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Do You Need Translation? or Transcreation?

Do You Need Translation? or Transcreation?

Your English-speaking business is opening a new office in Mumbai. With English website design and product brochures in hand, you want help preparing them for your new audience.

It can seem like the next step is to seek a translator who specializes in your target language. In some cases, with some texts, this is true. Often, however, what you need is not translation, but transcreation. Let’s examine the differences.

Translation is a process in which a linguist who knows both languages carries your texts as directly as possible from the source language into the target language. The root meaning of the word “translate” is to carry across, and it has come to refer primarily to languages – carrying these words to that language with as little interpreting or interference as possible. Plain translation is what’s need for a legal document, a technical explanation, or a supply list. In these cases, the meaning we are trying to convey has everything to do with the specific chosen words, including the order in which they are written and any special terminology.

Transcreation, on the other hand, is a more creative process than translation. In fact, your translator needs to be as much copywriter as linguist, because this process is about creation. For texts intended to convey nuances such as humor, poetic or philosophical ideas, and product branding, you need someone who will transfer your ideas into a new language, without losing the persuasive intent of the intended message. This is usually a transformative process that entails total recreation of the whole: existing texts, colors, graphics, music, layout, proper nouns, and symbols, in addition to translation into the new language.

When requesting translation from your LSP, it’s important to understand the difference, as you can see. Transcreation takes a lot more time, as well as skills beyond straight translation ability, so it costs more. You certainly don’t want to request transcreation when you only need translation.

But when you are looking to market your product in a new country, simply replacing the words and images in your marketing with equivalents from your target language and culture can be disastrous. You must employ a creative, multilingual transcreator to understand your core elements and intentions, and then from that understanding create a whole that is powerful within a new culture. How do you communicate the beauty and effectiveness of your product to consumers in Mumbai? It simply isn’t the same way you do for Americans.

If you decide you need more than straight translation, seek the help of an experienced Language Service Provider. Then, in order to speak knowledgably with your LSP about the transcreation of your product, you should prepare a Creative Brief. This document will explain what your product is and what you want from transcreation. Here are 10 points to consider and include:

1. Describe your product. Is it part of a family of products? What is its history?
2. Who is your audience? Specifically, what demographics do you hope to reach in terms of age, buying power, occupations, and interests?
3. Why are you choosing this particular target country?
4. What action do you want your potential customers to take in response to the transcreated material? Signup for a newsletter? Request a sample? Purchase a featured item?
5. Share existing videos, pamphlets, websites, and other marketing materials with your LSP.
6. What tone do you want the new material to possess? Do you want the attitude to be scientific, intimate, light-hearted…?
7. What other communication elements do you want to use in printed material? Will you include photographs, charts, or other graphics?
8. What mediums do you want to work with to develop your transcreation campaign? Will you include music? Video? Social media?
9. What is your time-frame?
10. What is your budget?

Good transcreators are passionate about their work. When you share product information with them, along with your passion for your product, the resulting transcreation can be extremely dynamic. With the right creative investment, you will attract a new audience. Lackluster translation of marketing materials can be a waste of money and even cause PR problems. But intelligent transcreation can truly open up new worlds for your company.


J. V. McShulskis



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