Make an impact with transcreation

Texts only have an impact when they are authentic and grounded in the target culture. This is particularly true of PR texts. Translating such texts into other languages may therefore require adjustments with regard to content and structure – and this is where “transcreation” comes in. For exact!, this is an important topic, which is why were delighted to be able to interview Nina Sattler-Hovdar on this subject. Ms Sattler-Hovdar has written about her experiences in a book, which was published by BDÜ Fachverlag this year.

Ms Sattler-Hovdar, you are at home in the worlds of interpreting and translating as well as in the world of marketing.

This year, your book “Translation — Transkreation. Vom Über-Setzen zum Über-Texten” was published by BDÜ Fachverlag. What is the book about?

I should start by saying that I find the term “transcreation” somewhat clumsy and artificial, but I use it because it has become so commonplace. Personally, I prefer to call the process “Über-Texten” (revision/copywriting), as this involves a combination of services: A text is first translated and then the translation is reworked, or copywriting is performed, to ensure that it has the required impact in the target culture. Transcreation should therefore be understood as a process that goes far beyond the conventional understanding of a translation, as it is usually necessary to revise the text significantly following translation so as to achieve the same effect in the target group as in the source language.

Is it true that with some types of text, a good translation is tantamount to a transcreation?

A translation should always be fit for purpose, that is, it should fulfil its intended functions. In spite of the diversity of different functions, translations are billed in a rather generalised manner according to the number of words or lines. However, in terms of the effort required and the achievable productivity, it makes a big difference whether I am translating a contract consisting of fairly standard clauses or a PR text. In the first case, I can use various technical aids (translation memory systems) and potentially produce a large amount of target text in a short time. With a PR text, on the other hand, it might take me the same amount of time just to work through the briefing.

What special tasks are associated with a transcreation and what benefits does this bring to the customer?

A transcreation is a process that cannot really be shortened, even though we have so many technical tools to hand these days. A transcreation must accomplish much more than just being formally correct, that is, complete in terms of content, technically accurate and with correct grammar and spelling. Above all, it must “work” – it must communicate a message precisely and appropriately. Nowadays, in particular, as we are bombarded with information and data on a daily basis, we sometimes reject countless texts based on headings alone. We only read those that grab our attention from the first sentence. To produce a translation that engages the target group, transcreation requires us to go far beyond that which is usually permitted as translators. I alter the sentence structure, order and the general structure of a text significantly if this is what the logic and coherence in the culture and language of the target group calls for. Copywriters, like those we know from the worlds of advertising and PR, do just that.

A transcreator needs to have the appropriate experience and marketing expertise as well as the skills and the will to tackle every single sentence and word but also the overall impact of the text in such minute detail, as the order situation requires. This can only work if customers also understand how important their input is. The more input customers provide, the closer the result meets their expectations, even first time round. Ultimately, the customer saves time and money for subsequent adjustments or, in the worst case, for a complete revision.

A transcreation thus requires the customer and service provider to liaise closely with one another. What are the prerequisites for success?

  1. A comprehensive briefing.
  2. The knowledge, on both sides, that the transcreation cannot be achieved mechanically or at the push of a button. Transcreation is a process that involves several steps, and each of these steps must be performed afresh for each job.
  3. Transcreation takes time. The more information and time are available, in general, the better the results.
  4. A good feedback system. When working together for the first time, it is first important to develop a “feeling for one another”. Every company does things differently. You first need to learn the ropes and get a feel for what the customer wants and the best way to provide this.

In your view, what is the modern image of the job of a translator?

I feel that there is an urgent need to place a stronger emphasis on the advisory component that is now more important than ever for the job of a translator. This is because, as contradictory as it sounds, the many technical advances as well as the customer’s increasing and varied quality requirements have resulted in an incredible range of different approaches to “translating” a text which, depending on the function that this text must fulfil, need to be adopted.

Working out the optimal solution for the job in question from this range of different approaches requires an appropriate briefing for the customer as well as the ability and willingness of the contractor to actually want to play an advisory role.

Ms Sattler-Hovdar, we would like to thank you for this informative discussion and hope that clients and translators alike will enjoy exchanging ideas on this topic.

Nina Sattler-Hovdar, Mag.phil (M.A.) in Interpreting and Translation
Nina Sattler-Hovdar, Mag.phil (M.A.) in Interpreting and Translation
“Translation –Transkreation. Vom Über-Setzen zum Über-Texten” by N. Sattler-Hovdar, published by the BDÜ Fachverlag.
“Translation –Transkreation. Vom Über-Setzen zum Über-Texten” by N. Sattler-Hovdar, published by the BDÜ Fachverlag.

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