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Blind Transcreation, or When Copywriting Meets Creative Translation

Blind Transcreation, or When Copywriting Meets Creative Translation

Before delving into the definition and methodology of blind transcreation, let’s take a step back and address regular transcreation as the starting point.

Creative translators working with advertising copy, also known as “transcreators”, are a breed of translator that doesn’t work with any source text.

One of their main objectives is to produce creative copy from scratch in the target language using a source-language text as a reference for intent, tone, and style. In other words, unlike copywriters who based their work on a brief, transcreation involves working with a contextual and thematic constraint: the source text.

We could transcreation and copywriting as two ends of a spectrum. In the middle, we find blind transcreation: the creative re-interpretation of the message in the target language to produce a text different from its source (but just as powerful) without seeing the source text.

Put simply, blind transcreation is transcreation with no source text—a mid-point between regular transcreation and copywriting.

The first time we heard of the idea of getting rid of the source text—although in the context of app localisation—was from Giulia Tarditi. She is the Head of Localisation at Monese. Giulia won the 2019 “Localization process innovator of the year Europe” award at the 6th PIC event which took place on the 12 June at Localization World in Portugal.

GoodBye, Source Text! By Giulia Tarditi

Giulia’s innovative idea, which she called “Goodbye, Source Text! Discover a Source-Free Translation Scenario That Helps Increase Your Conversion Rates” stemmed from the need to translate buttons and labels for Monese‘s mobile app in a way that customers found less confusing. Less confusion would help convert more customers and reduce customer service calls.

This is when Giulia came up with the idea of not using any source text during the app localisation process. She thought it would be best to just describe the features’ functions instead. As a result, she let her translators come up with appropriate ways of expressing those in their own language. And the outcome was amazing! She achieved the results the company was expecting.

Going Blind with Transcreation

What happens when we leave Giulia’s app localisation realm and apply the no-source-text concept to ‘more traditional’ transcreation work? Imagine the case of advertising and branding collateral. (Yes, app localisation does involve a great deal of transcreation in terms of content but also concerns itself with other aspects, such as localising UI and UX components, app store optimisation, localising images, testing, etc.).

We have been trying blind transcreation with a few of our clients and the benefits are more than convincing. You might be wondering how it works. On top of the company’s style guide, brand guide, and glossaries, for a blind transcreation we ask the client to send us a brief with the following information:

  • Type of collateral item (newsletter, landing page, Facebook post, sales headline, mission statement, brochure, etc.)
  • Target market
  • Demographics of the target locale
  • Distribution (how and when the piece will be shared)
  • Intention (how it will be used)
  • Wordcount or character limitation
  • Structure (number of headlines, paragraphs, bulleted lists, etc.)
  • Key concepts or message (as detailed as possible)
  • Specific information (data from surveys or market research, statistics)
  • Existing taglines or phrases in the target language that they wish to include in the current piece (from previous translation or transcreation work)
  • Calls to action (desired action, amount, and rough position in the text)
  • Desired outcome of the target text
  • Inspiration (examples of other collaterals they want to imitate)
  • Files or links to relevant old projects

Difference Between Blind Transcreation and Copywriting

Among the main differences between blind transcreation and copywriting is that copywriters enjoy significantly more leeway to play around with the client’s proposition. They usually get to decide—after thorough research—on things like structure, format, key ideas, content distribution, etc.

In blind transcreation, however, the client’s marketing department (which includes copywriters) will draft up a very detailed ‘road map’ or blueprint for the linguist. Think of it as drawing and colouring: while a copywriter would be given a blank page and a few sharpies to let their imagination run wild, a linguist in charge of blind transcreation will be asked to simply colour within the lines of something that someone else has already sketched for them.

As a result, if a piece of marketing collateral undergoes blind transcreation into several languages, the transcreated end products will share a common “core” across all target languages. Something like having the same mandala design printed off several times with each copy being coloured and decorated differently.

Difference Between Blind Transcreation and Back-Translation

Back-translation involves having a translator “reverse” a text another translator has delivered by translating it back into its original source language. While costly, this procedure makes it possible to compare the original source text and the back-translated text in search of any linguistic, conceptual, or technical errors that may have been introduced during the translation process.

Because the back-translator has no access to the original source text used by the first translator, they are ‘blind’ to the original (this ensures complete objectivity while carrying out the reverse translation). But that’s about how much back-translation and blind transcreation have in common.


We hope this article has helped you clear your questions! Otherwise, please do let us know in the comments. Happy translating!

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