The importance of transcreation

We have all seen many instances of literal translations of slogans into foreign languages that just don’t work. Thankfully, transcreation can take care of this issue.  Transcreation (also referred to as “creative translation”) has been a hot topic in recent years, especially in the global market sector. It has been described as both the process of adapting precise brand content from one language into another and the transformation of an overall message which addresses written content, visual design and imagery. Standard translation and localization services don’t effectively preserve the creative and emotional intent of the content that allows it to best resonate in other languages and cultures.

Although it is a term mainly used by advertising and marketing professionals to refer to the process of adapting a message from one language to another, many localization vendors are now offering it as one of their client services.  In other words, translation is to transcreation what writing is to copyediting.  Simply put, it is a way of conveying the same message put forth by the source text to target audiences in language that the target audiences readily understand.

However, transcreation can be a difficult process. Working on the client-side of localization many years ago, we marketed to a younger audience and words like “phat” were used.  I remember thinking how are we going to convey what “phat” (depending on the source, it means “excellent”, or “very cool” or to others, it is an acronym for “pretty hot and tempting”) means in Sweden.  This is part of the process of transcreation; in this case, finding the equivalent of what “phat” conveys in English in Swedish. Simply using the word “phat” (unless commonly used in English) will just not work and the proper message will not be conveyed.

The well-known slogan for McDonald’s is “I’m loving it”.  This works fine for America where we “love” our shoes, our pets, our husbands, our girlfriends, our favorite movie, etc. The same word is used for the love for all of those things. However, in Chinese, the word “love” is used only for deep, meaningful love so the slogan in Chinese translates as “I just like it”.

Another difficulty faced is that many client logos contain puns and since logos are not to be translated, these puns are not easily understood by the end users.  Clients should keep this in mind (if going global) when creating their logos.

Spiderman India is a well-known example of transcreation and the first of its kind where a Western property is rewritten and rebranded.  The name Peter Parker was changed to the more ethic-sounding Pavitr Prabhakar and instead of chasing the Green Goblin, he chases a demon known as Rahshasa.

To find out more about transcreation and whether your product requires it, please contact ABLE Innovations today to speak to one of our seasoned professionals.


A Short Finnish Lesson: Why finding SEO terms in Finnish can be a challenge

I was recently managing a project with the goal of editing keywords for SEO (search engine optimization) on a client’s localized Finnish website. During the project it became clear that Finnish is a unique and complex language with many features that set it apart from other languages I’m more familiar with. For example, many Finnish words couldn’t be edited to their basic simple dictionary form or else they would be meaningless or wrong in the context; this added to the complexity of the project. The process and results sparked my curiosity, so I decided to learn more about Finnish and why a Finnish localized site was the most complex SEO project I have worked on to date.

In speaking with the linguist, I learned that in Finnish, inflection (the modification of words to express different grammatical categories) is frequently used, so words are very seldom written one after the other in their basic dictionary forms. SEO terms tend to be need to be in the basic form but according to my research and the feedback of the linguist, if words are written in Finnish in their basic forms, it is usually not grammatically correct and / or meaningless. For example, most prepositions in Finnish like “at”, “in”, “on”, “over”, “from”, “to”, “through” etc. cannot be used as a separate word, but must be embedded in the word itself. Therefore, depending on the context, the words have to be inflected. In general, they only remain in basic form when used in one of the many cases: the subjective case. The linguist confirmed that in Finnish, there is usually an inflection ending for all words. Secondly, the linguist pointed out that Finnish also uses a lot more compound words than other languages, including English.

In addition to using a lot of inflection and compound words, I was intrigued to learn that Finnish and other Uralian languages (Estonian and Hungarian) have preserved and to some extent expanded flexion (cases for nouns). In contrast, over long periods of time, Indo-European languages have decreased usage of flexion. For example, current day English has essentially just two cases (nominative and genitive) but Finnish has more than a dozen cases and also has a very rich set of verb forms.

In further research, I found this example: the single Finnish word talossanikin corresponds to the English phrase in my house, too. The suffix -ssa is the ending of the so-called inessive case, roughly corresponding to the English preposition “in.” The suffix -ni is a possessive one, corresponding to “my” in English. And the suffix -kin is an enclitic particle corresponding to the English word “too.” The second example I found was the verb flexion kirjoitettuasi, which required nearly an entire sentence when translated into English: after you had written.

Our findings during the project indicate that SEO terms in Finnish are more difficult to find than in many other languages. We believe the above reasons are part of what makes this true. However, in the end some compromises were found and by weaving in additional terminology, the desired results were achieved.



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