Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into translation? You’d like to talk about transcreation – can you describe it in simple terms?

I really became interested in translation after I got the chance to be an exchange student in high school and pick up on some of the cultural aspects of language. It was more of an unrequited love before that, I have to say. I work as a project manager at Albion Languages, dealing with translation projects. I keep in touch with clients concerning their needs and with the skilled translators who complete our projects. We learn all the time about great solutions in translation and it really helps to keep going even when the pressure is on: to see that translation is developing in sync with other industries. One of the latest booming branches of translation is transcreation which is the idea of translating in a way that fully caters to the target language, thus allowing for a lot of creativity.

Why do you think transcreation matters and why should it interest buyers of translation services?

I have always found transcreation to be an intriguing area of translation. It needs a great deal of creativity that simply cannot be learned from textbooks. I translated subtitles for TED Talks at first and then prepared text for dubbing for a documentary series which really got me interested in adaptation in translation and what strategies offer the best results. I also “dissected” the dictionary translations of idioms in my master studies so as to better understand such cultural differences. I have always welcomed such intriguing projects at Albion.

In what cases would you need transcreation?

If a company is looking to establish a global brand presence, they will certainly need to look into transcreation at some point. Basically, any text that aims to convince should be considered for transcreation. This can be the case with a marketing text where you need to appeal to the customer’s senses, or social media and most e-learning materials where attracting and retaining readers’ or listeners’ attention is key.

Why is it so important in these instances?

A phrase that sounds just a little ‘off’ to a native speaker could well act as a deterrent. Just imagine the immense time and effort that goes into creating all the original slogans and taglines that are meant to stand out and remain in our minds for as long as possible. Translating such content requires just as much effort to achieve the same effect in the target language and resonate with its intended audience.

Does this mean accuracy is less important?

When we’re translating details of medical procedures or how to operate complex machinery, it is crucial to have precise descriptions and terms. In the marketing field, however, the main goal is to get the original message across – even if it requires a bit more creativity from the translator and recreating the concept in a certain way. This is why the experts in this field are usually strong communicators, as well as being skilled translators. They can recreate the ideas by understanding the goal and tone of the material rather than the exact text and can act as great collaborators in honing the brand identity.

Are there any specifics to bear in mind before starting such a project?

This is where the target language may need to be more specific than usual. Speakers of the same language may differ considerably in terms of culture which needs to be taken into account in transcreation. It is thus especially important that a native speaker works on the material who is able to catch these subtle differences. Due to the creative nature of the task and additional effort involved, text length is not a good indicator of the extent of this work and experts are often compensated beyond mere word count. However, this creative ‘extra’ they provide is actually very important as some misunderstandings can easily become cause for ridicule if the target audience is not accorded the necessary consideration. Also, taglines with puns, in particular can be minefields to unsuspecting companies. I’m sure we can all remember an occasion when certain translations just somehow missed the mark, even if it was just by a small difference, and left a bad aftertaste. This is the complete opposite of what we want to achieve.

Can you give us an example of really good transcreation?

 The thing about transcreation, and translation in general as well, is that it is at its best if you don’t notice it. So, unfortunately, it is much easier to remember the ones that were not so great, because ideally the audience simply doesn’t even know that there was something translated in the first place. But, for example, probably one of the biggest budgets is devoted to this by Coca-Cola Company and they come to mind first. Their campaign where they put people’s names on their cans worked out quite well as it adopted the local names that are familiar in each target market. This might seem straightforward, but it could so easily have failed if they hadn’t thought to consider the local cultures. And it turned out to be a very profitable and popular idea that made customers buy something as simple as a soft drink as a gift. A little extra effort and consideration usually turns out to be a great investment for any company in the long run. This way the brand can really get assimilated in the community and connect with customers on a deeper level.