Skip to main content

Translation, transcreation and localization

'Dictionary' photo (c) 2004, jwyg - license:
Today I was asked by a colleague to evaluate a translation that seemed absolutely horrible to the client. As I was reading the translation and the client's remarks, it dawned on me that the client actually needed transcreation, not translation. But since the term "transcreation" is fairly new, not all clients realize that that's what they actually need when they ask for "translation". So would you like to do a little research with me about it? Let's start then :)

So, what is transcreation? Let's see what Wikipedia says:

Transcreation is a term used chiefly by advertising and marketing professionals to refer to the process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone and context. A successfully transcreated message evokes the same emotions and carries the same implications in the target language as it does in the source language. Increasingly, transcreation is used in global marketing and advertising campaigns as advertisers seek to transcend the boundaries of culture and language.
Terms with meanings similar to transcreation include ‘creative translation’, ‘cross-market copywriting’, ‘international copy adaptation’, ‘marketing translation’, ‘internationalization’, ‘localization’ and ‘cultural adaptation’. For each of these words and phrases, the thrust is similar: taking the essence of a message and re-creating it in another language or dialect.
Do you see the difference? Of course, translation is also creative work because we don't translate words. We translate meanings. In every language there's a countless number of idioms, slang expressions, concepts which simply can't be translated literally. But transcreation goes even further. A transcreator takes the source text as a basis and "expands upon translation by focusing not so much on the literal text, but on discerning the emotional response by viewers in the source language and working to elicit the same response from viewers in the target market. It is about “taking a concept in one language, and completely recreating it in another." (quote taken from Wikipedia, same article)

It may seem that the term "transcreation" is very close to localization. But localization is a broader concept. You can read the wonderful description of localization in Bunch Translate blog. The difference between them is that localization isn't just about a text, but it's about a product. And of course, when translating small buttons of a website I don't think about emotions that the website users may have when clicking on those buttons ;)

Well, thanks for taking part in this (very) small research tonight! Hope you find it useful.


  1. Thank you Olya! It's interesting indeed. I have never heard of transcreation before. Now, thanks to you, I understand what it's all about. :) Tanya M.

  2. Hi Tanechka! Yes, it's fascinating to see how language and (consequently) language services transform as a result of changes happenning in our life.

  3. I hope the issue is resolved and the colleague has managed to convince the customer of this being a different job that would cost differently.

  4. Hi Catherine! Yes, the situation now is solved.

  5. Great article, Olga! You can also have a look at my explanation of localization here:

    One more note concerning transcreation: from my own experience I can say that many clients initially think that translators are really transcreators, but the thing is that translators don't know the product perfectly so from the very start of the project client has to indicate that source text should be transcreated and explain in details all features and benefits of their product.

  6. Fully agree with point made here by Olga!

    Everyone and his dog seem to be a "web designer" or "translator" nowadays. Hence - those screwed by such overnight "experts" clients.

    A true professional is the one who has a skill to hair-split the formal letter of the source text from its spirit and flavour and deliver it in the target language.

    Clients should appreciate such skill and pay for it accordingly.

    Keep up the good work.

    Kind regards,

    Alex Smirnov

  7. Hi Marta! Thanks for the comment! You made a very good point. Clients need to explain what exactly they want us to do. Translators aren't magicians and can't read minds! Alex, nice to "meet" you! You are right, there are many so-called translators out there. And not many people realize that being bilingual doesn't necessarily mean being a good tanslator, and in this case, transcreator :)


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Clients vs translators: how do we show that we're honest?

This is a personal post, and I'd really like to hear the opinion of my colleagues about such situations and how to deal with them. My situation is kind of like the one described in Mox's blog . In December a new prospective client wrote to me asking about my availabiility for a new project. When I read the overall description of the project, I got really interested in it. But the client needed to know exactly how much time it would take and how much it would cost. No problem, just send me the text to look through or a part of it so I could get the gist of the style, level of complexity etc. In the reply that person just stated the wordcount, but there was no sample. I thought, maybe they didn't understand me. English is not my native language after all. In my reply, I stated the estimated time and cost based on the client's wordcount, but I repeated the request to see a part of the text. And then the person thanked me and ... disappeared.

15 interesting facts about the English language

I prepared this list for one of my English classes. And then it dawned on me that I can share it with you, too! So here are 15 facts about the English language that I find very interesting. Hope you do, too ;) Rudyard Kipling was fired as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. His dismissal letter said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language. This isn't a kindergarten for amateur writers." No language has more synonyms than English.

So you are a busy freelancer. How to keep your blog alive?

I decided to write this post thanks to my dear Twitter friend and colleague Sarai Pahla who mentioned once on Twitter that she honestly wonders how I find time for blogging regularly. Well, I am about to share my secret with you now. I am also going to share a couple tricks that help other blogging translators. Interested? Then read further.