Translation, transcreation, localisation… what’s the difference?
Anyone could be forgiven for thinking there’s not much more to a translation company like The Translation People than, well, translation. It may seem as though our industry simply deals with taking a text from one language and converting it into another, but in reality, a large number of the requests we handle on a daily basis involve so much more than just the art of translation, including transcreation and localisation.
In the last 35 years of business we’ve learnt that every client’s global ambitions are different. Each and every project we handle is unique in terms of its complexity, intended target audience and desired impact, and therefore requires a uniquely specialist touch from our talented linguists. That’s why we take a consultative approach to help our customers decide whether they need our translation service, transcreation service, localisation service or more than one of these. Wondering what the difference is, or which one would be the best fit for your next project? Here we take a look at what sets these services apart from one another, and why each can add value to your international communication strategy.
Simply put, translation is the process of transferring words or text from one language to another. When you order a translation of a document, you can expect to receive a direct match for the source text which reads naturally in your chosen target language(s), ensuring the true meaning of the text is entirely unchanged. Obtaining a professional translation which has been carried out by a translator who is a native speaker of the target language and is a specialist in the subject-matter at hand, is the perfect way to communicate clearly with customers and partners around the world. The Translation People offers high-quality translation services in over 250 different language combinations and can handle large-scale projects involving high volumes of content and numerous languages at once.
Use it for: General documents, legal texts, technical manuals.
Translation and transcreation are related processes but are distinctly different. Transcreation means integrating creative copywriting into the translation process, often going beyond the literal meaning of the text to ensure the desired impact is achieved in the target language. Just as lots of time, consideration and creativity goes into producing the right blend of identity, storytelling and language to have a specific effect on an audience, it also makes sense that an equal amount of time and consideration should be invested in finding the best way to effectively convey that message in another language. Everyone knows that jokes and wordplay don’t work when translated directly, so the transcreator must use their in-depth linguistic knowledge and their own inventiveness to produce something in the target language which has an equal effect to the original text. This means that you may end up with a different tagline or slogan, but one which makes sense in that language, strikes the right tone and elicits the intended emotional response from your overseas audience. A great example of effective slogan transcreation comes from the computer-chip manufacturer, Intel. It changed its popular slogan ‘Intel: Sponsors of Tomorrow’ for the Brazilian market. Why? Because research showed that in Brazilian Portuguese, ‘Sponsors of Tomorrow’ implied that Intel would not deliver on its promises immediately. In Brazil, the slogan instead became the equivalent of ‘Intel: In Love with the Future’. The difference between a clever slogan and one which will fall flat can be very subtle, so it’s crucial to work with a language services partner who has an expert understanding of your target market and the nuances of its language.
Use it for: Advertising campaigns, websites, marketing materials, slogans, e-commerce, retail.
Localisation is often used as a collective umbrella term to cover all the various steps involved in adapting your content to suit a particular local market. Translation and transcreation are often an integral part of the localisation process, however localisation also covers other aspects. Adapting images and design to suit the cultures of other markets, converting dates, currencies and regulatory references to regional requirements and researching the most-used search terms in certain regions all fall under the remit of a localisation project.
Adapting a campaign or a document to suit a local market may require minor changes, or ones which are more extensive. The Translation People translated marketing material into French for a company specialising in intelligent traffic systems. One of the documents, originally created for the UK market, included an illustration of drivers waiting at traffic lights with right-hand drive cars on the left-hand side of the road. The Translation People’s localisation experts were able to quickly recommend that the illustration was altered to show left-hand drive cars in the right-hand lane, as they would be in France. This allowed our client to show their French customers documentation that was completely applicable to them, resulting in a more polished, fully localised and appealing end product.
Not all cases of localisation are visual, however. Back in 2013 and 2014 when Coca Cola launched its “Share a Coke” campaign, every bottle of the soft drink had a different name printed on the label and customers were encouraged to purchase a personalised bottle for a friend. The company took the time to localise the labels for different countries, so that customers in Ireland could pick up a bottle of Coke with ‘Siobhan’ or ‘Oisin’ written on the label, while customers in France could ‘Partagez un Coca Cola’ with ‘Pierre’ or ‘Claudine.’ When they came to bring the same marketing campaign to China, however, things became more complicated. It is considered disrespectful in China to address a person by their first name and it is more polite to use their surname, followed by honorific titles. The campaign, however, was about personal connections, not formalities. After consulting Chinese localisation experts at length, Coca Cola found a solution and printed product labels for the Chinese market which encouraged customers (in their own language) to share a Coke with ‘a close friend’ or ‘a classmate’. This allowed Coca Cola to stay true to their global campaign, whilst still respecting local boundaries.
The aim of localisation is to always give the finished product the look and feel of having been created specifically for the chosen target market, no matter their language, culture, or location. Paying attention to every aspect of your branding- both visual and written- will allow overseas customers to better relate to and engage with your brand. If you’re going to go to the effort of having your website translated, for example, go the extra mile to ensure it is perfectly localised- and boost its value as a result.
Use it for: Websites, packaging, apps, video games, e-learning content and software localisation.
The projects we handle at The Translation People often involve a mix of translation, localisation and transcreation, so if you’re interested in learning more about these services, please get in touch today to speak to one of our expert Account Managers who will be ready to manage your next project and produce exactly what you need.