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Transcreation – or “how to translate wordplays”

Technical Translation

[This is a translation of the original article by Tatiana Petkova.]

There is a sandwich shop in Vienna; a long-established business with a great name and slogan: “Trzesniewski – Die unaussprechlich guten Brötchen”. Now, how would you say that in English?
Well, quite. The unpronounceably good rolls.

And that is precisely why we have transcreation – a happy union between copywriting and translation. The term may not exactly roll off the tongue, but it is bang on the money.

Amalgamate the words translation and creation and what do you get? Transcreation. It is a bit like combining a bagel and a croissant to create a cragel (by the way, you can now get these outside of New York, namely in Vienna, too).

Transcreation is a popular phenomenon in the worlds of advertising, artistic creation and wherever you need to get something across that goes beyond the content itself (in contrast to the translation of a birth certificate or instruction manual for an alarm clock, for example).

When it comes to translating advertising, the aim is to evoke the same emotions as sparked by the original; whilst also taking the language culture of the target audience into account. This means that, if you are looking to adapt an original piece of text for another market, transcreation is a must.

You can see transcreation in action in the arts when you think of Asterix, or, more precisely, of the white-bearded druid. He is called Getafix in English and Miraculix in German. Both names work well in their respective languages. And this despite his actual (French) name being Panoramix.


What do “transcreators” do?

In order to be able to transcreate, you need a well-grounded knowledge of the source language and to be a native speaker in the target language. You also need a deep understanding of both cultures. Being a skilled writer is a bonus. By way of example, if you work in advertising, you have to be able to create advertising texts and translate them, and be a marketing expert too.

There are other additional, industry-dependent skills that are essential to being able to get across the message in a way that is both coherent and sensitive to the target audience.

This balancing act is not always easy and is always a process. When it comes to transcreation, I only ever veer away from the original so that I can achieve a translation that is able to convey both the intention and the desired emotional effect in an equally concise way.


How much does transcreation cost?

Transcreation generally costs more than conventional translation. This is owed to the fact that it normally requires more thought and research. The key difference when it comes to pricing is that it is charged per hour, rather than per word, line or page. In Austria, prices tend to range between 70 and 120 EUR per hour.

A real-life example: How do you get to a price of 400 EUR for the translation of half a line? Well, the answer is quite simple: Translating a three-word slogan into English takes around five hours, spread across a period of three days. You need to do your research; come up with (and then discard) a number of different versions; then do some more research; before the perfect sentence pops into your head, often waking you up in the middle of the night! That is really how it can be. And it is a great deal of fun. But it is still work.

It is always worth investing in carefully considered language. If you want to reach people on an emotive level, you need to do it in their own language and in a style that they are used to. As Nelson Mandela once said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”


So how would you advertise the unpronounceably good rolls in English? Trzesniewski has opted for a pragmatic solution: “Vienna’s most famous sandwiches”. And delicious they are too!

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You can find more information about transcreation from English into German on the SUPER | WORD website.
If you are looking for help with transcreation from German to English, you can read more here, or enquire now.


About the Author

Transcreation - or "how to translate wordplays" 1

Tatiana Petkova

Polyglotin by nature, Bulgarian by birth, and resident of Vienna.

With SUPER | WORD, she runs an agency providing effective copy and accurate translations. Working with the following languages: German, English, French, Russian and Bulgarian

Online copy, advertising texts, press releases, marketing for the following areas:

Art & Culture | Tourism & Travel | Sustainability | Food | Health & Social Issues | Journalism | Children.




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