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The ‘Art’ of Transcreation

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When dealing with creative content, it can be challenging to translate correctly and capture the same meaning in another language. Overcoming this challenge is a persistent obstacle when translating content such as slogans, speeches, films etc. The service provided in such cases is ‘transcreation’ (translation and creation), where the main focus of the translation is on the meaning and the intended reaction of the audience, compared to a normal translation of a text. Moving away from the source of the text is the key element for a successful transcreation. To ‘transcreate’, the translator needs to read and understand a text, then rewrite it in the target language, taking into account the context, culture, language differentiations, values, visuals and much more. Producing high-quality translations for high-profile content requires time and talent as well as care and dedication on behalf of the transcreator.

Whilst taking all this into consideration, they also need more time to tailor the message to the target market, which can often involve a lot of reading. They might need to ask the client questions or perhaps hold brainstorming sessions and create various drafts before a finalised version is produced. The process, therefore, takes longer than translation. Needless to say, all that time investment needs to be compensated for. As a result, transcreators usually charge per hour or per project.

As the processes differ, so too do the prices. Just like the name suggests, transcreation is about mixing translation with copywriting to create an entirely new text. The creative effort and time spent mean the costs are different. It’s one of many differences to bear in mind, but an important one nonetheless, when thinking about offering transcreation services.

Transcreation Examples

What makes a bad transcreation? Many low-quality transcreation examples are slogans. It might seem easy to localise a slogan; after all, it’s only a few words, right? Wrong. A good slogan needs to be quickly understood by the target reader and should be memorable.

How can we achieve this? Often by using rhyme or maybe a play on words. Many slogans use humour to grab the audience’s attention but these tools won’t necessarily work in another language or culture.

Kentucky Fried Chicken gave us an example of how a slogan can go wrong with hilarious consequences; KFC’s famous “Finger lickin’ good” slogan became “Eat your fingers off” in Mandarin.

What makes a good transcreation? A successful slogan transcreation belongs to Procter & Gamble’s 1999 campaign in Italy for their Swiffer dusting products. The original English phrase was “When Swiffer’s the one, consider it done”. A direct Italian translation would have ruined the flow, so they came up with “La polvere non dura, perché Swiffer la cattura.” (‘The dust doesn’t linger, because Swiffer catches it.’) This solution not only creates a different rhyme, but it mentions the benefit – eliminating dust – and the way in which it is achieved – by catching it. Whereas the English original mentions neither of these two elements. This is widely regarded as one of the best examples of creative slogan translation.

Think globally and act locally; transcreation services can spread a brand's identity in exactly the way that the company wants. And if transcreation is a work of art, we, at GlobaLexicon, are the artists.

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