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Translation – with a little creative licence

Transcreation is the art of completely rewriting text in the foreign language – changing the language and meaning, but keeping the “message” and the impact the same.

In our last blog on creative translation, we looked at advertising slogans that had gone wrong! Successful cross-cultural marketing often means adapting a message to fit the local language, the audience, and their shared knowledge and aspirations.

The famous De Beers slogan “A Diamond is Forever” may seem clear, regardless of culture. But in Chinese it has the rather flat connotation – “a diamond lasts forever”. The copywriters added the phrase “It is something to be handed down through generations” to convey the meaning of its lasting value.

And marketing is often adapted to fit the target audience’s priorities. When a US pharmaceutical company launched an online advertising campaign for a type of contraceptive, the English site emphasised its convenience. Straplines were  “hassle-free” and “keep life simple”. But the site aimed at Hispanic women emphasised their freedom to choose: “Es tu vida, es tu opción” – “it’s your life, it’s your choice”. This reflected market research showing what was most important to different groups of women.

It’s not just about slogans of course. Websites, brochures, adverts and other materials all aim to convey a message or evoke an emotional response in audiences. A tourism site might wax lyrical about a country’s rich history, or paint pictures of a tranquil island paradise. A Christmas catalogue might tap into people’s memories of childhood celebrations.

So how does the transcreation process work? To start with, it requires a different mindset and skillset to translation. Translations should be faithful to the source, but a transcreation will be original, creative and bold.

Multilingual copywriters should be native speakers of the target language, with extensive experience of the relevant industry. They’ll study as much reference material as possible, to make sure they understand the client’s unique style and tone of voice.

The creative translation process usually involves several stages, with clients discussing drafts of the work at every stage, and giving their feedback. They’ll have the chance to approve catchphrases, slogans, wordplays, and local and cultural specifics.

At Lingo24, we include several revisions , until the customer’s completely happy with the results. Of course this includes back translations (straight translations into the original language)– so they know exactly what it means!

The end results: Sparkling copy, that keeps the attitude and persuasiveness of the original text intact.

Find out more about transcreation, and our other translation services. Or get in touch with our experienced language and marketing experts.

Hazel Mollison

Hazel Mollison edits and writes for the Lingo24 blog. After studying Italian and German at Cambridge University, she worked as a journalist for five years with regional and national newspapers. She enjoys writing about languages, translation, online marketing, and helping small businesses explore new opportunities.

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