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Transcreation Quality – What Defines It?

Louise Pierse
Louise Pierse

Considering transcreation has been around for nearly 20 years, there is still considerable ambiguity around its definition. So, if we can’t agree on a definition, it’s no surprise that defining the quality of transcreation is even more head spinning.

Measuring translation quality has evolved with tried and tested metrics to evaluate linguistic accuracy and fluency. More often than not, these measurement techniques are applied to transcreation when a different approach may be more beneficial.

Since creativity is at the heart of transcreation, the standard quality metrics often won’t cut it for measuring whether the messaging hits the mark or not. Instead, we need to think differently and combine the measurement of two components – 50% linguistic quality and 50% content creation quality.

Transcreation is about recreating the emotional impact and meeting the content objective from one language to another. Transcreation is not about equivalence of language, it is about the transfer of a concept. So, we need to look at it like it is a piece of content created uniquely for each new market.

Like creating content for the first time, before it comes into being there is a process. Whether a thought leadership piece or part of a campaign to help promote a new product, the content has an objective. Similarly, transcreation has a purpose in the local market, e.g. increase brand awareness or generate new sales leads. As the purpose of the transcreated content is defined, the next step is to get the most suitable talent.

Get The Right Talent and Grow With Them

Transcreation requires much more engagement than translation. Consider the amount of collaboration that will go into creating source copy, researching the market, understanding the end consumers, the purpose of the messaging, and the content’s communication objectives.  

While transcreators don’t necessarily start with a blank canvas, they still need to understand everything the content creator knows, e.g. target market, the audience and what the content aims to do. Then they need to take that information and apply what they know about the local culture, language, publishing medium and the content objective to make sure the desired message is communicated.

Transcreators straddle two worlds, the linguistic world of the translator and the creative world of the copywriter. Both embody different skills, but these three are probably the most important:

  1. Creative Writing Skills – content is often published with specific criteria in mind, e.g. improving online presence with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), increasing sales with advertising, or building a brand community on social media. Good copywriters can often make great transcreators. They know how to recreate local copy with a purpose and follow layout or media constraints while putting their readers first.
  2. Cultural Understanding –  text has a purpose that should be understood by the local target audience. The transcreator has deep linguistic and cultural understanding of both languages, so they can identify and transfer the nuances of the source into the target.
  3. Research Skills – a skill common to both translators and the copywriters, research skills should never be underestimated. Knowledge of the target audience, market, competitors and a thorough understanding of what needs to be achieved is at the heart of transcreation success.

Measuring Transcreation Quality

The transcreator may have a source, and they may have flexibility to move away from it, but without clear guidance on what direction to take, it’s very easy for them to get lost going down the rabbit hole. 

Much like creating content from scratch, it’s recommended to consider the reason why the content was created in the first place, why it needs to be transcreated, who will read it and what action should the local reader take?

Documenting these details in the transcreation brief, along with the brand values and how the product or brand should be perceived locally, will help the transcreator understand what they need to do to meet the communication objectives. For example, content for a product already established in one market may need a different approach to break into a new market. Without this guidance, the transcreator has no choice but to work with what they have – the source. If they only have the source, the chances are the end result will look more like a translation, or won’t persuade the local reader to take the desired action – nobody wins.

A transcreation brief is key for defining quality guidelines. But open collaboration is the pièce de résistance to meeting those guidelines. For translation buyers the general process is submit the source, maybe answer a few queries and receive the completed translation – voilà job done, no extra collaboration required. But transcreation is a translation-creative hybrid that often requires collaborative feedback from the client before the text to be ready for publishing.

Most transcreated copy can be quality checked pre-publishing with tools to measure readability, this can be as simple as using the proofing tools in Microsoft office to check readability or for use of passive voice. If the transcreated copy is for online use, it’s a good idea review the content to make sure it follows Google’s best practices for local SEO.

But post-publishing measurement requires collaboration and depends on the marketing objectives of the content, whether it is lead nurturing, driving customer engagement, brand awareness or increasing conversions and sales. In an ideal scenario, transcreation should be tested with pre-publishing checks, and also validated and tweaked post-publishing against metrics based on the content objective for each market.

The overall success of transcreation all comes back to the communication strategy for each language and what the content should achieve. Once defined, this lays a solid foundation for the transcreator to build out the local copy. They know what they need to achieve and they use their linguistic skills, cultural understanding and research to make it happen.