12 Differences Between Transcreation and Translation (When to use them)

Guildhawk | Jul 5, 2024 10:57:05 AM

Although Artificial Intelligence (AI) is evolving quickly, there are two areas where machines still play second fiddle to expert linguists: human translation and human transcreation. So, what is transcreation, when do you use it and how is it different to translation.

These terms are often used interchangeably but they are actually two different processes with different end goals and methods.

We will explore the differences between translation and transcreation and their applications.

What is transcreation?

Transcreation is a combination of translation and content creation. It is focused on adapting content from one language to another while preserving its original tone, intent, and style.

This process is more than just word for word translation and often requires creative copywriting to ensure it resonates culturally with the target audience and can include modifying cultural references, idioms, and figures of speech.

Key aspects of transcreation

  • Cultural Adaptation: Adapting content to the cultural context of the target audience.
  • Creative Freedom: Allowing the translator to change the text to keep the original tone, style and emotional impact.
  • Target Audience Focus: Making sure the content appeals to the target audience’s preferences and sensibilities.

Applications of transcreation

  • Taglines
  • Website content
  • Brand messaging
  • Marketing slogans
  • Advertising campaigns

What is translation?

Translation is the process of converting text from one language (the source language) into another (the target language) while keeping the original meaning.

The main goal of translation is to convey the information accurately, so the content is understood by the target audience in their language.

Types of translation

Translation can be divided into two main types:

  • Word-for-word Translation: Verbatim translation that follows the structure and vocabulary of the source text.
  • Semantic Translation: Preserves the meaning and context of the original text even if it means rephrasing or reordering sentences.

Applications of translation

  • E-learning content
  • EHS guidance
  • Scripts for avatars
  • O&M manuals
  • Medical texts
  • Financial reports
  • Legal documents
  • Academic papers

How is transcreation different from translation?

Transcreation is different from translation because it goes beyond translating words from one language to another; it’s adapting the original content to connect culturally and emotionally with the target audience.

While translation is about accuracy and reliability to the source text, transcreation is about creative freedom to keep the original intent, tone and style and often results in completely new content.

Transcreation is a creative service, allowing for creativity and cultural knowledge to develop content that connects with the new audience. Transcreation is more suited for marketing and advertising where messaging matters.

You might also like translation vs localization: What’s the main difference?

Still confused, check out the table below. 👇

12 differences between transcreation and translation

To see the differences more clearly, let’s compare their key attributes:

Attribute Transcreation Translation
1. Goal Preserve intent, tone, and emotional impact Convey information accurately
2. Focus Cultural relevance and engagement Accuracy to the source text
3. Process Flexible and interpretative (involves extensive cultural adaptation and creative rewriting) Structured and systematic (linguistic conversion)
4. Creativity High, allows for creative freedom Limited, follows the source text closely
5. Level of Adaptation High; includes cultural nuances, idiomatic expressions, and emotional tone Low to moderate; mainly focused on language
6. Audience Tailored to a specific cultural and emotional context of the target audience General or specific, but within the same context as the original audience
7. Output Text that may differ significantly from the original but achieves the same impact and intent Text that is close to the original in terms of content and structure
8. Use case Marketing, advertising, brand messaging Technical, legal, medical, and academic texts
9. Skills Required Strong linguistic skills, cultural awareness, and creative writing abilities Strong linguistic and grammatical skills in both source and target languages
10. Time & Cost Billed by the hour/project, more time consuming due to the application Normally billed per word, less time consuming
11. Examples Adapting a catchy marketing slogan for different countries Translating a novel from English to Spanish
12. Challenges Balancing creativity with the original message Maintaining accuracy and consistency

When to use transcreation vs translation

Use transcreation when:

  • Content is original, creative, or artistic.
  • The message needs to capture the brand voice.
  • The content needs to connect with the target audience emotionally.

Use translation when:

  • Accuracy is vital.
  • The text relates to safety, technical, legal or academic matters.
  • You need to convey information accurately.

Lost in translation

Sometimes even big brands can get it wrong. When KFC expanded into China in the 80's, the company translated their world famous slogan "It's Finger Lickin' Good" into Mandarin, but the result was "Eat your fingers off".

This literal translation is a good example to make sure your brand’s message resonates with your target audience and how it will be perceived.

bad translation example


Knowing the differences and applications means content creators and businesses can choose the right approach for their needs. While translation is about accuracy, transcreation is about cultural relevance and emotional connection.

If your content is highly creative and requires people to take action, you need a professional transcreation service such as Guildhawk. We have over 3,000 human experts ready to help.

If you looking to elevate your multilingual communications, please get in touch.

12 Differences between Transcreation and TranslationDownload infographic.