This is a guest post written by Robert Rogge for Integrated MarCom Translations.
Transcreation is real. I ran a multilingual services agency with my partners for about six years. Besides copywriting, marketing, SEO, and other services, we offered translation. I always advised our translators to own the text, make it theirs, and to write.
The customer always got what they wanted, but we didn’t own it like we should have. Transcreators are not easy to find. When you find a good one, hold on to them!
So what is transcreation?
I’m going to put myself out on a limb here, because transcreation can be a thorny subject.
A transcreator is a translator who transcreates. Almost every sentence of every type of translation can be transcreated. It doesn’t matter if it’s a restaurant menu, a presentation, step #3 of a furniture assembly guide, or a product description. There are many weird translations out there, and pretty much all of them can be transcreated. The only thing you can’t transcreate is something that absolutely must be a certain way, like a cosmetics ingredient list (and even then, there may be space to transcreate!).
Why? Because transcreation is further ownership of the translated text and the new creation—translation taken a few steps further. If the “transcreation” is identical to the “translation,” well, that’s just coincidence. In a translation done by a transcreator as mundane as a user guide, ten sentences might come out like a “translation,” but the eleventh is bound to come out as a transcreation— a text that is truly written in the new language, spurred by some insight that turned a would-be translation into a transcreation.
When do you want a transcreation?
For better or worse, your translation is a fresh and new thing. The first step for buyers and translators is to recognize that a translation is actually not a translation, but rather a new entity, consumed by people whose only insight into what you are saying comes from the translation.
In practical terms, a good guide is this: The people who are going to see this… how important is it to me that the connection between this message and that person is seamless?
A million dollar suit is likely to have seams. Likewise, a fantastic translation of your latest Service Level Agreement may have seams. Is that a problem, so long as it’s grammatically perfect and communicative?
If you still want a seamless experience, then transcreation is for you.
Why some brands can’t let go
The problem is that managers responsible for the translations will frequently prefer the most literal translation possible to whatever it was the transcreator decided was the real thing, because they usually don’t want something new. In business, and for the people who work in them, new is scary. New is how people get in trouble with their boss. New is not safe. But do you know what’s safe? The most literal translation possible. At least the employee can guarantee what it says. That’s usually a recipe for mediocrity, but there you have it.
This is the main reason why transcreation is usually reserved for slogans and catch phrases and certain types of marketing materials. It has a better use there, but also, the buyers are savvy and understand that there are very real target market contexts to consider.
Why your business should empower translators to transcreate
If a native thinks the text is native, then the job is done, right?
That kind of attitude sells your brand short. For one thing, there likely remains a faint smell of translation. But the main reason is simply that the properly transcreated text is usually more effective.
As we mentioned earlier, not every translator wants to or can transcreate. Some translators, like all people, get great satisfaction from making conservative translations that are very safe and certainly acceptable. This is awesome; more power to those translators. We need everyone in this world—all types of people.
If you want your text to be fresh in the new language, I recommend empowering translators or seeking out a professional transcreator. Translators who truly dedicate themselves to transcreation are hard to find, but it’s always worth it.
Robert Rogge is CEO of Zingword, the new translation marketplace launching this summer, marketing translator’s services directly to customers. Hailing from the USA, he lived for a decade in Barcelona and owned a multilingual services company there, providing translation but also enterprise content, marketing, and customer service in twelve languages. But now he’s helping translators reach customers directly.