Defining and implementing ‘Transcreation’

Content can be translated endlessly, but is the meaning being lost?

Content can be translated endlessly, but is the meaning being lost?

Creating effective globalized content is much more than simply translating text. The context in which text exists forces, in many ways, the creation of new content that has meaning only within that context; the greater the number of contexts, the greater the number of translation-induced content changes.

Translation-induced content creation, or "transcreation" forms a crucial part of your localized content strategy. Let's examine transcreation in greater detail and see how it factors into your fully-realized content strategy.

"What exactly is transcreation?"

Defining the cultural lines 
Transcreation improves on word-to-word translation through a top-down focus that gives greater value to content meaning and navigation, and which harnesses cultural norms to convey ideas in a way that avoids the pitfalls of word-to-word translation.  As such, the mechanism at its core is conceptual rather than literal.

Why this emphasis on concepts versus specific materials or language? Because some linguistic structures for conveying ideas do not function across regional lines. Cultural interpretations can vary for even the most essential building blocks of language, as pointed out in a study published by the American Psychological Association. Examining the way that different regional and cultural groups interpret facial expressions, lead researcher Rachael E. Jack commented that "East Asians and Western Caucasians differ in terms of the features they think constitute an angry face or a happy face."

"Our findings highlight the importance of understanding cultural differences in communication, which is particularly relevant in our increasingly connected world," Jack told the APA. "We hope that our work will facilitate clearer channels of communication between diverse cultures and help promote the understanding of cultural differences within society."

Breaking it down to build back up
This underscores the importance of transcreation.  In our quest to convey content's "true intent" and not be stymied by cultural differences, we must break it down to its component parts and reassemble it locally so as to create the most compelling and clear messaging. For example, look at Coca-Cola's most recent company slogan, "Taste the Feeling". As a global brand, that slogan will be translated into any number of languages.

"Transcreation takes content as written and breaks it into component parts."

Now consider the problem of establishing that slogan in a locale that does not emphasize "feelings" or that considers it shameful to express an excess of emotion. In this context, a direct translation, which would render the equivalent of the words "Taste" and "Feeling", would not reach its audience with the conceptual meaning that Coke triggers a visceral, joyful response.

Transcreation takes a different approach.  Creators and content managers first break the content into its component parts. Next, they tag the content with signifiers, allowing the data to be parsed into components that are pertinent to the target culture. The tagged content is fed to localized content management teams in the form of a creative brief. These teams, complete with their own culturally tagged data, reconfigure the basic content building blocks into new – yet derivative – content. 

Can automation break down cultural barriers?
While transcreation is already being used to great effect in companies worldwide, it is largely a manual process.  Nevertheless, automated transcreation is on the horizon.  Smart websites already use localization parameters to reconfigure formatting elements, swap images and insert culturally specific elements. Research teams are tackling the problem of cultural computing with sophisticated algorithms that may one day emulate human thought patterns, allowing automated transcreation to be a seamless and instantaneous process.

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