Translation or Transcreation?

This post was originally published on the Gaucha Translations blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Whether we provide a translation or a transcreation, at Gaucha Translations we always keep the end users of the translation in mind. Will this document be useful to them? Will it be useful to the people they interact with? Will it cause misunderstandings along the way? I, Helen Eby always ask clients questions based on the following issues. I don’t necessarily bother to label the products one way or another. They usually all show up as translations on the invoices.

We discussed this issue when we drafted the Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation issued by ASTM released in 2014 (ASTM F2575-14). ASTM was previously known as the American Standards for Testing and Materials. I was the Technical Contact for that publication.

In my understanding, based on ASTM F2575-14, a straight translation would be what we do with a document such as a birth certificate, in which we translate each section exactly the way it is in the source document, for submission to an authority. There is almost no room for adaptation.

A transcreation, according to ASTM F2575-14, is akin to adapting a marketing campaign for the US to Argentina. This would involve not only the text, but also images and many other aspects of the presentation.

In between these two extremes there lies a broad spectrum of items that require discussion and my clients sometimes call transcreation:

  • When translating a radio advertisement and it must be read in 30 seconds but the translated text reads in 90, we should meet with the client to decide what key concepts should stay and what concepts should go. As we discuss the issue, we might come up with a third way to express things that solves some of the problems.
  • When we translate posters, we should consider space issues. In the United States, translating the names of swimming lessons at a recreation facility might also cause confusion at the front desk. Will the receptionist be able to sign the person up if we translate “Sharks”? If not, we might choose to translate the descriptions but leave the names of the lessons in English.
  • When translating programs in a library brochure, we might check to see if they are offered in Spanish. If a Spanish-speaker attends, will they be able to participate? If not, maybe we should ask about adding a line that says, “these sessions are in English.”

The ASTM F2575-14 Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation covers this issue in section 8.4.3.4.1 to 8.4.3.4.3. It assumes this will be the subject of a conversation between the translator and the client when it says:

The requester should indicate whether the target text should retain traces of the source language and culture, or whether it should disguise the fact that it is a translated text. Approaches range from close adherence to the source text (for example, for a university transcript) to significant adaptation to the target culture (for example, for a software interface).

A generalized translation requires another type of content correspondence. It avoids region-specific expressions that could cause confusion and attempts to produce target content that can be used in various areas and around the world.

Customization for a specific locale, in addition to disguising the fact that the content is a translation, involves the adaptation of non-textual material, such as converting amounts in euros to dollars for a US audience and selecting appropriate colors. In some cases, such as marketing materials, this approach is appropriately taken to an extreme and is called transcreation; the marketing approach for a French audience may be substantially different from that for an Australian one.

Image source: Pixabay

About heleneby

Helen Eby grew up in Argentina, the land of the gauchos. She is certified as an English Spanish translator by ATA and as a Spanish interpreter by the Oregon Judicial Department and by the Oregon Health Authority. She co-founded The Savvy Newcomer and the ¡Al rescate del español! blogs, both of which are team efforts to provide resources for other language professionals. She is also a founding board member of the Spanish Editors Association.

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