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translation and transcreation

Transcreation means taking a message written in one language and modifying it to better resonate with speakers of a different one. While this sounds a lot like what a translator does, the two terms are in no way interchangeable. While translation often focuses on mimicking the content of a document, transcreation focuses on recreating its effect. This often leads to the transcreator making significant changes to his or her source text. This difference, however, is just one of many. Read on to discover five other things that set translation and transcreation apart.


  1. Transcreation is Better Suited for Creative or Marketing-Oriented Copy:

    Translation is great for instructional and informative texts. One does not need to be Hemingway in order to teach someone in a different language how to assemble a barbeque grill, after all. In these sorts of texts, there’s not a lot of room for emotionality or nuance. In advertising, marketing, or fictional content, however, that’s not the case. A formulaic translation of Fido’s death, for example, might not evoke half as many tears as a transcreated one. A word-for-word translation of an English advertising slogan, on the other hand, might leave Swedish audience shaking their heads. So, when an emotional response or a purchase is your goal, transcreation is often the best choice.

  2. Transcreators Are Writers:

    People who specialize in transcreation are often copy or content writers. This grants them a level of mastery over the written word that’s difficult to find in your typical translator. This also means that they can typically deliver the intended message of a client’s copy in a way that is more impactful than a straight translation. The fact that writing is their focus, however, often means that they’re rarely acquainted with the same groups and associations as translators. If you’re looking for a transcreator, I’d suggest starting with a writing association in the target market.

  3. Transcreation Begins with a Creative Brief:

    Translation often begins the second the client sends the source text. Any initial meetings are typically brief and intended to hammer out terms such as cost and project deadlines. The transcreation process, meanwhile, starts with a creative brief. Instead of merely providing the source text and leaving the transcreator to their own devices, the client will have to furnish documents which clarify the tone, intent, and desired results of the intended copy.

  4. Transcreation is More Expensive:

    Creating copy that sells takes time. Transcreators will likely spend hours researching the company’s industry, brand, and target market before they ever set pen to paper. This initial research will often be followed by two or three rounds of drafts. There is also a lot more back-and-forth between transcreators and their chosen clients. Simply put, transcreation is a process that takes a lot of time and energy. And, the transcreator must be compensated accordingly.

  5. Transcreators Often Advise on the Look and Feel of a Piece:

    Aside from updating labels and captions, translators rarely interact with the more visual aspects of their source text. This is not true for transcreators. They are often in charge of helping clients adapt their branding and illustrations for their target market. A color that’s known to signify jealousy in Germany, for example, would not be suitable for the logo of a transcreated dating site. The best place to see this aspect of transcreation in action is on international book covers. The Chinese covers of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, for example, features a water-color design.


To help drive home the difference between translation and transcreation, I’ve scoured the internet for a few examples of the latter. While these examples showcase transcreation at its best, you should know that there are plenty of times where the opposite happened. So, be careful to vet any transcreator before hiring them. After all, they’re going to cost you a pretty penny.

  • Spider-Man: India:

    Marvel was worried that the friendly neighborhood Spiderman would not do well in the Indian market. So, they completely revamped the comics before releasing them in the Indian market. In addition to changing Spider-Man’s name to Pavitr Pabhakar, they replaced any mention of New York with locations familiar to Indian readers. In this version of the story, his powers came from a spell laid by an ancient yogi instead of radioactive spider bite.

  • Intel Brazil:

    Intel is a technology giant that specializes in computer chip design and manufacturing. To help them succeed in the Brazilian market, the company dropped its popular slogan, “Intel: Sponsors of Tomorrow.” Why? In Portuguese, this slogan implied that Intel would be slow to deliver on its marketing promises. Those in the Brazilian market are now pretty well acquainted with the updated version: “Intel: In Love with the Future.”

  • Saab Sweden:

    You know I couldn’t leave this article without mentioning a great example of Swedish transcreation. In the 1990s, Saab launched a popular ad in the US with the tagline “Saab vs. Oxygen bars.” While these establishments were super popular in the US at the time, they were practically unheard of in Sweden. So, the marketing team went back to the drawing board. Knowing that the original advertisement was intended to imbue their cars with a sense of spaciousness, they changed their slogan to “Saab vs. Claustrophobia.” The new slogan resonated better with the Swedish market than any reference to an obscure American hangout space.


People outside of the language services industry think that the words translation and transcreation are synonyms; they’re not. While the former is ideal for ensuring that information transcends cultural barriers, it rarely merits creative freedom. When you need something creative, it’s usually time to call in a transcreator. This does mean, however, that you’ll have to come prepared with a heavier wallet, a creative brief, and an open mind.

Luckily for you, I’m not just a translator. I’m also a marketing specialist with ample transcreation experience. So, if you’re looking to have a slogan or advertising piece adapted for the Swedish market, you can contact me directly at Please visit to learn more.

Swedish Translation Services is a company owned by Tess Whitty, a freelance translator (English-Swedish), proofreader, editor, copy writer, localizer and entrepreneur.

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