Transcreation: translating between the lines
Puns, humour, sayings, atmosphere, emotions… all of these elements enrich a text and make it more interesting to read. If you want these elements to be reflected in a translation, transcreation is what you need. That means that rather than translating literally what you have written, the translator will recreate the message, rewording it in the target language.
To be honest, Blue Lines translations are always transcreations. After all, literal translations of marketing texts would be pretty pointless. The meanings you read between the lines need to be conveyed as well. This kind of translation is sometimes also called a ‘free’ translation. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the translator is free to change the message, but the idea is to let go of the words in the source document so that readers don’t feel as though they are reading a translation. If the translator has done a good job, this results in a translation that evokes the same atmosphere and emotions as the source text. And that is the ultimate reason why we select all of our translators for their fluent style. You need to be pretty creative to translate a commercial text.
Localisation: keeping the language’s soul
Localisation and transcreation are two old friends with the same aim in life: to create a translation that doesn’t sound like a translation, but rather like a fluent, natural text. The ‘local’ in ‘localisation’ refers to the translation being adapted for local impact. Cultural adaptation is an important aspect of localisation. The translation needs to fit in with the local culture and spelling conventions. If you use a fictional character called John in an English-language campaign, you might do better to call him Jean in the French version and Jan in Dutch.
David Brent v. Michael Scott
One of the famous examples of localisation might be the various spin-offs from the iconic British mockumentary The Office. The original series was set at a company called Wernham Hogg in Slough, but its American counterpart Dunder Mifflin is in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Presumably the cities of Yehud, Riihimäki and Faridabad all evoke a similarly mind-numbing despair – or horrified delight – in audiences in Israel, Finland and India.
To be genuinely funny, though, the series contains far more profound localisation than simply a few switched names. As Liesl Schillinger points out:
“In the British version, nobody is working, nobody has a happy relationship, everyone looks terrible, and everybody is depressed. In the French version, nobody is working but even the idiots look good, and everybody seems possessed of an intriguing private life. In the German version, actual work is visibly being done…”
Out and about in a vest and suspenders
As you will realise, it’s best to let your translators know the region in which you want to use your translation. For instance, American and British English have different words and expressions for certain things. You need to be aware of:
- how to write dates and telephone numbers, and differences in the structure of an address
- differences in vocabulary: you might be fine going to an American formal do in a vest and suspenders, but in Britain you’d be in your underwear
- cultural sensitivities: jokes that are funny in one culture might be downright rude or insulting in another
- currency, measuring units and time zones
- and so on.
So it makes sense that Blue Lines only works with native speakers. You need to have grown up speaking a language for it to really flow through your veins.
Are you ready to conquer the world with content that really cuts the mustard in the target languages of your sales market?