What is the difference between transcreation and translation?


»Transcreation is to translation what copywriting is to writing. « (Percy Balemans)


The definition

Transcreation is a mixture of “translation” and “creation”, and it means exactly that, the perfect cocktail made out of the original translation and a new “creation”.

It is not for nothing that transcreation is often used in marketing, because this is where it becomes essential for international brands to not simply translate your brand’s message, but to adapt it to the target group with finesse and creativity.


Reasons for transcreation

You probably already guessed: Transcreation is needed when a message must seamlessly (and maybe painlessly?) be transferred from one culture to another. Innumerable examples of bad transcreations show us why we mentioned painlessness.

Here are some examples:

The Ford “Pinto” car model: In Brazil, “Pinto” colloquially means male genitals … small, male genitals …

The vacuum cleaner manufacturer Elektrolux decided to use “Nothing sucks like at Electrolux” as an advertising slogan. Not a good idea … because certain people understood that: “Nothing is as bad as an Electrolux”. This is a perfect example of bad marketing!

… and a positive example?

In our opinion, Tefal did “it” very well, with the slogan…

Ohne Tefal. Ohne mich

when they translated it into Spanish…

The result?

¿Te falta Tefal?

Interestingly, however, VW and Renault have made a successful Transcreation … Without it actually being a transcreation!

Who doesn’t know Renault’s old TV advertising slogan in Germany:

“Renault – Créateur d’automobile“

The same can be said for the French in relation to VW, because every Frenchman knows the slogan “VW – Das Auto.”

However, we advise using this strategy with caution …


Transcreation or translation?

Surely, while reading this article, you have noticed how important it is for international brands to adapt the message to the target country’s cultural identity while respecting any negative connotations.

In general, transcreation is suitable for the following purposes:

  • Branding
  • Corporate Identity
  • Marketing
  • External communication in general
  • Advertising

Lydia Davis, a well-known American translator and writer once said:

“A frustrating feature of translation lies in the restraint that the work commands; you have to be faithful to the text, avoid sliding into your own style or, even worse, expressing your own ideas. “

What do we learn from this? In the case of a translation, the focus is primarily on initiating, reflecting, and remaining faithful to the source text as much as possible.


If translation is an obedient sheep, transcreation is a wild rocker

Transcreation has only one goal: to deliver the message … no matter how! In plain language this could mean that only one word from the original text will end up in a sentence, or that a sentence will be turned into just one word. Creativity is the motto here.

This is why the transcreator has to not only have a greater scope than the translator, but also additional skills, especially experience in the advertising industry and a high degree of creativity.

Are you still unsure if a translation or a transcreation fits your needs? Let’s talk about it – we’ll make you a tailor-made designer costume … uhmm offer!

If you have any questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact Smylingua today by e-mail or by phone at +33 176 43 32 76.

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