Insights February 13, 2019

Transcreation or Translation? Which is right for you?

Katharine Marr
By Katharine Marr

Requesting ‘a translation’ may sound like a relatively straightforward request but, as you might expect, there is far more to translation than meets the eye.

For example, translating a disclaimer or a newsletter benefits from an entirely different approach to say, translating a website or an advert. And some words and phrases just don’t travel well. Ask yourself, is it the actual words that matter or the meaning and the intent you need to convey?

In other words, do you need an agency to simply translate ‘as is’ or rewrite your copy in a creative way that is appropriate for your audience? Knowing the difference between asking for translation or transcreation could have a real impact on the success of your campaign message.

Here are some Q&As to consider:


Q. Do you require the translated copy to stay fairly faithful to the source in meaning and style?

A. If so, then you need to choose translation. This is what you might consider to be the most straightforward rendering of text into another language. This should never be a word-for-word process, but the translation should remain accurate and stay relatively faithful to the source copy in both tonality and meaning.

Find out more about translation.

Q. Would you prefer the writer to interpret the overall meaning in a new way, creatively and freely?

A. If so, then you need to choose transcreation. Here, translators use a more creative and fluid approach, using their experience and cultural knowledge to create an engaging piece of copy. Of course, the facts will not change but the resulting text will have a real depth and flow to it and have the greatest possible appeal to your audience.

Think of it as copy writing in another language.

Find out more about transcreation.

As you can see, choosing your preferred service and briefing your translation agency accordingly will make for a much clearer and efficient process and negate potential misunderstandings further down the line.

In addition, you may also like to consider adaptation.

Q. Have you created a unique slogan to sum up your brand or campaign?

A. In this case you may need full adaptation instead. Adaptation is a different skill entirely. Most frequently used for slogans, straplines and tag lines, the translator will deconstruct the thought process and come up with a choice of phrases or lines that convey the spirit of your original concept.

Find out more about adaptation.

Katharine Marr is the managing director of Living Word, one of the UK’s leading creative translation agencies, helping to redefine efficiency in the industry for more than a decade.