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What is transcreation and how is it done?

What is transcreation and how is it done?

Transcreation and translation are closely related but different. Translation requires that a text’s content be preserved in full and be as close as possible to the original in both form and content.

Transcreated text, on the other hand, is often significantly changed with the goal of capturing both the nuanced meaning and the emotion that the original text was designed to convey to its original audience. The task requires creative thinking and copywriting ability, in addition to language mastery. Transcreators are basically artists of trans-lingual meaning, taking an original message and re-imagining it through their lens of understanding of the target culture and language.

Advertising is a field for which transcreation is required. Transcreators working on a recent Skrivanek job for an international advertising agency shared some of their insights and experiences with us, which inform the content of this article. They also shared spreadsheets that reveal the exact transcreation methodology they use, as delineated below.

What is transcreation and how is it done?So let’s imagine this 1950s Argentinian ad was submitted to a Skrivanek transcreation team to be prepared for the American market. The following are the specific steps our transcreators would work through to attempt to carry the meaning of this vintage image into American English, but the transcreation content and comments are fictional.

1. Image – The image is examined and the transcreators study the goals of the company.
The graphic this company has chosen indicates that they want to present a happy, fun image that expresses inclusiveness, abundance, and happiness.

2. Description – The ad’s goals and meaning are described.
~ This ad is trying to convey that this brand of Yerba Mate tea is so fresh and strong that you can always get another cup of tea out of the leaves.
~ The image is also incorporating the idea that you won’t be left behind by tea that has no energy or “room” left in it.

3. Original words – The exact original text is noted.
Aguanta uno mas! Siempre aguanta un matecito mas…
A literal translation of this is: Supports/holds one more. Always supports/enables a little more mate.

4. Adaptation 1 – An initial transcreative adaptation is made to approximate the intended meaning.
Strong enough for one more! Always enough flavor for one more cup of mate…

5. Back-translation 1 – The translated text is translated back to the original language for the purpose of tracking the relationship of the adaptation to the original. ¡Suficientemente fuerte para uno más! Siempre fuerza suficiente para un mate más…

6. Comments and rationale – Based on the adaptation and its back-translation, are the goals of the original text met? Comments.
~Fits with the graphic reasonably well.
~Uses language Americans associate with tea.
~The original ad prioritizes the idea of the tea having long-lasting flavor and this transcreated text does also.

7. Adaptation 2 – Another transcreative adaptation is developed.
Strong enough for everyone!
Don’t be left behind when you need a lift…

8. Back-translation 2 – The transcreated text is translated back to the original language for the purpose of tracking how close the adaptation remains to the original.
¡Suficientemente fuerte para todos!
No se quede atrás cuando necesite un aventón…

9. Comments and rationale — Based on the adaptation and its back-translation, are the goals of the original text met? Comments.
~ This adaptation adopts a slightly different narrative for the graphic, but still makes the important (to the company) point that the tea is strong.
~ It adds the angle of ‘giving a lift’, which is a play between the ‘lift’ one gets from drinking a stimulating tea and the ‘lift’ of getting a ride on the truck.
~ Stronger focus on the vehicle is appropriate for an American audience, as are the emotional issues of getting left behind and needing help from a drink.


Good transcreation has the following characteristics that contribute to successful direct communication with the target audience:

  • Cultural recoding
  • Taking into account such factors as emotions
  • Linguistic culture (puns, double-entendre, jargon, idioms)
  • The target audience’s environment and circumstances
  • Recreating the concept rather than the content

The advertising agency our English-to-Russian transcreators worked for understood that the process would take time. Transcreators generate several translation variations for each ad or slogan, then these variants are considered, discussed, and the unsuitable ones are discarded, leaving 2 or 3 good ones to consider. The job requires linguists with firsthand knowledge of the real lives of their target audience and culture, because ads can reference celebrity or stereotypical personalities, history, archetypes, regional political and social issues, and so many more influential elements.

Transcreation is a powerful tool in the development of superior global communication. Linguists with experience in this field and mastery of your target cultures are invaluable – find out what our transcreation specialists can do to strengthen your brand globally.




J. V. McShulskis



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