If you want corporate communication, public relations, or advertising material to make a (positive!) impact in other languages, a translation is most likely not the best solution. Better get a transcreation instead.
Why? What’s the difference?
It took me a long time – decades, that is – to come up with a good and easy-to-grasp definition of what transcreation is. And why we should treat it as a category in its own right rather than as a sub-category of translation.
When I wrote my first book, in 2015, I decided to apply the term “transcreation” whenever a text qualified as contributing to a company’s or brand’s reputation and consequently, its sales. I found that definition to be a reliable way to differentiate between texts that required translation as opposed to transcreation, by asking a simple question: “Does this text contribute to enhancing the brand’s reputation and sales“?
If the answer was yes, the text would qualify for transcreation. We could argue, of course, that any kind of text (even a user manual!) reflects back on the company and hence, contributes to its reputation. So, to further fine-tune that question, you would ask for the purpose of the text.
If the purpose is to inform, a translation would be the right choice. That’s because a translation (if done properly) is a text that gives the reader the full picture of the source text, with every detail accurately rendered. Think sales agreeements, court documents, medical reports, etc.
If the purpose is to emotionally connect, engage, and motivate readers to some kind of action, however, you want a transcreation. Examples: brochures, press releases, landing pages of websites.
I have also recommended the formula “transcreation = translation + copywriting,” which really grasps the essence of transcreation. However, many misunderstood this to mean that the process would consist in having a translator prepare a regular translation, and then have a copywriter embellish that translation. THAT IS NOT WHAT I MEAN. The idea is that a transcreation be done by ONE person: the transcreator.
Because I’ve been there. The translator-copywriter tandem usually doesn’t work well – or if it does, then only because the copywriter does the entire work all over, including all the research. As a result, the buyer of that job will have to pay doubly. When you have a transcreator do the transcreation from scratch all you have to add is a target-language copywriter at the end for some final touches.
Doesn’t that sound more efficient and effective?
In fact, there is so much to be said about transcreation that I have written entire books about it – one in German (published in 2016) and a brand-new one in English (published in 2019). And I keep getting invited to give talks, workshops, and webinars. There is keen interest in the topic. Clients have come to realize that transcreation brings real value to their foreign-language marketing material, and language-service providers have come to appreciate transcreation as a way to become genuine full-service agencies. And transcreators, or translators with the right skills, see a growing market that won’t be replaced by machine translation and artificial intelligence any time soon.
Interested? If you are a translator and would like to learn more about transcreation, my latest book may be a good start. If you represent a company and would like to know how my transcreation services can improve your German-language material, get in touch.