Translation vs Localization vs Transcreation

Translation vs Transcreation vs Localization
Translation, Localization, Transcreation…

Global brands bleed money creating engaging digital content to drive user engagement. But how do you get your branded content to really resonate with international audiences? Is translation enough? If you are in the field, you’ve heard about localization and transcreation as well. But how do you differentiate them? We know, it doesn’t really help that their definitions overlap. However, there are important differences between these three types of language services. How to evaluate their key values considering all aspects of managing digital content? What do you really need? Keep on reading.


Translation: from one language to another

As simple as it sounds, translation is the process of translating what is being said in one language into another. As the most obvious thing, it comes to mind to a lot of people if you ask them what translation is (duh!). What is not too obvious, is that every translation project (except the most basic ones) involves the translator adding their own judgment and skill in order to capture the essence and meaning of the original source.

Generally, the more abstract the document, the more variation between two translations of it are likely to be, even though they both are considered correct. The translation of a poem will include more variations than the translation of operating instructions for a product. The poem will need more accurate interpretation to capture the emotion and the message the author was delivering, while the operating instructions are straightforward and easier to translate.

Main characteristics: 

  • The content stays the same
  • The language operates within literal word-for-word translation of everything
  • Images, layout and brand vocabulary do not change


Localization: cultural product adaptation

By definition, localization is the process of adjusting the product’s functional properties and characteristics to accommodate the language, cultural, political, and legal differences of a foreign market. In short, localization transmits the meaning of the words in a way that is culturally appropriate and connects with the audience more effectively. It simply goes further than translation, including images, layouts, time and date formats, the colors in your marketing material, and even the images you use.

In fact, localization saves you from offending foreign cultures and even from breaking advertising laws or censorship guidelines. Examples? In The Simpsons, localized for the Muslim world, Homer drinks soda – not beer and eats lamb or beef – never pork.

Main characteristics: 

  • Not the content, but the meaning of the content stays the same
  • Language is translated in a way that is culturally appropriate
  • Images and layout are changed to meet local expectations and product needs


Transcreation: translation + creative writing

As localization goes beyond the language to address cultural adaptation, transcreation goes even further, making sure your content sounds local by adapting nuances, idioms, speech, and phrasing. In short, transcreation is a blend of translation and creative writing, brilliantly illustrated by the equation language + culture + emotions.

A brand usually uses a rich mix of language and visual content designed to have a specific effect on audiences. The person producing transcreation must understand the desired outcome thoroughly, and be given the freedom not only to translate the original but also to make significant changes to it in the process. The most important rule is to use emotive language in order to speak to the user as intended. The local brand message must resonate with the new audience!

Marketing teams usually undertake transcreation projects as people who usually provide transcreation services are not only translators but also copywriters.  If there is something your brand needs to accurately represent in all languages, transcreation may be an important part of your product’s localization program.

Main characteristics: 

  • Different content developed to meet business objectives
  • Developed in the local language; English may be used as part of the brand vocabulary
  • Images and layout are changed to meet local expectations and product needs
  • Brand vocabulary is enhanced and expanded


Cultural Differences And Awareness

While translation starts with a source text, transcreation demands a creative brief, just like any creative project in the source language. Translation’s result is new words in another language, transcreation provides brand new messaging that is targeted and localized. Instead of providing text to the transcreation provider, you’ll need to provide them with a clear vision of the creative concept. Usually, the message that was written for one target audience will not resonate with another at all.

When translating into different languages, you will encounter meaning variations of the source and target language, that is for sure. Now think like a translator: is Spanish in Spain and in Mexico the same? Is Portuguese in Brazil the same as in Portugal? Even in the case of English in UK and USA, there are clear cultural differences. The translator has to focus on both spelling and meaning differences in the source and target language. Who will read the translation: The Portuguese or the Brazilians? British people or Americans?

Considering different target markets, audiences, groups and regions, it’s easy to conclude that it’s simply not enough to just translate.

Hopefully, now you understand which language service each of your content type needs!

Stay tuned for Part II: Why It’s Difficult To Translate/Localize/Transcreate your Digital Content?

Written By:

Gosia loves copywriting and product translation. Additionally, she's a content marketing and lolcats junkie.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *