Insights September 2, 2020

What characterises a good transcreator?

Living Word
By Living Word

Can a translator be a good transcreator­? Absolutely. Is it fair to assume that a translator is a good transcreator? Not really. While the two concepts might sound similar to some, the toolbox required for transcreation is very different from that needed for translation. Let’s start with a quick recap on the difference between the two.

Translation is the process of transporting a message from one language to another in a way that is relatively faithful to the source in both tonality and literal meaning. Roughly speaking, the focus is on the meaning – think user manuals, terms and conditions, and the likes.

Transcreation, on the other hand, is more creative by nature. Transcreation is the process of reconstructing a message in a way that is as culturally relevant and impactful on the target audience as possible, meaning that there’s often more leeway and room for creativity. Here, the focus is on effect and emotional impact – think adverts, taglines and similar.

So what skills are required for a transcreator to successfully take your original copy on an exciting journey to new markets?

  • A transcreator needs to be a language wizard

Just like a translator, a transcreator needs to have exceptional command of both the source and the target languages. Knowing your grammar is one thing, but there are additional aspects and nuances that also need to be considered. Without an outstanding flair for both the source and the target languages, the impact of idioms, humour, puns, and other linguistic elements can easily get lost.


  • A transcreator needs to have a creative mind

Transcreation is a process of taking a message, tearing it apart and reconstructing it in a way that has impact on and resonates with the target market – within defined guidelines, of course. This is where a good brief comes in, because while a transcreator needs to be creative, it’s important that they stay on brief and on brand. Most often, international brands run campaigns across several or all of their markets, and while the means to an end can differ, the overall effect should remain the same. That’s why transcreation sits between translation (transferring a message from one language to another) and copywriting (creating a message from a blank piece of paper).


  • A transcreator needs to have a thorough understanding of the local market

A transcreator needs to know what is going on in the local market, and not just from a news headline perspective. They need to live and breathe the target culture. Which marketing campaigns are around at the moment? What’s going on in the industry? What are the competitors doing? Which ads are on TV? What is the target audience talking about? Which words and expressions do they use? You get the idea. When a transcreator is immersed in the target culture, they are able to carve a delicate message that sits well with the target audience.

Language skills, a creative mind and cultural knowledge are all important parts of the puzzle – a puzzle that is only complete when combined with a good understanding of the brand, its tone of voice, and the brief, including relevant visuals and other supporting assets.