Secrets to Successful Transcreations
Based in Andalucia in Spain, Edouard Vallée is a trilingual freelance transcreator, working with many well-known global brands to develop multilingual campaigns. In this blog, he shares some of his insights into the skills and challenges of developing good linguistic copywriting.
Most of my transcreation projects go from English to French and although I am based in Andalucia, I listen to French radio, read the news on a daily basis, and check the social media in order to make sure I stay in touch with current trends and hot topics, linguistically and culturally. The world can change very quickly in the digital world, so you have to stay ahead of changes in how audiences talk, laugh, and communicate.
Before working full time as a freelance transcreator, I worked for eight years as a multilingual assistant, using my journalistic and linguistic skills to help with communications in a large global multinational company. Transcreation is a creative process – as well as taking words from one language to another, you have to interpret the copy in the target languages to represent the right tone and concept. You have to provide an accurate cultural consultation – and offer alternatives with detailed rationale. It goes way beyond straight translation.
Further reading: How Transcreation is Different from Translation.
Successful transcreation must respect the intent of the original message. This is actually one of the most interesting parts of the job: deciphering the source text, checking for any possible double meaning, understanding all the connotations of the message so that the transcreation is as accurate as possible. The third pillar of a good transcreation is the fluency: the final message in the target language must sound completely natural – as if it hadn’t gone through a translation process.
I love the linguistic challenges of transcreation work. How to deal with humor? How to culturally adapt a pun? How to play with the image of an ad and get the right copy or tagline to make the best impact? How to localize a title so it resonates locally but doesn’t lose the overall concept and meaning?
A successful transcreator needs not only strong linguistic skills but they must also have a curious, creative, and enquiring mind, and a broad general knowledge and familiarity with the marketing language used in the target market.
As well as a strong creative brief, the web is probably a transcreator’s greatest resource for articles and background information. I use the web to conduct a lot of my research and to look for comparative examples, to check whether my proposed transcreation hasn’t been used already by another brand, to resolve any kind of doubts linked to the French grammar and typography, and to ensure brand consistency with other campaigns and messaging already out there. Team brainstorming is also a valuable tool that can help ensure the success of high visibility transcreations. We don’t always work alone, and it helps to talk through ideas with others to ensure the success of high visibility transcreations.
One of the greatest challenges of transcreation is TIME and lack of it. Some projects are super creative and require in-depth research work which is sometimes incompatible with tight deadlines. When discussing transcreated content, there’s no clear ‘right or wrong’ – it’s subjective, so it’s important to leave time for discussion and negotiation once the copy is delivered to ensure we land on the best outcome. As with a lot of creative and artistic projects, although we work with tight deadlines, there’s always that thought process of continual improvement.
Transcreation is very demanding in terms of concentration and creativity. I try to take regular breaks, but I also have two small children so like everyone else, we’ve been challenged during the recent pandemic with balancing work and life. I love my work and it’s one area of language services where you need skilled, human attention – the advances in translation automation, machine translation and AI in localization are amazing and the possibilities endless but machines are still not good enough to detect and then localize the different layers of meaning of a complex message. For that you need an expert transcreator.
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