What is transcreation? How is it different from translation and localisation? For what purposes do we use it? If you’re asking yourself these questions, discover our short introduction to the wonderful world of transcreation!

What is transcreation? What are the differences with internationalisation, translation and localisation?

Transcreation is the process of adapting a message from one culture to another. It gives priority to preserving the intent and effect of the source, rather than its exact content. The concept is more important than the letter.
Transcreation, to quote Christian Arno from Lingo24, “is about taking a concept in one language and completely recreating it in another language (…)”.

If you’re not sure of what distinguishes it from internationalisation, localisation and translation, here’s a handy guide:

  • Internationalisation aims for standardisation and for the largest possible cultural common denominator. Transcreation aims for adaptation to a specific market and uses strong and specific cultural references.
  • Localisation also implies a technical process as well as a linguistic one and applies to a number of formats and fields. Transcreation particularly implies a creative process and has a less broad scope and applies to less varied formats.
  • Translation is assessed on its faithfulness to the source and usually involves one person at once. Transcreation is assessed on the efficiency of the production and is usually a team work.

The term “transcreation” is a portmanteau of “translation” and “creation”. It is also called “creative translation”, “free-style adaptation”, etc. The focus is on the creativity, the boldness even, with which the message refers to the target culture.

Why do advertising and marketing use transcreation?

Marketing and advertising are the main fields of use for transcreation. In these fields, localisation alone isn’t enough to bring across a message with an effective impact on the target audience from another culture.

As international marketing strategies become more and more commonplace, the necessity to overcome the problems the linguistic and cultural barriers cause rises. Similarly, the ever increasing competition makes it necessary for companies to stand out by showing a particular interest to the target audience. The growing emotional marketing trend also invites advertisers to appeal to specific cultural references. These that will reach the audience more effectively.

A local adaptation of a global marketing strategy also allows for more flexibility and hence more efficiency.

How does transcreation work?

The process can take place simultaneously with the development of the global strategy from its beginning. It can also take place afterwards when exporting the product, adapting the existing strategy. The transcreation work is a close collaboration with the advertiser. The adaptation thus stays the closest possible to the strategy defined by the company.

The transcreators must perfectly understand the source message, its intent and how it works. They must convey them with optimal efficiency in the target culture. That’s why the process needs a dual expertise: both linguistic and cultural on one hand and marketing on the other hand.

Naturally, as with localisation in general, it is better to work with on-site specialists. They live in the target culture and know it perfectly.

We could say so much more about transcreation! Although not well recognised yet, it is a fast-expanding business. Its specificity makes it an essential complement to internationalisation and localisation for the image of a brand or a product. Combining linguistic and cultural knowledge with marketing skills and creativity, transcreation really is a very flexible activity. It certainly stands for many years to come!