding a text in a foreign language to, later, generate a text with an equivalent meaning in our own language. Let’s say, if you are a native speaker of Spanish and are fluent in German, you will always translate from German into Spanish, and never the other way round (or, at least, you are supposed to proceed this way). To achieve a brilliant final result, the translator needs to demonstrate different skills, such as having a deep understanding of both cultures, staying true to the meaning of the original copy, achieving the right tone of voice and being able to produce a fluent text in the target language. On the one hand, you shouldn’t stick too literally to the original text and translate word for word. But on the other hand, reinterpreting the text or adding information isn’t an option.

This all may sound very obvious, especially when it comes to certain fields such as science, engineering, or legal documents where you need subject matter expertise. Precision here is key for the customer. But what about marketing or creative texts? How can a campaign in French be adapted and launched in Japan or Colombia? Here, a new ally comes to the front: transcreation (from the mix between “translation” and “creation”).

To obtain a flawless result, we need to combine three aspects:

Ladder to cloud
  • Correctly transmitting the original idea

  • Being free but keeping some relationship with the original copy and the product itself, especially as the text may also contain pictures or puns

  • Relying on someone with a broad linguistic and cultural knowledge of both languages

Text bubbles in international settings

So far, the skills required do not differ too much from what we know as “translation”, so what is the main difference? Transcreation focuses more on adaptation to another culture/market, so in this case, the translator has more freedom to divert from the original text and create a new “piece” with its own rhythm in order both to make it sound fresh and cool and to make it fit into the socio-cultural context of the countries it is aimed at. This time, it is not about pouring data from a report or showing how to install some new software. This time, it is about conveying emotions and being as catchy as the original.

Transcreation is everywhere

You may not be aware of it, but we are surrounded by transcreation: on TV, in books, in magazines, on social media and even podcasts... Many campaigns and contents have been adapted from English, German or Italian, among others, into your own language. And these movie titles, slogans and taglines are appealing and sound very natural. Some of them have been stuck in our heads for years. And that’s the magic of it: you don’t even realise it is a translation (it’s a ninja job!).

BMW tagline

A very well-known example is the famous “Freude am Fahren” (the joy of driving) from BMW. In Spanish, it was translated as “¿Te gusta conducir?” (Do you like driving?). This translation was a success: the expression catches the eye of potential users and raises their curiosity (of course I love driving! What is so special about these cars?). A good transcreation makes brands more attractive and thus, brings sales up. And it stays with us forever because… what is the first thing that comes up to your mind when you hear the word “BMW”?

Do you have any other successful transcreation examples? Have you heard of any campaign that didn’t go as expected? Let us know in the comment section!

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