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Transcreation: Your Key to International Connection

October 16th, 2018

If you have never heard of Mr. T, the phrase “I pity the fool” might seem quite straightforward. However, having seen Mr. T’s delivery makes you a little skeptical of how sincere his pity is. A deeper look into context and history shows that there’s even more to the phrase than can be seen in a single clip of Mr. T speaking it.

Language is complex. Search for “translation gone wrong” and you’ll find countless examples of product, advertising, and marketing messages that not only miss the target but are downright crude. These errors can be humorous—until it happens to your company.

So how does such important messaging go wrong even for large and seemingly competent companies? In many cases, the companies chose a translation service when they needed transcreation.

What Transcreation Is
A chicken is a chicken—or a pollo, gà mái, or a poulet. Whatever you call it, its meaning is pretty straightforward. Such concepts require only a straight translation. There are also circumstances that require a more in-depth translation, such as when the topic is complex or delicate—like finance or legal matters.

However, there are times when your message is more nuanced. There may be emotion and cultural subtext that require a total rewrite by an expert in the target language. That’s transcreation: translation + creation.

When to Use Transcreation
When adapting a message from one language to another, consider how straightforward it is versus how much “layered” meaning there is. Choose transcreation when you want to preserve the meaning and tone of your message, including any humor, regional expressions, figures of speech, and so forth in the original text.

The goal is to maintain creativity and inherent cultural messaging to keep it human and make it meaningful for the intended audience.

Why Transcreation Matters
In addition to avoiding embarrassing or awkward translations, you want to maintain the integrity of your message. If your original idea or text is interesting or valuable, you want your international customers to find it just as interesting and valuable.

Fifteen countries equal almost 75 percent of U.S. profits from global trading partners. That means there are a lot of potential customers you’re neglecting if you’re not actively trying to engage them with copy and messaging that is meaningful to them.

And if your business has an online presence, the world will see your content as they shop and look for goods and services. Don’t let a machine make that first impression. Ensure that your company is putting its best foot—and message—forward.

Do you have copy you want to share with an international audience? Send us a message and we’ll help you decide how to get it ready for the world.