Eight fascinating facts about transcreation

This month, aiaTranslations has been celebrating transcreation - that is, translating content in a verbal as well as cultural sense. Let’s make this last blog post of September a fitting homage, by sharing some fascinating transcreation facts! 1. “Transcreation” isn’t a recent word. It may seem modern and somewhat buzzwordy, but the term “transcreation” dates back to 1964, when it was coined by Indian scholar Purushottama Lal.


2. Transcreation isn’t the same as localization. Although both techniques involve adapting content for international audiences, they differ in at least one key way: transcreation involves translation, while localization does not. For example, a British children’s cartoon airing in the United States might have particular lines re-recorded so that characters refer to dollars instead of pounds. This is localization. On the other hand, a Japanese cartoon would have to be translated into English for US audiences, and certain cultural references may also have to be adapted or changed. This is transcreation.


3. Transcreators don’t have to be native speakers. Translation requires an intimate knowledge and ease with both the original and target languages, so it might seem as though the ideal translator or transcreator should be someone who’s a native speaker of both languages. But when it comes to transcreation, cultural knowledge is equally important. For instance, a French person who’s been living abroad for decades probably doesn’t know their country’s current pop culture and aspects of everyday life as intimately as someone who is fluent in French and currently living there, even if French isn’t their native language. That said, of course, translators and transcreators must have impeccable language skills. But those skills have to be combined with up-to-date cultural knowledge.


4. Transcreation isn’t just for marketing. We tend to see the term “transcreation” used in marketing, but the concept is also important in a number of other fields, including healthcare, entertainment, law, and literature.


5. A transcreator’s job can involve many details. In addition to language, transcreators also have to be aware of - and make or request changes to - things like graphic design, website layout, and pop culture. For instance, if a company wants an Arabic website based on their English-language one, elements like page layout, symbols, and even color may also have to be adapted to this target audience. For example, as I covered in a recent article, the “X” symbol used to fill in forms in English isn’t recognized the same way by Arabic readers and would have to be replaced.


6. AI can’t transcreate. Transcreation requires an intimate knowledge of specific cultures or even subcultures, as well as nuances like humor, aesthetics, and other subtleties that machine translation can’t (yet?) achieve.


7. Transcreation can help with SEO. On the other hand, transcreation can “speak to” AI. Search Engine Optimization, a way AI can find information quickly and compile lists like web search results, can be impacted by transcreation. Take a look, for example, at this article that explores how using certain words that are more common in particular variants of Spanish can boost SEO for specific Spanish-language markets.

8. Transcreation is a good approach to communication in general. Whether you’re advertising in your native country or overseas, talking to local or international clients, helping patients from different backgrounds, or working on a creative project you hope will be appreciated around the world, think like a transcreator. Keep in mind that language isn’t the only thing you may not have in common with your target audience. Try to understand and communicate with them on a cultural level, as well.


“Transcreation” may not be a familiar term for most people, but the technique is far-reaching and important when it comes to communicating with different cultures. At aiaTranslations, we know that language and culture go hand in hand. Our extensive team of international experts mean you’ll be able to get transcreation services for any market. Get in touch to see how we can help you spread your message around the globe.


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Contact Our Writer – Alysa Salzberg

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