Transcreation is one of the hottest buzzwords in the language services industry. Everybody wants to have their content transcreated because it sounds fancier and more sophisticated than translation. Some would say that adapting puns and idioms from one language to another is transcreation or creative translation. For example, if we translate “it’s raining cats and dogs” into Spanish as “llover a cántaros” (it’s raining like someone is pouring water directly from a jug), then we are transcreating. But is that all there is to transcreation? Not quite.
Truth is, there is no simple answer. Depending on who you ask, you may get any of several nuanced answers. Some might be very similar, some of them completely different.
The more you ponder it, the more you wonder whether that is what translation is supposed to do? Because translation is not grabbing a dictionary and writing down a text word by word. Translation is understanding the original message, its cultural context, what the writer meant, what the target audience in their cultural context is expecting, and so on. Translation is about building communicative bridges. How is transcreation different, then?
Even if in theory translation and transcreation may be the same thing, transcreation has, decades ago, been established as a different service within the language industry. Transcreation, as most people understand it nowadays, is usually applied to the field of advertising and marketing. In this article we are approaching the concept of transcreation from that point of view. In these fields, transcreation has been established as something different from translation as well as from copywriting.
We talked to Kristy Sakai, CEO of Supertext USA, to learn more. At Supertext, where they claim to “transform your Quarter Pounder into a Royale with cheese,” they offer a wide range of services including copywriting, transcreation, translation, and editing. Supertext is a company that falls between a copywriting agency and a translation bureau, and they are well-known for their creative edge. We set out to learn how a company specializing in transcreation sees the service.
We asked Kristy about the differences between translation, transcreation, and copywriting. According to Kristy, all translations are a creative kind of endeavor.
Transcreation is best suited for content that is key for building a brand. The original marketing team defines a strategy and a concept, and has a clear objective for the content. Within this framework, the transcreator has the freedom to come up with a different solution, while striving to appeal to the readers’ emotions.
Finally, the difference between transcreation and copywriting is that with transcreation the idea or concept is already there, in the source text and the briefing. Whereas in copywriting, you have a briefing but you start with a blank slate and it’s up to you to come up with that idea.
Let’s imagine that your company is releasing a product or a service and you need it localized into several languages. You’re also launching a global marketing campaign for that product or service. You’ve heard about transcreation and how important it is to get your content properly adapted for each locale, but you’re not sure about what needs to be transcreated. Or even what the difference between translation and transcreation is.
We asked Supertext how they would advise a client in such a hypothetical situation:
First, you need to analyze the content to be translated and properly categorize it:
Then, it is very important to understand what the client is trying to achieve in the specific markets. Are they trying to sell something with the content? Raise brand awareness? Increase traffic or subscribers? Or is it just informative?
Depending on the type of content, your intentions and needs, you decide the best approach.
Transcreation services are usually charged by the hour. When we talk about transcreating a catchy slogan, or maybe a headline in a website aimed at generating leads, we should spend more time researching and thinking about which unique selling point is going to be most effective in each market. It is not just about adapting a pun or a cultural reference, but contributing to the marketing campaign of a company, helping them reach their customers, and sell their product.
The rates that we find in the copywriting industry may vary depending on several factors. The seniority of the copywriter and the type of content affect the hourly fee. A junior copywriter will charge less than a senior copywriter. Also, writing a blog post of 300 words,a sales landing page, content for different pages on a website or a LinkedIn profile are not the same thing. Depending on the difficulty and the impact of the content on the brand, the prices may go up or down.
However, sometimes we can find long copy that has a relatively high impact in a marketing campaign. For example, newsletters, brochures, content on a landing page or a website, or social media posts generating leads. We may not rewrite the text from scratch if the quality of the source text is decent. However, market research and adaptations may be necessary to make the text suitable for the target markets. In this case, per word fees are acceptable.
Some believe that any translator can be a transcreator. But the truth is that transcreators and translators do not share the same skill set.
This is very important to understand if we want to get transcreation right. When we asked Kristy about what they look for in a transcreator, she confessed that finding very good transcreators is not easy.
The perfect transcreator is the one whose skills overlap between those of a translator and a copywriter. So, either you find good copywriters who happen to have another language skill, or you find translators who are very skilled writers.
Basically, a good transcreator should:
1) Be a talented writer in their mother tongue and know at least two languages.
2) Have marketing knowledge, understand the different concepts and be up-to-date with the social media and digital landscape, especially in their countries.
3) Deeply understand the source and target cultures.
The key for a company offering transcreation services is how to find such talent, then direct and manage it. Pro project management at its finest.
There are three different types of companies who you can go to for transcreation services:
1) Local marketing or copywriting companies: Imagine that you have a very specific target market where you want your campaign to succeed because it’s key for your product or service. Then, your marketing team could go to a local marketing company asking for advice on copywriting or transcreation services.
2) Language services providers (LSPs) that offer transcreation services: If you want to localize your content in several languages and you want a homogeneous campaign across countries, then you can buy from an LSP. However, make sure that they understand how transcreation works. They need to provide you with added value for your campaign apart from translating your content. If you don’t see that added value, you may as well find a better option.
3) A mix between a copywriting and a translation agency: If you’d like to have a global marketing campaign that is tailored to each market but still retains the overarching concept in each locale, a company that integrates copywriting, transcreation and translation services may be way to go.
If you’re not sure about your next steps, Nimdzi has a team of professionals to support you with research, consulting, education, and geocultural intelligence while you navigate your way through international expansion.
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