Transcreation = Creative Translation

The term “transcreation” derives from a fusion of the concepts of translation and creation, and is also known as creative translation. Indian philosopher and academic Govindapanicker Gopinathan stated that the origins of the term date back to when Indian sacred texts were translated for the first time, requiring the translation to be completely fluid and comprehensible. 

Despite the first uses of the term “transcreation” having their origin in the translation of literary texts, it is common nowadays to hear it used in the areas of marketing and advertising. It requires not only the translation of the text from the source language into the target language, but also a cultural adaptation to the target readership, generally implying sticking less rigidly to the original text, and, therefore, effectively creating while translating.

The difference between localisation and transcreation

The difference between localisation and transcreation is not immediately obvious. The element of adaptation is common to both processes; the difference lies in the direction given to the adaptation process. 

  • Localisation focuses on the choice of the best expression or the best term in the target language, during the act of translation. This would involve, for example, fixed parameters regarding the culture and the country where the translation will be read, such as conversion of measurements, time zones and monetary units. 
  • Transcreation on the other hand, focuses on the adaptation of the message contained in a text, in respect of the relationship that it has with the source language or a given culture. The aim of transcreation is to preserve the intention and tone that the text had, even if the translator has to step back from expressions contained in the original text. In other words, when the job in hand is one of transcreation and a choice is required between the spirit and the wording of a text, the translator must choose the spirit. 

Consequently, transcreation requires not only linguistic knowledge, but also creative ability and even advertising expertise. The creative aspect of transcreation becomes evident when, for example, brands adapt the name and sometimes even the logos of a product to different countries or continents.

Examples of Transcreation (Creative Translation)

  • Rexona: a clear example is the Rexona deodorant brand, which is also called Sure, Shield and Degree in other parts of the world.
  • Olá: a further example is the Olá ice cream brand, also known as Heartbrand, Wall’s, Kibon and Good Humour. 
  • Intel: The technology company Intel also adjusted the name of its campaign Sponsors of Tomorrow to Apaixonados pelo Futuro (In Love with the Future), when translating it into Brazilian Portuguese, for fear that a word for word translation would be misinterpreted. According to the advertisers, promoting a literal translation, such as patrocinadores do amanhã, could result in an inconvenient underlying interpretation that they were not sponsoring the present. 
  • Hellmann’s: The Portuguese version of the American slogan “Bring out the Best” is a verdadeira maionese (“the real mayonnaise”).
  • McDonald’s: The recent adaptation for the Portuguese market of the original “I’m lovin it” slogan, to gosto tanto (lit. “I love it so much”), is intended to reinforce brand proximity to its Portuguese customers by portraying good humour and fun.
  • Lord of the Rings: Within the literary translation field, The Lord of the Rings book trilogy makes a very interesting case study, irrespective of the language you wish to analyse. In particular, the names of characters and places raise very interesting questions, especially because they contain more or less subtle references to Old English words and to vocabulary created by Tolkien; in many cases there is no definitive answer to these questions. In German editions, the surname of the main character, Bilbo Baggins, was translated as Beutlin, alluding to the German word for “bag”, Beutel. As a specialist in German philology himself, and dissatisfied with some translation pieces, Tolkien played a hand in the translation of his works during his lifetime, having even written the Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings, in 1967.

Although advertising and literature are the two fields in which the challenge of transcreation can be greatest, the truth is that translators can be called upon to transcreate in other types of translation too. One such example would be institutional texts, where the elevated tone requires the translator to have greater knowledge of language registers and to take extra measures to ensure adaptation in aspects of protocol and formalities. 

Whatever the circumstances, there can be no doubt that transcreation jobs demand a special type of skill on the part of the translator, with regard to interpreting the text to be translated. Not only as regards meaning but also intention, context, tone and language register. And then, a very special ability to adapt the translation to the new context in a creative way. Undoubtedly, the original wording may not be recognisable in a transcreated text. However, if the transcreation has been done effectively, its spirit certainly will be. 

If you’re ever in need of a transcreation job, we will be delighted to help! Get in touch and we will send you a free quote within 24 hours.






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