Translation, Localization and Transcreation: What’s the Difference?

Published on April 12th, 2016

We have to admit, some of the terminology in our industry can be a touch confusing at times. Don’t blame us though; we didn’t come up with the names ourselves! We do know that some terms such as transcreation, technical authoring, typesetting and transcription might not be obvious to all. Therefore, we thought it might be helpful to look at the differences between translation, localization and transcreation in particular. First of all, it doesn’t help that they sound quite similar; worse is the fact that their definitions overlap in various ways. However, there are important differences between these three types of language services and the challenges they overcome. Let’s clear this up once and for all so you know exactly which service you need.

Transcreation, translation and localisation

Translation: content from one language to another

This one probably doesn’t take too much explaining, but let’s put it in simple terms for the sake of clarity. Translation is the process of taking content from one language and directly converting it into another. All the focus lies on the words used in one piece of content and translating those into the closest equivalent of another language. Broadly speaking, there are two types of translation: machine translation and human translation. This is where the topic becomes particularly interesting, as translation technology continues to advance. There are several of limitations that still come with machine translation, however; if you want to learn more about machine translation vs human translation, take a look this post covering the topic.

Localization: moving beyond the words for a richer understanding

Localization moves beyond the words of content to consider the cultural expectations of an audience. While translation focuses on two or more languages, localization takes a much broader, conceptual approach. This often starts by looking at the themes and topics of a brand and its content, to ensure that everything is culturally sensitive. A drinks company, for example, could feature friends watching a football match in its advert for UK audiences. However, this may not be the best approach for US audiences or much of central Asia, where other sports are considered national favourites. That’s a fairly light-hearted example, but small cultural differences like this can have a drastic effect on profits. Localization can also save you from offending overseas cultures and even from breaking advertising laws or censorship guidelines. Aside from grand concepts like culture, politics and law, localization also hones in on the finer details to make content connect with audiences more effectively. This can go down to the finest details of time and date formats, the colors in your marketing material and even the images you use.

Transcreation: take a step further to creative freedom

If localization moves beyond the language to address cultural expectation, transcreation is another step further towards ensuring your marketing messages are heard the way you intend them to be. A brand usually uses a rich mix of language, storytelling and visual content designed to have a very specific effect on audiences. However, when it comes down to it, many of those subtle nuances simply can’t be translated directly. Think of a company slogan that uses clever wordplay, for example. The impact is lost as soon as you take your slogan out of its native language, but it’s important to prompt the same response from audiences all over the world. This is where transcreation comes in: by focusing on the response you’re aiming for and finding the best way to recreate that in another language and culture. This means you could end up with a very different slogan when you enter a new market, but one that has the same or the closest possible impact. Tech firm Intel got this spot on when it decided to take its famous “Intel: Sponsors of Tomorrow” campaign to Brazil. The literal translation of that slogan would have suggested Intel has a nasty habit of putting things off until tomorrow. However, the transcreated version “Intel: Apaixonados Pelo Futuro” (or “Intel: In love with the future”) was much closer to the original message Intel was aiming for.

Transcreation isn’t just reserved for slogans, though. There are times when entire advertising campaigns, branding concepts or even product names need transcreation to ensure your brand is received the way you want it to be in international markets. Even if these three services sound quite similar and share much in common, it’s vital that you understand the difference between translation, localization and transcreation for international marketing. Translating instruction manuals, for example, might make your products usable overseas, but that doesn’t help anyone until they physically buy that product. The marketing campaigns you run to reach those customers will need more than translation to get your message across. So be sure you understand which language services each type of content needs and don’t be shy about getting in touch with us if you need any further advice!

Posted on: April 12th, 2016