Imagine that you submitted a document for translation by a specialist. It’s returned with word-for-word accuracy… but it just doesn’t “feel” right.

 

What went wrong?

Well, even when a piece is grammatically correct, the text’s “essence” can be lost in translation. The result is a flat and soulless piece, which feels “all too literal”.

What I’m saying is that word-for-word translation can paradoxically suppress the text’s meaning.

This makes sense when we consider that every language conveys meaning in a unique way. So, whilst the translator may have replicated each word, the overall product no longer “speaks”.

Translators have the tricky task of accurately translating the content, whilst also conveying the essence of the text. And as I’ve explained, achieving both of these things can be a balancing act.

This is where the importance of transcreation comes in.

 

Transcreation

According to Verbalizeit, transcreation is the “process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone, and context.”

To exemplify this idea, let’s consider advertising and marketing collateral. These pieces (such as corporate brochures, company taglines, and branded flyers) are creative texts. They are specifically created to “speak” to the audience through stylised content.

As such, translators must preserve the creative and originative attributes (otherwise, the magic of the text will be lost).

So, how do translators transcreate such pieces? What tools and skills enable them to recapture the text’s style?

 

Familiarity with the Subject 

Successful transcreation demands more than a mastery of the two languages. It also requires an understanding of the subject at hand.

Let’s return to the example of marketing collateral. A familiarity with the brand is fundamental. If the translator understands the company and its goals, they will be better enabled to translate these messages.

This calls for some action on the client’s side.

 

“The translator’s knowledge and understanding of the subject will be evident in the superior quality of the translation.”

 

No one understands a brand quite like the marketing department! After all, the marketing team will possess the internal knowledge and “feel” for the company. With this in mind, clients should consider initiating a conversation between the marketing department and the translator. With this free-flow of information, the translator will be a lot closer to the business and the product at hand.

This same concept can be applied to any text type. The translator’s knowledge and understanding of the subject will be evident in the superior quality of the translation. Overall, the transcribed text will exude this knowledge, and better communicate the desired messages.

 

Thinking Beyond Each Word

In order to capture the essence of a text, translators must allow themselves to “let go” of the original. There is little use in keeping an exact translation of a word if it no longer evokes the same response.

This does not mean that translators should change the content. Rather, they should “rise above” the words on the page, and ask themselves, “What is the best way to accurately capture the same meaning in the new language?”.

And interestingly, that often involves swapping a word for a better match than it’s verbatim.

 

Collaborating to Re-Create

It’s clear that successful translation is more than converting words into a new language.

Collaboration between the translator and the client is essential. Knowledge-sharing enables a successful re-creation of the text’s intent, style, tone, and context.

Often, this process is as time-consuming as creating the original itself! That’s why it is called trans-creation.

About the Author:

Equipped with over 20 years of experience across translation, interpreting and teaching, Ksenia is Polyglot Group’s expert in Language Solutions. Passionate about languages and modern translation technology, Ksenia enjoys constantly learning about the ever-changing industry and sharing her expertise with others.
Read more about Ksenia Marchenko.