Content Transcreation

August 9, 2017 Wendy Chang

Transcreation is the process of adapting a message from one language into another language while preserving the message’s intent, context and creativity. When a company wants to go global, it is important to have content translated into the languages being used in the target countries. However, more often than not, translation alone might not be enough to attract customers, and this is where transcreation comes in.

Transcreation plays an indispensable role in digital marketing because different countries have different languages and cultures. It is necessary to not only translate the content into the target country’s language, but also to adapt and customize the content to the preferences of the target audience. You need to think about how to create the message in a way that will engage your audience.

Why Transcreation Matters

As an illustration, let’s consider digital marketing for Chinese cuisine. If you translate every specialty dish directly from Chinese into another language, many of the dishes will probably be too suspicious sounding or unappetizing for most people to order. People may end up playing it safe by ordering hot and sour soup or sweet and sour pork, because direct translations of Chinese specialties that appear on the menu as insects or rare animals are a line that many customers simply won’t cross.

Many Chinese dish names are derived from a story from the local culture. For example, there is a Chinese dish whose literal English equivalent is “lion head meatball.” These meatballs are not lion meat, they are pork stewed with Napa cabbage. The name was given by a government official in ancient China because the shapes of the meatballs looked like the heads of the stone lions that were placed in front of traditional Chinese homes to guard the household.

Many dish names are not even remotely related to the food being served. Therefore, when translating this type of content, accurate descriptions of the dishes depend heavily on cultural knowledge. Literal translations simply will not work.

When a literal translation does not work, the communication bridge is closed. Think about what information needs to be passed to the target audience, and then how to pass that information on in a way that is easily understandable (and when it comes to literal translation of some Chinese dishes, not unappetizing).

Summary

Translation connects us even though we do not all speak the same language. It helps us understand other cultures better and enables us to more effectively embrace differences. However, sometimes literal translations might confuse us. This is where transcreation can play a fundamental role. When it comes to marketing, we always have to remember the core message we would like to convey and take into consideration the target audience’s culture, language preference, style and emotions. The most important goal is to reach out to a wider audience and ensure that they understand and can relate to your brand’s message. 

Additional GPI Resources

You may gain further insights into global e-business, global SEO, website translation, country specific cultural facts and related topics by reviewing some previous blogs and resources written by GPI:

Please feel free to contact GPI at info@globalizationpartners.com with any questions about our language and technology services.  Also let us know if you have any interesting blog topics you would like us to cover in our future blogs.  You may request a complimentary Translation Quote for your projects as well.

About the Author

Wendy Chang

Wendy is a native Chinese speaker from Taipei, Taiwan. She has extensive experience in localization, translation and project management. As a project manager and business consultant, she has led projects in quality management, DTP automation and website localization, helping companies optimize and create success in their localization processes. Wendy has worked for private sector and public sector clients, starting her localization career at the World Bank in Washington, DC. She holds a MA in Translation and Localization Management from Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Wendy has translated a number of published children's books from English into Traditional Chinese and enjoys teaching Chinese to pre-kindergartners!

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