What is transcreation?

Claudia Benetello, a professional translator and one of the major experts of transcreation explains how it differs from translation.

Despite common perceptions, transcreation is not glorified translation. Nor is it a synonym for ‘creative translation’ – a definition based on the questionable assumption that translation is not a creative act per se. While it is true that different types of texts allow for different degrees of freedom when it comes to ‘transposing’ them from one language to another, transcreation should be regarded as a different practice altogether.

The typical translation evaluation grid used by professional reviewers contains several error categories. What happens when we apply this grid to transcreation? As it turns out, those errors can only apply to translation, not to transcreation, where they are not errors at all. Committing such errors, i.e. breaking the rules of grammar or spelling, is actually considered a plus in transcreation. Evidence suggests that transcreation is the only possible way to ‘translate’ marketing and advertising copy.

Translation vs transcreation

In this article I draw on my professional experience as a copywriter involved in both origination and transcreation, and I will define transcreation as writing advertising or marketing copy for a specific market, starting from copy written in a source language, as if the target text had originated in the target language and culture. I also argue that creating target-language copy that can truly resonate with the target audience requires a special set of skills (language skills, copywriting skills, cultural sensitivity and local market understanding), which make the transcreation professional a fully-fledged consultant.

Now try to translate this popular Italian commercial for the UK market, and you ‘ll understand what transcreation is all about.

Più Baci, più piaci. (Baci means you kiss, but is also a famous italian brand of chocolates.)

It should sound something like “the more you kiss, the more people like you”, and… so what? What does it have to do exactly with chocolate??