The term transcreation has its origins in the 1960s, when it was first coined to describe the adaptation of advertising slogans for foreign markets. The words translation and creation were spliced together, suggesting the necessity of a creative process that was absent in standard text translation.
Over the last two decades, the term has entered into significant usage, however, its definition has become somewhat ambiguous. Misperceptions exist over the services it should entail, how the creative aspect of the process should be handled and the workflow to be followed.
Beneath all the marketing hyperbole, how different is the transcreation process from other forms of translation?
The transcreation process deviates furthest from the commonly held perception of translation when it moves beyond mere paraphrasing and abandons its source entirely. This is done to ensure the localised version delivers the same message and elects the same emotional response from its target audience as the original. This practice is, however, not unique to transcreation. Parallels can be drawn to an array of translation disciplines, particularly television and film script adaptation where it is common for translators to deviate entirely from their source text.
Script translation applies the same considerations of cultural differences, conveyance of idiomatic speech and copy length, which is of particular importance to dubbing and subtitling. These elements must each be addressed to achieve a successful “buy-in,” evidenced if the audience watching find the characters' behaviour natural within their own frames of cultural reference. The definitive purpose is the same as with transcreation; to achieve an equivalent reaction in each territory.The Simpsons, one of the most globally recognised television shows, provides ample examples of this practice. Many of its localised versions deviate heavily from the English script to provide local context for dialogue and humour. In the French version, for example, Bart’s famous expression “Eat my shorts” is transformed into “Va te faire shampouiner" (equivalent to "Go to hell"), as the literal translation would make little sense to French audiences.
If the approach to translating material is in itself not unique, then what about the project brief?
A typical transcreation project will begin with a brief containing the following elements;
• Information about the product or service being marketed
• Demographic information about the target audience
• A description of the message which should be conveyed
• An understanding of what the piece is trying to achieve
Although undoubtedly important to the success of a transcreation project, the briefing process is not markedly different from the procedure a quality translation agency should perform for any complex or large-scale project.
All briefs share a need for information on the target demographic, and direction on what the piece should achieve, with different fields within translation then having their own considerations. A literary translation may require extensive background material relevant to the setting of the story, while company training material may need to take into account variances in company culture and practices across different territories.
What about the use of use of Back-Translation?
Within the transcreation workflow itself, a frequently promoted component is the use of back-translation. This practice is most commonly associated with advertising taglines, often the most critical part of a promotional campaign. After a translator has suggested a number of translations for a line, a separate linguist, who has not seen the source text will then translate this back in a literal manner to provide the client with an impression of how the tagline is being conveyed in the foreign language.
The biggest impediment to the use of back-translation is expense. Adding another translation stage to a project workflow increases costs significantly. Therefore the practice is generally limited to commercial projects where the extra scrutiny the process provides is vital. Medical and pharmaceutical translations often require back-translations to ensure that legal requirements have been met, while a global research projects require a similar approach to advertising taglines. When delivering questions to participants who speak different languages it is critical that the intended meaning behind each question is accurately conveyed, with failure to do so jeopardising the ability to make accurate cross-country comparisons and potentially invalidating an entire study.
Although there are other elements of the transcreation process which could be scrutinised further, it becomes apparent after examining these key areas that there is nothing unique in itself about transcreation. Rather, the service brings together specialisms within the field of translation to present a solution which, if applied properly provides clients with greater control and ultimately, peace of mind that their message will be correctly transported to the targeted locality.
When looking for a transcreation solution, it is therefore important to not be drawn in by marketing hyperbole and to understand the exact services being proposed by the service provider. For less scrupulous translation agencies, the allure of large-budget advertising agencies means that all too often a transcreation service carries a mark-up that is not justified by the work it entails.
At VSI, we value integrity and that is why we are happy to break down our quotes and provide a project proposal, so you can see exactly what you are paying for.
To understand more about our own tailored transcreation service or any of our creative localisation solutions, why not give us a call?
We are always happy to discuss the best solution for you and your project.