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Transcreation or Translation?

Transcreation, Translation Brandon Choquette on Nov 14, 2012 4:00:00 PM


Sometimes accurate translation just isn’t right. Sometimes we need to use transcreation instead.


Transcreation is a relatively new term means recreating a text for a target audience in a way that is appropriate and relevant for that audience.  The term is a combination of the words translation and re-creation. While transcreation isn’t a mainstream concept yet, at Interpreters and Translators (iTi) we think it soon will be.

Text Reflects Emotion

Here’s how it differs from translation. Transcreation follows the same style and structure as the original text just like translation does. But with transcreation, the text is created to reflect the emotion, feeling or sentiment of the original copy in a natural linguistic way.

Transcreation requires a lot of creativity and linguists performing this task should have excellent knowledge of both the source and target language to be effective in their work.

Use Transcreation For Marketing and Advertising Copy

Transcreation is primarily used for marketing and advertising copy. Transcreation has seen a huge rise in that past decade due to growing ambitions of many companies targeting international consumer bases. 

Another reason for the growth of transcreation is that new marketing channels like online social networks have driven the need for succinct and engaging communication. Transcreation gives companies a competitive edge by helping them target their customers more effectively.

Eat Your Fingers Off

Even large companies are not immune to transcreation blunders. US based fast food company Kenicky Fried Chicken, set up their first fast food outlet in China in 1987. Their famous “finger-lickin’ good” slogan was directly translated into the Chinese phrase “eat your fingers off.” KFC quickly changed the message and today there are over 900 KFC restaurants in China.

Other Examples of When to Use Transcreation

The issue with a straight translation comes down to audience. Let’s say you wrote some marketing copy for a United States English-speaking sports audience. With that audience it would be appropriate to use American sports terms like “baseball” and “blocking and tackling” and “slam dunk.” But terms like those, if translated straight into another language for a different audience, will not work.

Another example of when to use transcreation is in industries like life sciences. In life sciences you may have to write about medication dosages. Those dosages must be concise, correct and direct. Transcreation helps ensure that the correct instructions are created that meet local regulatory requirements and practices. One of iTi’s translators once talked about the danger of telling a medical patient from a foreign country to take a tablespoon of medicine. In the U.S., a tablespoon is a specific measurement. But people from other countries don’t always have that unit of measurement and could think they can use any size spoon they use at a table.  

Here are some more high profile examples of transcreation blunders in marketing and advertising.

Meaningful Connection Not Literal Translation Matters Most

What matters most in the global marketplace is meaningful connection with your audience. Transcreation is often the answer. It resonates with the local audience. It helps develop a strong connection between your company and the distant market you want to clearly speak to.

Every day foreign language web consumers are demanding more locally relevant content. Use transcreation to ensure you establish the correct communication strategy. Transcreation is a necessity for companies that want to target a foreign market audience in the most effective possible way.