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Six Ways Transcreation Differs from Translation

In the world of language and communication, precision matters. When it comes to crossing linguistic boundaries, two methods stand out: translation and transcreation. While they both involve transforming content from one language to another, they serve distinct purposes and carry unique nuances.

How can we tell the difference between a translator and a transcreator? Do they seem like too similar roles? Let’s find the answers to these questions below to uncover the disparities between translation and transcreation, exploring their definitions and key differences along the way.


What is transcreation?

Transcreation is the combination of the word translation” and “creation”. This implies that it goes beyond the translation of source text meaning into the target one. It is a creative process that involves adapting content from one language to another while maintaining its meaning, context, emotional impact, intent, tone, and context. In short, it’s the closer it can get to multilingual copywriting.

Unlike translation, which focuses on fidelity, transcreation prioritizes resonance with the target audience. It may involve altering cultural references, idiomatic expressions, and even the overall message to evoke the desired response from the audience 

Read more: What is transcreation?


What is translation?

On the other hand, translation is the art of rendering text or speech from one language into another while preserving the original meaning, tone, and intent as faithfully as possible. It has a long history of several evolving approaches and techniques. Generally. translation involves a meticulous process of linguistic analysis, cultural understanding, and linguistic fidelity. The primary goal of translation is accuracy and clarity, ensuring that the message is conveyed effectively to the target audience without losing its essence. Moreover, it’s still a highly creative act that in many instances can be as creative as transcreation.

Read more: What is translation?


How is transcreation different from translation?

The main difference is levels of creativity: translation, as you might know by now, is about replacing words from source to target language to accurately give the same meaning; transcreation is not loyal to the source text as much as it aims at conveying concepts, emotions, or messages across languages and cultures.

Let’s dwell more on this below:


Transcreation originated in the literary field

Although today we use the term transcreation in the advertising sphere, its start was literary, specifically among literary academicians. The first time the term was used was in 1957 by an Indian scholar to refer to works of drama. Almost a decade later, the term was revisited by other literary figures like H. de Campos who used it to describe a new approach to literary translation.

While transcreation is relatively new, translation dates back ages and centuries ago. You can think of the Rosetta Stone, discovered in 1799, the Epic of Galgamis, and Bible translation as early examples. It started as a luxury, primarily to spread religion. After the Industrial Revolution, print became universally available, it set off the world to its present globalized state. 


Transcreation is crucial to content 

The main difference between these two terms in the business world is their usage. For instance, transcreation is related to the content produced every day by the staff writers and social media team. It depends on the cultural understanding of the target audience, with some advertising background. It can impact everything from content’s emotional and cultural impact, to consumer engagement and behavior, and brand perception. 

While translation focuses on fidelity to the original text. In the business industry, the goal of translation is to accurately convey the original message from one language to another, ensuring that technical details, legal terms, and factual information remain consistent and precise. This is crucial for documents such as contracts, user manuals, and financial reports, where accuracy and clarity are paramount. 


Transcreators are both writers and linguists

Transcreators are usually writers. They create copies for businesses. However, sometimes a copywriter can translate. The process also involves UX designers.

However, translators are essentially linguistic experts who have a professional command of their language pair. Although some of the best translators out there are also amazing writers.


Every Transcreation starts with a creative brief

Since both translation and transcreation are different processes, they also start off differently. For example, a translation task usually starts with the source text as the main and most important reference. A translator might be aided by a glossary or a style guide. But, transcreation starts with a creative brief.

The creative brief provides transcreators with all the relevant information like topic idea, objective, target audience, links to websites, competitors, previous successful advertising campaigns, and everything in between.


Transcreation deals with non-textual aspects

Transcreation applies to creative circumstances, specifically to copy intended to trigger a particular emotion or action. This includes reworking brand names and slogans as well as visual aspects: layout, formatting, typography, images, emojis, and colors. Transcreation providers may offer advice on how content looks, feels, and would resonate with the target audience. This is because, transcreators work with several mediums like websites, applications, product packaging, social media advertising, and others of the like where the visual aspect is a huge player.

Conversely, There is a range of translation types, but the work of translation is mostly limited to the text (words, characters, numbers, etc.), ensuring all original content is conveyed without extra-textual elements. Translators must look at the meaning behind the words to produce a natural-sounding text with the same impact as the original. Even legal texts will need subtle creativity to enable readability and clarity.


Transcreation is Mainly Used for Marketing and Advertising

Most language service providers and translation companies will offer transcreation to businesses who are launching a new advertising campaign, or entering new markets where they need to create a creative copy the audience would engage with. Therefore, most of the time transcreation is related to the advertising world. However, it’s by no means limited to it. Non-business-related transcreation can be films, literature (comic books), and e-learning courses.

Translation on the other hand is more diverse. There are countless types of translation around us including medical, technical, legal, financial, literary, culinary…etc. It’s basically everywhere and has been around for much longer.


Transcreation costs more

Translators are paid per word most of the time, but they could also be paid by hour, page, or any other less common method.

Transcreation can cost more than translation because the job entails more than just word rendering from one language to another, it’s also a creative process that involves brainstorming, copywriting, or copyediting. They’re usually paid per hour or by project.


Final note

To conclude, translation and transcreation are not profoundly different since they have many similarities with each other, yet, in the business world they can mean two completely different things depending on how and where they are implemented. At the end of the day, translation inherently is a creative process from where a new mutation appeared, we call this mutation, transcreation.

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