Creativity in translation

The success of a marketing campaign depends on how a potential customer receives the persuasive message – will the arguments used by us be accepted? Will the slogan make them laugh/upset/annoyed? Will it trigger emotions which will induce them to buy? Introducing a product or service into a new market one should remember that ordinary translation is not always capable of persuading a potential customer to trust a given brand. In most cases, a more adequate instrument — transcreation — needs to be used.

In case of expansion on a foreign market, analysis of the domestic consumer’s behaviour is usually completely useless. What makes us, Poles, laugh, will not be funny for a Japanese person. A reference to the French pop culture will have no meaning in the United States, while a reference to intimacy will outrage – instead of encourage – an Arabic customer. Translation of advertising campaigns intended for markets which are culturally distant from the domestic one requires not only excellent knowledge of the language, but also extreme sensitivity as regards linguistic and cultural nuances.

Transcreation can be said to be the most creative form of translation. It is a process which interferes in the text more profoundly that localization, whose objective is, by the way, the same – make the message sound friendly and be understandable to the audience raised in a different culture. Transcreation intends also to persuade the consumer to trust a given brand and induce them to make a purchase. What is of the greatest importance in this process are trivia, zests and details. Unlike ordinary translation, transcreation involves a high degree of interference in the source text. While in the former case, major alternations in the translation are not welcome, in the latter they are necessary.

The translator has to act as a copywriter by analysing the realities on the target market, trying to think like the target audience and selecting the vocabulary, style and rhetorical figures in such a way as to maximize the chances of reaching the customer. Changes made in the course of an entire transcreation process can involve not only the linguistic part of the message but also the layout of the banner or colours used in advertising materials. The translator usually cannot let himself or herself introduce so far-reaching modifications, but once they deal with transcreation, they have much more freedom in this respect.

How can we know when ordinary translation subject to localization is required, and when transcreation should rather be used?

An advert referring to the reasoning of the audience requires usually only translation supported by localization. When translated literally, terms like “effective”, “smart” or “efficient” will not lose their persuasive power – they seem to have the same connotations in every culture and language.

Transcreation is recommended in the case of affective advertising, in which the recipient’s emotions, linguistic nuances, a subtle play on words and cultural connotations are essential. Such advertising is focused on the cognitive skills of the audience, their experiences and values professed by them, thus literal translation needs to be ruled out in this case.

It should be remembered that the advertising message is composed not only of the right vocabulary, but also emotions, which are of key importance when purchase decisions are being made. A translator dealing with an advertising campaign should be really knowledgeable about the linguistic and cultural realities of a given region and have experience in copywriting. There are a number of factors which help to gain the customer’s trust. Linguistic and cultural nuances, on which transcreation is based, are definitely one of them. Given the fact that the contemporary customer is virtually attacked by thousands of advertising messages every day, our communication should be distinguished by its perfect quality, regardless of the language in which it is currently taking place.

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