Creative translation, also known as transcreation, is a more in-depth approach to translating content than literal translation. Creative translation takes into account the context of the source content, making sure that the translation doesn’t just make sense from a grammatical and linguistic point of view, but also from the cultural perspective of the target language.
Creative translation is done by adapting the source content into a different language rather than literally translating it. But what is adaptation in translation? Well, it takes into account the cultural and social significance of the content along with the values of the new audience, and builds them together in order to effectively communicate the content’s message.
For example, source content aimed at an audience in London that describes colder-than-usual winter weather as ‘-1 °C’, wouldn’t make sense culturally if it were translated to Russian for an audience in Moscow, where temperatures regularly dip below -10 °C. In this sense, while a literal translation would be grammatically and linguistically correct, the translation would still be incorrect and risk alienating the intended audience. (This is sometimes referred to as “localising” content, a process which is becoming increasingly popular.)
Benefits of creative translation
Creative translation is a great tool for international businesses. Here are just a few of the benefits of creative translation:
- It takes the intent of the source content into account, making your messaging much more effective
- It properly translates idioms, avoiding any embarrassing errors in your finished content
- It takes into account the values of the audience for which it is translating, making it culturally relevant
- It makes the translated content more engaging overall, as it can implement humour, tone, and voice much more effectively than can literal translation
For example, source content from Canada that references Canadian celebrity, chef Bob Blumer, would need a creative translator in order to make a cultural substitution for a celebrity chef in the target audience’s culture.
Non-linguistic creative translation
Sometimes, creative translation goes beyond the copy of your content and expands into non-linguistic areas such as image or video content. If this is the case, sometimes the content might need to be edited or replaced in order to better appeal to your target audience or to ensure retention of respect for cultural differences.
Problems with creative translation
As creative translation (or transcreation) requires an in-depth study of the source content and a knowledge of the target audience at native level, this kind of content can be more expensive and naturally more time-consuming than literal translation.
Not all types of content necessarily need creative translation. For example, step-by-step instructions for operating a product, or lists of ingredients, are simple enough that literal translation will suffice.