Transcreation services: 7 times you need a more creative translation

Published on January 17th, 2018

creative translation

When you’re dealing with creative content, regular translation can often struggle to capture the same meaning in another language. When this happens, you need a more creative translation, you need transcreation services to go the extra distance in getting the right response from your target audience in a foreign-speaking market.

Unlike translation, the focus with transcreation services isn’t purely on the meaning of your material, but the response it provokes in your audience. So when a direct translation doesn’t inspire people (or there is no direct translation at all), this more creative translation works to find the closest equivalent in your target language that elicits the same kind of inspiration in people.

Here are seven times you’ll need transcreation services in your translation projects.


#1: Product names using a more creative translation

After all the work you put into naming your best-selling items, the last thing you might think of doing is changing product names before you enter a new market. These names tend to encompass everything your product is about and represent your brand’s core values.

These are things you can’t simply translate and they’re often best left as they are.

Proceed with caution, though. When Ford took its popular Pinto model to Brazil (1971), the US car manufacturer’s entire marketing push flopped. Why? Because “pinto” is Spanish and Portuguese slang for “tiny male genitals”. Things improved for Ford once it renamed the line “Corcel” (meaning “horse”) for the Brazilian market.


#2: Slogans

Whether it’s the slogan for your entire brand or one of your advertising campaigns, the best slogans are incredibly difficult to translate. Countless brands have failed to connect with foreign audiences due to poorly translated slogans – often with crude or sometimes offensive results.

There are countless examples of brands getting slogans wrong in overseas markets – and sometimes even closer to home. The Dairy Association’s “Got Milk” ad campaign has been hugely successful with English-speaking US audiences but the slogan was lost on the country’s Spanish speakers with the translated version asking “are you lactating?”

A more creative translation was needed and this was promptly transcreated for Spanish-speaking audiences.


#3: Creative writing

Transcreation services is essentially the art of translating creative language and this is important for every novel that’s been adapted for international markets. If you’ve read literal translations of literature or other creative writings, you’ll know how much fails to make sense in the second language.

The best novel translations use transcreation services for a more creative translation and to adapt creative devices like metaphors and rich descriptions so they make sense to audiences in the target language. For example, the English metaphor “raining cats and dogs” doesn’t exist in Japanese – it’s complete gibberish.


#4: Film, TV scripts

In a similar vein to novels, translating scripts into other languages can often be problematic. Slang terms and colloquial language often loses its meaning and sounds unintentionally awkward or offensive. Likewise, translating scripts that attempt to recreate historical language can be difficult, too. Imagine trying to translate something like Downton Abbey into German where your goal is to recreate early 20th century English with a more classical version of spoken German.


#5: Video games

As a product, video games encompass all of the creative translation needs you could have in a single project. You have titles, slogans and scripts to translate – all of which can be rich in creative language. You’ve also got instances where transcreation services isn’t needed: in the instruction manuals, terms and conditions, etc.

This is a perfect example of where factual content differs from the creative kind that needs transcreation services.


#6: Speeches

Speeches may not seem like a prime candidate for a more creative translation but politicians in particular have a habit of using creative devices in their speeches. Slogans, metaphors, historical references, political analogies and digs at rivals or critics make their presence in all kinds of political speeches.

Repetition and pauses are used for dramatic effect, especially to emphasise the key points of a speech and these tend to be the more creative elements like slogans. Which makes it all the more painful if you end up emphasising a glaring translation mistake – like Jimi Carter’s translator telling Poland he was happy to grasp its private parts in 1977.


#7: Headlines, metaphors and other creative devices

Creative content is made up of a number of devices, a number of which we’ve already mentioned in this article. Headlines, metaphors, puns, rhymes and countless other creative devices put life into the content you create.

These are the elements where translation tends to struggle and you’ll often need to turn to transcreation services. They can even creep their way into non-creative pieces like news stories and academic papers, which is something you should either try to reduce or keep an eye out for in your translation projects.


Transcreation services is there for you when translation struggles in the face of creative language. When the meaning or emotional response you’re trying to capture goes beyond the literal meaning of words, you need this more creative translation to get the desired reaction from your foreign-speaking audiences.

Posted on: January 17th, 2018