In this blog series, I intend to post a variety of transcreative techniques over time. This is one of them. I call it:
Dare to expand
Just as we often have to dare to “condense” the target copy (see separate blog post), we sometimes have to dare to “expand” – weave in new information to convey something that is not well-known in the target-market culture.
As translators, we can just insert a footnote or comment in the text for the client and be done with it. As transcreators we don’t usually have that option. Instead, we have to find a way to elegantly elaborate as if it were the most natural thing in the world. We need to find a way to express a foreign idea without coming across as patronizing, condescending, or sounding like a Wikipedia entry. For instance, with the client’s permission, and depending on the type of text you are working on, you could insert a fun fact or even a captivating story to illustrate a culture-specific notion.
Here is an example: Let’s assume we have been asked to “translate” the following headline used in a Swedish e-mail campaign. The English translation of the Swedish subject line reads:
Lucia day is approaching: Get your festive lights now at 20% off!
Few people unfamiliar with the Swedish luciadåg will know what the Lucia day is and what it’s got to do with lights. Unless they google it, of course, which most won’t. They’ll probably just delete the mail as one of many and move on. So we will have to “expand,” one way or another, while ensuring the headline still does what it is supposed to do: Get readers to read on and buy those lights.
With this in mind, the final transcreated headline could, for instance, read something like this:
Celebrate December 13 like the Swedes, with 20% off on our festive lights!
This solution inserts new information, even a fun fact (the Swedes celebrate the 13th day of December?! how come?) and will at the very least incite curiosity: Will the e-mail tell me, the reader, why and how the Swedes celebrate that day? Hint: It should. So make sure the body copy of that e-mail has that information. Not as a dry footnote but as part of a story.
Finally: Tell your client why you recommend a particular solution. If you are unable to come up with a satisfactory solution yourself, I recommend that you consult with your client and discuss if you should maybe use a different campaign concept altogether.
Do you have examples of target texts that have benefitted from the “expanding technique”? Get in touch!