How Do You Translate “I’m Batman”?: Translation vs. Transcreation

Last Updated May 12, 2021


Attempting to translate multimedia content in feature films like Batman can be tricky. Let’s discuss translation vs. transcreation and leaving it as is.

Have you wondered how popular phrases might be understood in different parts of the world?

Sometimes they’re translated, transcreated, or even left untouched.

Let’s use a certain caped crusader in Germany as an example:

  • I’m Batman = Ich bin Batman
  • I’m bat man = Ich bin Schlägermann
  • I’m Batman = Ich bin Fledermausmensch

You can see how something might get lost in translation, and a different technique could be useful.

Transcreation is about creating new content that captures the ‘feel’ of the original content.

Movies are obviously often more exception than rule. People often will see a Hollywood blockbuster in English sometimes with their primary language subtitled, but many will imitate the phrase in its original English.

This may be because of the thrill one gets from imitating a famous movie persona. Think of these classic statements:

  • “Go ahead, make my day!”
  • “Hasta la vista, baby.”
  • “You’re the disease, and I’m the cure.”
  • “Get off my plane.”
  • “Here’s looking at you kid.”
  • “You can’t handle the truth!”
  • “May the force be with you”
  • “You talkin’ to me?”
  • “I’m like a bad penny, I always turn up.”
  • “I’ll be back.”

These are all well-known phrases, but few, if any, would translate well.

Transcreation in Marketing: Slogan Translation

Marketing firms or departments tend to frequently create slogans with play on words and then hope that they work well across borders. They usually do not.

One such example was the phrase: “SOLUTIONS MAKING CENTS”.

Even when saying the slogan in English, you have to sort through options for two out of the three words. Our minds do this rapidly and, fortunately for us, enable us to assign value to the “play on words” being sought here.

But, trying to do so in another country where the target language is different than the source leaves one frustrated and the slogan valueless.

See various options for this particular text string below. Would that be:

  • “SOLUTIONS (to problems) MAKING CENTS” or money?
  • Or, business “SOLUTIONS MAKING SENSE”, a play on words?

Understanding when to employ translation, transcreation or neither is an important part of the service professional translation organizations like Summa Linguae provide.

Find the Right Solution For Your Translation Needs

Companies like yours spend millions hiring a marketing firm to create custom logos and slogans, and assist with branding of their company and products.

But they’ll send everything they just spent millions developing to an amateur, a translation board populated by non-native translators, or crowdsource it to non-professionals using Google Translate to help them get it done cheap.

We would like to suggest that based upon the above that it makes perfect SENSE to use the optimal, proven SOLUTION available when it comes to going global.

Contact us today to book a consultation.

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