Translation vs. Transcreation – A simple explanation from EQHO

101 Guides, Industries, Translation & Localization14 February 20223.1k

The global marketplace is now a reality. With this new reality comes new concepts of how we all do business. One of the most important aspects of international business is dealing with the nuances of communication between cultures.

Translation was good enough for social ties – it may not be good enough for the business world. A new buzzword has made its way into the lexicon in the Digital Transformation era – Transcreation.

What is Transcreation?

Transcreation is the art and science of moving a communication from one language into another without losing any of the original intent or meaning. This is a step above translation services, which have been the norm for most marketing and advertising professionals. While translation only has to be technically correct, transcreation is also socially and culturally correct.

In short, using Google Translate to market to a new market is not enough. Although modern technology is improving, effective online communication cannot yet be automated consistently at an elite level.

Transcreation for International Marketing

Transcreation has obvious implications for marketing and advertising internationally. The more accurately you can align your online content and ads with the colloquialisms and slang of your chosen market, the better your chances of making a positive impact. The first step is to understand that even within a language, words take on totally different meanings depending on the culture interpreting them.

For instance:

  • The word “jock” is offensive in Scotland. But only sometimes – it depends on how well you know the person.
  • An extremely offensive “f-word” in America means “cigarette” in Great Britain.
  • Do not ask anyone from Ireland for a “ride” unless you have an intention towards intimacy for that individual.
  • In Australia, the “entree” is actually the appetizer.
  • If you are from the United States, and you do business in South America, do not say that you are from “America.” It assumes the centrality of the United States and will definitely slow down your business prospects below the equator.

Translation may or may not pick up on the problems that are caused on this level, but why should you take that chance? International marketing is a holistic discipline that requires nuance beyond the surface, especially when considering the text in advertisements. Transcreation definitely does not end with colloquialisms and slang, and it considers localized cultures as well.

The Case of the Tosser

Even large multinational corporations have trouble with translation. The Mitsubishi company, for example, was having trouble figuring out why its new line, the Pajero, was experiencing such bad sales numbers in Spain. In Spanish, it turns out, the word “pajero” means “tosser,” which is a colloquialism with only negative connotations. This oversight cost Mitsubishi millions and continues to serve as a case study for the importance of transcreation to this day.

Transcreation and Localization

The global marketplace is really a larger marketplace of local opportunities. Marketers who advise against “wide net marketing” still have a point across national borders. As a matter of fact, their point is more poignant. If wide net marketing doesn’t work within your country, then it becomes even more diluted if you try to spread it across the globe.

Transcreation allows a marketing campaign to target not only a specific region or nation, but specific cities and even neighborhoods across national borders. E.g., if you are renting American vacation homes to the most qualified travelers from Ethiopia, it would be better to focus your attention on the rich neighborhoods of Bole and Ayat rather than on Addis Ababa in general. The language in those high end neighborhoods is slightly different from the poorer parts of the city. It definitely helps to know the details!

Transcreation even reaches beyond simple localization. Where localization and transcreation can both be said to adapt to local custom and culture, transcreation actually originates in the language of the prospect. This ensures a much better adherence to the linguistic terms and conditions of the prospect, because there are no turns of phrase or complex sentence structures to unwind before the translation. In short, transcreation almost eliminates the need for a translation, because the content starts on the other side of the pond.

Transcreation and Content

When an ad script begins from a different source, it can lead to different overall content throughout the rest of an ad. If there are pictures around the text, they may need to be changed to fit the transcreated script. If the text goes to video, the video script may change as well. The result – one company may need to create completely separate ads depending on the part of the world being catered to.

With that in mind, should you outsource to an ad agency that is local to the audience that you are catering to? After all, they are the closest to that audience.

You may think so, but the answer is no. An agency that understands transcreation is usually your best option, even if that agency is in a place away from the target audience.

Emerging and second world markets are called “emerging” for a reason. Although a local marketer may have proximity to a culture, that marketer may not have the tools to properly build a campaign from that knowledge. Many companies in emerging markets actually prefer marketing to originate from an outside source. Developed countries have a much stronger Internet infrastructure and access to technology. As long as the transcreation is good, the marketing campaign will turn out much better.

Request a quote from a trusted website translation company that is on the cutting edge of transcreation. We are ready to help you specifically target your most highly qualified prospects, no matter where they may be across the globe.


Are your translation solutions scalable?

As experts in Asian localization and translation services, with more 20 years of experience, EQHO is the ideal choice. To find out more about how localization can benefit your business, or to get started, contact us today.

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