Transcreation vs translation

by | Jun 15, 2017 | Translators' Column

Transcreation refers to the translation of adverts and slogans. The purpose of transcreation is not only to transfer the meaning of the original text into another language but also to convey its look and feel. This serves to ensure that it has the same impact on readers in another country. A visual example would be to use an Asian model to advertise clothes sold in Asia, and a black model to sell the same product in African countries.

An advert text for the English market might focus on two women in an office having a conversation about a product or service. To ensure the advert’s effectiveness in Saudi Arabia, the translator would have to adapt it to feature two men. Thus taking account of cultural differences.

Translators have to ask themselves which emotions an advert may evoke in the intended audience. Take an advert featuring two children playing on their own in the woods. Will this evoke memories of a carefree, happy childhood as intended by the authors? Or will the effect be feelings of fear and strong criticism of adults who just let their children face dangerous situations unsupervised? Has the culture in a particular country changed so much that the same images evoke counterproductive reactions?

The use and translation of metaphors also require particular attention. In northern countries, “to use something like water” means to use it liberally. In many dryer countries, the same expression conveys a sense of using something carefully and sparingly.


A transcreation specialist is therefore first and foremost a creative writer who needs far more details than an “ordinary” translator. The transcreator will need to understand the creative concept underpinning the text and the responses it should produce in the reader or viewer.

For this reason, clients need to provide a brief which describes all their requirements. Tone, style, target audience, purpose of the text among them. Ideally, clients should work very closely with transcreators. In many cases, clients ask for two or three versions of the target text. These may include literal back‑translations, explanations for the pros and cons of the various options and reasons for the translator’s preference.

As a rule, translators apply hourly charges when quoting for transcreation work but some companies have set rates for short ads at £50-£70 per advert.

This article was written by Erika Baker, Iolante director and English-German translator.

Accurate, confidential, efficient and reliable English-German translations

Professionally qualified German translator into English and English into German, offering first class translation services for commercial, industrial, governmental and private clients.

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