Differences between translation and transcreation

Sometimes we ask ourselves what it is better, translating or transcreating content? In order to answer that question, we need to know the meaning of each concept and understand their differences.

On the one hand, translating content means to translate from one language into another, for instance, from English into Spanish, every word. We give to every English word an equivalent word in Spanish. On the other hand, when we transcreate we are translating content with freedom, we keep the meaning of the original text but we decide which words to use. When we transcreate we are not only translating the original content, but also recreating it.

But let´s see these differences more in detail.

When we translate a text there is no space for creativity. We need to translate word by word: the translator cannot be creative and replace words. It is a literal translation. However, a transcreator can be creative as long as he keeps the meaning of the original text. He can express the meaning with different words, but the meaning stills needs to be the same. It is like rewriting the original content with your own words.

Some content needs to be translated, while other content needs to be transcreated. How do we know when we need to translate and when we need to transcreate? When we need to keep the style, tone and exact meaning, for instance, of a legal document, we need to translate. However, if we just need to keep the meaning and the ideas of the original text, it is better to transcreate so we can make it sound more natural in the target language, for instance, for marketing content.

If we have a marketing campaign of an English website and the company wants to have the same campaign for their Spanish website, the best is to transcreate the campaign so we can adapt the campaign to the local culture/people and language, add more ideas if necessary and make the message more colloquial. A transcreator needs to make sure that the marketing message is relevant to its intended audience.

Besides marketing content, we need to transcreate when the original content has idioms, humour, wordplay or phases that are specifically from the source language. This is very important since we do not have any other option here, in this case we cannot translate word by word.

We always need to take into account our audience and end goal, which will help us to decide which localization method is better.