Not long ago, a friend of mine mentioned to me how her housemates had never spoken to the neighbors across the street, even though they had been living there for 3 years. After talking about this, my friend concluded that she might have been “misreading certain nonverbal signals, which she had personally noticed from the neighbors, thinking they meant, ‘stay away.’”
Cases like this happen every day, not only during one-on-one interactions, but also with the written word.
Is there a solution to this? Most certainly! In my opinion, personal interactions become better when we pluck up the courage and seek to know people who are different from us, not only by the way they look, but also in regards to their origin, language and culture.
When it comes to the written word, there are also ways to get close to culturally diverse people, and to help them to feel more confident in our own culture. Two of the ways that play a fundamental role in making this coming together possible are translation and transcreation.
Wait! Translation? Transcreation? We already know what translation is, but… what in the world is transcreation?
What Is Transcreation?
Transcreation is where creativity and refinement converge to allow a deeper connection between people of different cultural backgrounds.
Because languages are filled with nuances, idioms and specific meanings that only native speakers can fully grasp, transcreation is sometimes a better approach to the customization of your message than translation.
Transcreation—also known as “creative translation”—is a term derived from translation and creation.
Transcreation is the cultural adaptation of text from one language into another, without deviating from its intent, tone, style and context, but refined in such a way that it reconciles specific cultural and linguistic factors. The information you want to convey is exactly the same, only that it is now conveyed in a creative way; it sounds more naturally to your audience, and projects cultural finesse.
Let’s take for example medical texts that, naturally, mention specific body parts. Let’s suppose that some of your readers come from cultures where the mentioning of body parts is frowned upon, or outright considered offensive or insulting. How can your text be translated without offending your audience?
That is where transcreation comes into play! The creative translator will find the best way to convey your message without explicitly mentioning the offending body parts in the transcreated document, but using language and messages that are appropriate to your audience. The end result is an optimally effective document that resonates with your audience, enhances your brand, helps customers bond with your services and products, and increases client satisfaction.
A successfully transcreated message evokes the same emotions and carries the same implications in the target language as it does in the source language.” (Wikipedia).
How does transcreation work?
Transcreation conveys the exact same message in the source text, but in a more creative or culturally appropriate way. In order to do this, some specific characteristics are essential to the transcreation process:
- Requires a higher level of creativity
- It is generally carried out by translators who are also copywriters (transcreators)
- It focuses on fluid readability, as if the text had been written in the target language from the start
- It is more expansive than straight translation
- It also adapts linguistic conventions, such as names, numbers, specific text, etc.
- Transcreators do extensive research on what moves their respective target audiences
So far, transcreation has mainly been used in the advertising and marketing industries. It is, however, expanding more and more to other industries, such as healthcare and the sciences, especially when it is important to tailor the message in a way that takes care of the readers’ sensibilities.
Requirements of a well written transcreation
In the world of medicine, while it is not impossible to have transcreated materials, it is nonetheless important to keep in mind the complexity of transcreating medical documentation, due to very precise local regulations for medical advertising. If the intent is to transcreate documentation to be used overseas, then added precision is required as well in order to follow the specifications and medical advertising laws of the country in which the transcreated material is to be used.
This being said, some of the requirements for a well written and successful transcreation are:
- A talented translator-copywriter with exceptional writing skills
- Deep knowledge and understanding of the advertising laws and specifications of the target country
- Close knowledge and understanding of the source and target cultures, the target culture being the copywriters own culture
- Very good knowledge and understanding of terminology
- Writing expertise in the specific field: Marketing, Science, Medicine, etc.
- Transcreation should only be carried out into the transcreator’s native language
Let’s not forget that it is also very important that the transcreator learns about your brand—as well as the images, feelings and emotions it evokes or is intended to evoke—and the product you are trying to promote.
Rather than having just one person act as the transcreator of a document, the reality is that transcreation requires a team of experts. This team is composed of a translator-transcreator, an editor and a proofreader, all of whom make sure that your final copy conveys the exact message you wanted to convey from the beginning, but with the sensitivity and cultural accuracy that resonate with your intended audience.
Don’t know if you need a translation or a transcreation?
If you are working with subtle materials whose straight translation could risk hurting the sensitivities of your target audience, then your best bet is transcreation. Straight translation keeps being an excellent choice for all other cases, including highly scientific and/or impersonal materials.
Wishing you the very best,
Adriana Adarve, Asheville, NC
About the Author: Adriana Adarve is the owner of Adarve Translations and is fluent in three languages (English, Spanish & French), as well as pluri-cultural, multi-cultural, plurilingual and multilingual.