30. June 2016

The mystery of transcreation: Good style takes time

Demanding direct customers who want a flowing translation into German and aren’t hung up on sticking rigidly to the original text? The number of my customers who don’t simply want a translation, but who want their text completely rewritten in the target language, is growing. This is where we move into the realms of ‘transcreation’.

Translator, copywriter, communications expert

The term ‘transcreation’ is a slippery beast at the best of times. Not least due to its origin as a portmanteau of the words ‘translation’ and ‘creation’ (in this sense: copywriting). So, it might be better to bypass it altogether and talk instead about intercultural, creative or textual adaptation. After all, the creative adaptation of a text into the target language is more than simply a translation. Why is that? Well, it involves converting an existing text into another language and then optimising the translation so it resonates in the target language’s culture – all the while retaining the intent, emotions and other characteristics of the original. Which makes it twice as difficult as writing the original text, because it calls for two skills: translating and copywriting.

Creative adaptations are hard work

Technical manuals, annual reports and product lists can be translated pretty quickly if you are familiar with the subject and specialist terminology – if not, terminology can be researched. And there are plenty of tools out there that are making the translator’s job ever more efficient.
But this ‘higher, faster, further’ approach is not suited to creative adaptations. The creative process – from the customer briefing, the first rough version, research, brainstorming, more research, dialogue with the customer, creative breaks, multiple text reviews and adaptations, to the finishing touches – have to be done afresh every single time. For every single job.
It makes creative adaptations hard, exhausting work that calls for a high degree of self discipline. And because good ideas and phrases don’t appear out of thin air, developing special methods and techniques to get those creative juices flowing every single day is paramount. Due attention must be given to how the text plays with the language, too, adapting and polishing phrases as necessary.

Copyright: stockpics – Fotolia


Recommended reading:

The trend towards transcreation is gathering momentum, yet the term itself remains shrouded in mystery. Neither we, the translator community, nor our customers can say with any great certainty what transcreation actually is. Nina Sattler-Hovdar has written a book on the subject: Translation – Transkreation. Vom Über-Setzen zum Über-Texten (available in German only). It is a new publication from the BDÜ’s own publishing house BDÜ Fachverlag and sheds light on this tricky subject for customers and translators alike.

Sattler-Hovdar’s practical guide features plenty of tips, examples and checklists to aid the transcreation process and give your work the finishing touch. An example briefing, information on estimating the amount of work involved, and handy hints on calculating costs can also be found. The latter is key, because transcreation is very time-consuming. It demands a different approach to explaining to customers how creative adaptations work, to preparing suitable cost estimates, and to negotiating prices with customers on an equal footing.

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