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Transadaptation: What is it & how is it different from translation?

There are a lot of technical terms in the language industry, including the many different types of translation and related services that convert content into different languages. We have looked at topics such as localisation and transcreation in the past and how they are different from regular translation.

Today, we are looking at another form of translation called transadaptation. This article explains what it is and what makes it different from other types of translation that you might be more familiar with.

What is transadaptation?

First, let’s start by defining translation: the process of converting a piece of content into another language. The aim here is to achieve the closest possible match to the original piece of content, in terms of direct meaning. In many situations, this is the preferred approach – e.g. instruction manuals, safety warnings, study findings and other forms of content where exact meaning is the priority.

However, there are a lot of scenarios where exact meaning is not the priority. Such as a marketing campaign where the goal is to elicit an emotional response and inspire consumer intent. Or you could be translating creative content like a novel or video game and trying to capture the essence of metaphors, irony and satire that are lost through direct translation.

In this scenario, you might use transadaptation to adapt your translated content and make it more relevant to the linguistic and cultural background of specific target audiences.

As cited in Translation vs Localization: What’s the Difference? (PDF), published by Vadim V. Sdobnikov at the Linguistics University of Nizhny Novgorod in Russia, linguist Evgeniya Malyonova describes transadaptation as the following:

“Using transadaptation, a translator changes various elements of cultural, visual, audio and other codes in order to better integrate the text into the matrix of the target culture. The greatest integration of the ST [source text] into the target culture is achieved by the use of the strategy of transculturation which implies a complete alteration of the text and production of a new product of creative activity that is not perceived as a strange object by representatives of another culture.”

For example, the common expression “raining cats and dogs” will sound insane to most non-native English speakers who are not already aware of this idiomatic expression. The closest equivalent in Spain would be “llueve a cántaros” which is closer to “it’s raining pitchers [of water]”.

In this case, the literal translation makes as much sense as saying “it’s raining clown shoes”.

Transadaptation helps solve this problem by revising translated content and adapting it to make it relevant to the target audience.

How is this different from transcreation?

If you are already familiar with the practice of transcreation, then the definition provided in this article for transadaptation is going to sound very similar. This is because the overall objective is the same (overcoming linguistic and cultural nuances) but the process and specifics of that goal are slightly different.

The biggest difference is that transadaptation aims to find the closest possible match to the source material, in the same way that translation does. Basically, transadaptation is there when direct translation doesn’t work and aims to find the closest alternative e.g.: raining pitchers instead of cats and dogs.

Transcreation, on the other hand, is not particularly strict about matching the meaning of the source content. It focuses on the response your content aims to get from your audience and enjoys the freedom to alter your content more drastically.

This is especially important for creative works, marketing and advertising where the concepts are more important than the specific meaning of individual words and phrases.

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