Do you want to reach international audiences with your content? A simple translation might not be good enough. Whenever you translate content into a new language, you run the risk of preserving useless phrases, expressions, and double entendres that make no sense after translation.
Worse still: even if you thoroughly research your messaging for your English market, you might find that your translated content is completely wrong for your new target audience. This is especially true when tapping into the Spanish-speaking market in the US and in other countries.
To help you learn whether your company needs translation or transcreation, we’ve put together this handy guide that will teach you about the different types of translation that exist, what each has to offer, and why you might need to hire a specialized team to help you create your content.
Translation is expressing in one language the exact words that were originally said or written in another language. Machines are good at preserving this one-to-one information exchange, which is why machine translation has become especially prevalent in recent years. Unfortunately, the results often feel as mechanical as the process and you risk losing the original intentions behind your content and alienating your new target market.
- Machine Translation: Machine translation means using software to replace the words in one natural language with those of another. Machine translation usually appears to be the cheapest option, but it often needs so much editing and human intervention to wording, intent, and sentence structure that it may not be cost-effective in the long run.
- Human Translation: Three types of experts specialize in human translation: freelance translators, translation companies, and international marketing agencies specializing in translation.
- Freelancers tend to be the cheapest option, but they may not be as reliable in terms of time and delivery. The quality of your work may also vary from one freelancer to another.
- Translation agencies tend to offer more consistency and high-quality translations. The main risk is that they may not understand your target market or the intentions behind your content.
- International marketing agencies are the most expensive, but usually the best choice when you want SEO and user experience taken into account. The very best international marketing agencies will localize and transcreate your content as well.
Transcreation is a special type of translation that preserves the message from one language and transfers it into another language, either through written content or visual design.
Transcreation translates the cultural context of a text (e.g., advertisement, flyer, website) from one language to another. Good transcreation prioritizes the ideas, concepts, feelings, and reactions of these texts over word-for-word translation, but it maintains the design elements of your original content for consistency. This ensures that your message has the same impact and resonance, no matter where in the world it’s received.
Transcreation is a key part of any company’s international strategy. It can be introduced early or late in their content planning, but in either case transcreators should work closely with your marketing team to preserve the intent behind your content.
Effective transcreators need to be native in the target language, possess excellent language skills, and be familiar with the cultural background and history of the target audience. Transcreators must also understand marketing and advertising, be intimately familiar with both your company and the target society, and they should possess a strong level of creativity.
The bottom line: transcreating is not easy, and not everyone can (or should) do it.
Difference Between Translation and Transcreation
The main differences between translation and transcreation lie in the commercial aspects and the faithfulness to the message. While a good translator is as faithful to the original text as possible, a good transcreator is faithful to the original text’s messaging and is allowed more creativity.
Note that, in theory, the translation process includes transcreation. When translators are faced with a text they usually don’t translate it word for word. Instead, they take into account cultural context, adapt the new text to the target reader, and ensure it sounds natural in the target language without adding or removing any information.
Transcreation aims to evoke the same reaction as the original text within a different cultural setting or context. This might necessitate using different idioms or evoking different culturally relevant examples. When transcreating commercial content, preserving this feeling is especially important in order to strike the same emotional resonance your original content had.
Localization goes hand in hand with transcreation.
Localization is the adaptation of an element (i.e., text, product, brand, software) to a given culture. Localization usually requires more than just translation, especially when you need to make a text (i.e., website, technical documentation, packaging) fit in with a target country’s cultural codes.
Localization goes hand-in-hand with transcreation, because a good localization effort should make its target audience feel completely at home on the translated page. Whenever you’re translating any brand name, slogan, or advertising page you need to think about how to make your elements as familiar as possible to your target audience.
For example, these two H&M pages are localized for US and British customers respectively. They’re both written in English, but each page adapts their specific terminology to be more recognizable by their target audience.
McDonald’s is another good example of a company that uses transcreation with outstanding results. Not only does McDonald’s transcreate their slogans, they also adapt and localize their menus to suit the tastes of their target audiences. Each country has its own exclusive menus with products adapted to the local culture.
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Transcreation is tricky to get right, so it’s not yet widely used. However, for the companies that do use it, it’s a vital component in their brand’s international expansion and it’s their secret weapon for increasing their popularity abroad.