Do you believe in transcreation?

Or do you prefer adaptation?

Some people in the translation industry think that “adaptation” and “transcreation” are just buzzword equivalents for plain, old translation.

Agencies that are pioneers in adaptation/transcreation beg to differ. Adaptation/transcreation is to translation what copywriting is to writing. Here’s a sampling of web copy from some these agencies’ sites…

Sternkopf Communications
“We don’t translate. We create. Rather than direct translation, we always strive for the perfect adaptation.”

Bauzá & Associates
“Transcreation is the creative adaptation of marketing, sales and advertising copy in the target language”

NTIS New Zealand
“Translators translate, whereas Transcreation is an entirely different ballgame, involving the creativity and discipline of professionals specialised in adaptation.”

Vision Communications
“Transcreation: For services related to the adaptation of promotional material”

“…project manage the adaptation, transcreation, production and delivery of international advertising…”

Mother Tongue
“…anyone in advertising or marketing who needs to be sure that the foreign-language versions of their copy will be as good as the original in every way…”

Text Appeal
“…help global brands adapt their marketing campaigns to different markets, languages and cultures…”

“…strategic marketing analysis, concept development, copywriting and copy-editing; adaptation and transcreation; concept checking and transculturization…”

So, what’s the difference between translation and adaptation?

  • Adaptation supports marketing. Translation is much more general.
  • Adaptation involves changing both words and meaning but keeping the attitude and persuasive effect. Translation involves changing words but keeping meanings.
  • We describe successful adaptation with words such as “bold” and “creative.” We describe successful translation with words such as “faithful.”
  • Adaptation inevitably requires a team (or a series of teams). Translation can be done by an individual (though independent proofreaders are often involved).

Be sure to check out our series of articles on international copywriting.

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5 thoughts on “Do you believe in transcreation?

  1. Richard R.F. Ginies

    Adaptation/transcreation is to language what evolution is to life.

    An absolute necessity.

    A matter of business survival in the translation business.

    A matter of treating the reader with respect for his culture and intelligence.l

    At least, that is how I, a non-professional translator, humbly see it.

  2. C. Turney

    Adapting language to fit different cultures is one of the most important aspects of international advertising/marketing. International firms would never succeed without it. I really enjoyed your anaology, “Adaptation/transcreation is to translation what copywriting is to writing.”

  3. Jonathan Finer

    As with any successful cross-cultural messaging, effective marketing communications increasingly demand greater sensitivity to the nuances of that market. Transcreation recognizes this need – and should be a part of any international marketing effort. As we are challenged to meet the needs of our customers, increasingly we have found that the most effective approach combines greater emphasis on verbal and visual “cultural consensus” as well as providing the necessary tone and nuance specific to each market.

  4. Jonathan Kroner

    Even within a “culture” sophisticated marketers tailor messages to submarkets identified by age, gender, education and other factors. When we talk we adapt and transcreate messages to the individual. What do you say when you show up late? The expression of “hello, I’m late” depends on whether you are late for a meeting with your boss, your kids, a friend or the ticket taker at a movie theater, and for any one of those individuals, depending also on the context. In my cross cultural workshops I hope that all participants learned that all communication must be “adapted” to the recipient, whether a reader or listener.

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