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Creative Translation: Increasing Brand Impact Through Emotionally Resonant Language

Creative translation and growth are intertwined. Growth is the lifeblood of any organisation. It represents the pursuit of untapped potential, the quest for increased profitability, and the desire to make a lasting impact in the ever-evolving market. Businesses crave expansion like a thirst that can only be quenched by reaching new horizons.

Creative translation plays a pivotal role in this relentless pursuit. By harnessing the power of language and cultural adaptation, creative translation becomes the compass guiding businesses towards their global aspirations. It unlocks doors to new markets, bridges gaps between diverse audiences, and fuels the expansion engine.

So, let’s take a closer look at the concept of creative translation, its many challenges, and why you should use this kind of translation for your content.

In this post:

What is creative translation?

Creative translation is a form of translation that uses creative methods (humor, metaphors, etc.) to preserve the essence of the original content in another language. Unlike transcreation, which completely rewrites the original text, creative translation is quite faithful to the original while allowing for some creative leeway.

Creative translators are known for their strategic use of literary devices, such as metaphors, to accurately communicate the message behind the source text. These techniques often involve adaptations of cultural references, idioms, jokes, and other creative elements that cross linguistic borders to enable a deeper understanding of the source material. 

You could say that creative translation involves using all the skills of a regular translator, with the added challenge of taking creative liberties to make sure the target text sounds natural and functions similarly to its source-language counterpart. It’s a challenging yet rewarding field and takes creativity, resourcefulness, and deep knowledge of both languages. 

Direct translation vs. creative translation

When it comes to translation, there are two main common approaches:

Direct translation

Direct translation is a straightforward conversion of the source text, where the translator focuses primarily on preserving the meaning of each word and phrase. It aims to maintain accuracy and clarity in conveying the content without deviating from the original wording. 

Direct translation is commonly used when the primary goal is to understand the information and there is less emphasis on capturing the nuances or spirit of the original text, or the cultural context.

Creative translation

Creative translation, on the other hand, delves into the realm of artistic adaptation. The translator takes a more creative approach and tries to convey the meaning and impact of the source text in a way that makes sense in the target language, often at the expense of maintaining a strict word-for-word correspondence. 

While direct translation is often seen as more accurate, creative translation can be more effective in communicating the spirit of the original text. In short, direct translation is more literal, while creative translation is more interpretive.

Example of direct translation vs creative translation

Imagine a translator is tasked with the translation of the following quote into Spanish: “Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. ― James Baldwin”. A regular translation would find a direct equivalent for each element of this English sentence.

If we were to find an equivalent for each element, without reordering the elements for the syntax to make sense in Spanish, we’d end up with something like this:

[Love][takes off][the masks][(we fear)we cannot)(live)(without)][and][(know)(we cannot)(live)(within)].
[El amor][nos quita][las máscaras](tememos)(que no podremos(vivir)][(sin las cuales)[y](sabemos)(que no podemos)(vivir)].(dentro de las cuales]

And after reordering some of the elements to make the resulting Spanish sentence grammatically correct, a direct translation would read: “[El amor] [nos quita] [las máscaras] [(sin las cuales) (tememos) (que no podremos) (vivir)] [y] [(dentro de las cuales) (sabemos) (que no podemos) (vivir)].” A correct rendition, yet very repetitive, bland, and artificial-sounding.

With a bit of skill and imagination, a creative translator could improve the emotional impact of the Spanish sentence by turning it into something like this: “El amor nos despoja de las máscaras que tememos no ser capaces de deshabitar, pero que sabemos que nos impiden vivir. ― James Baldwin” This translates back as “Love strips us of the masks that we fear we may not be able to shed, but which we know prevent us from living. – James Baldwin”

EnglishDirect translation (Spanish)Creative translation (Spanish)Back translation
“Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. ― James Baldwin”“El amor nos quita las máscaras sin las cuales tememos que no podremos vivir y dentro de las cuales sabemos que no podemos vivir. ― James Baldwin”“El amor nos despoja de las máscaras que tememos no ser capaces de deshabitar, pero que sabemos que nos impiden vivir. ― James Baldwin”“Love strips us of the masks that we fear we may not be able to shed, but which we know prevent us from living. – James Baldwin”
Element break-down: “[Love] [takes off] [the masks] [(we fear) (we cannot) (live) (without)] [and] [(know) (we cannot) (live) (within)]. ― James Baldwin”Element break-down: “[El amor] [nos quita] [las máscaras] [(sin las cuales) (tememos) (que no podremos) (vivir)] [y] [(dentro de las cuales) (sabemos) (que no podemos) (vivir)] ― James Baldwin”
Example of direct translation vs creative translation of a James Baldwin quote.

Creative translation vs. transcreation

Translating a piece of creative content is not as simple as replacing one word or phrase with another.

Creative translation requires a strong understanding of the meaning behind the words, as well as the nuances of the two languages involved. It also requires a knack for creativity, since the goal is often to convey the same message as the original content with words that have an authentic feel for the target audience. 

Transcreation, on the other hand, is the application of an extreme form of creative translation for advertising purposes.

The difference between these two processes is vast: while one seeks to accurately communicate the meaning of the original content in another language, the other seeks to reproduce the aim and effect of the source text in a new way deemed completely natural in the target language and culture.

Example of a transcreated slogan

Let’s take a look at a real-left example of a transcreation with the Haribo brand:

English: “Kids and grownups love it so, the happy world of Haribo”

Transcreation into Spanish: “Vive un sabor mágico, ven al mundo Haribo”

Back translation into English: “Experience a magical taste, come to the world of Haribo”

The transcreator has carefully selected words and phrases in Spanish that not only convey a similar meaning but also replicate the rhyming pattern present in the original English. By preserving the rhyme scheme, the transcreation aims to retain the musicality and flow of the message, creating a memorable and catchy adaptation that resonates with the target audience in the same way the original English phrase does.

Why should you use creative translation for your content?

Creative translation is an excellent way to add flair and personality to your content. It can help put a fresh spin on something that has been written in another language, making it more engaging and accessible for an intended audience. 

Creative translation also exhibits much care and thoughtfulness in both its process and end result. It’s clear that extensive effort and consideration went into the crafting of each translated text. This highlights the difference between machine translations which rarely consider any deeper meaning, and those meticulously performed by a well-versed translator. 

Last but certainly not least, this service offers a unique opportunity to showcase what is unique about your business or services in another language. The resulting translated content bestows upon it an air of effortless coolness or professionalism depending on the type of text being translated. It’s no wonder why so many brands are now opting to use creative translations instead of machine-based ones.

Machine translation vs human translation

We have no intention of dismissing the benefits of machine translation, since it can prove to be extremely useful in certain situations. What’s most important is to weigh up the pros and cons of machine translation in order to find the ideal balance for our creative translation requirements.

When machine translation is enough

By using machine translation for repetitive technical content or low visibility documents, such as appliance instruction manuals or website footers, companies can achieve cost-effective translation solutions.

Other types of content that are ideal use cases for machine translation include quickly perishable content such as chat messages, customer inquiries, and email support, as well as high-volume content that needs to be translated in record time, such as hundreds of product descriptions for e-commerce websites that must be made live within a day. 

Machine translation allows for quick and efficient processing of such content, making it well-suited for scalability and enabling businesses to stay ahead of the competitive curve.

When to avoid machine translation

Although machine translation shouldn’t be completely disregarded when it comes to the translation of marketing content, there are certain instances in which human translation is an absolute must. 

For example, human creative translation is essential for high-visibility or high-traffic web pages as it means a great deal to the user. The same can be said for content meant to engage or convert customers.

This is because this type of content is culturally driven, and what evokes a specific emotional response in one market may not have the same effect on another. This is because emotional response is shaped by culture.

The challenges of creative translation

Translating creative content can be a daunting task, with the translator having to preserve much of the author’s original intent while ensuring the translated work still makes sense to their audience. 

Creative translation requires a certain level of understanding of what makes a good piece of literature or other type of creative work, in order to effectively communicate these qualities in another language. 

Additionally, the translator must be creative themselves in order to solve any unique problems that arise when taking an idea from one language and making it accessible to another group. 

It goes without saying that creative translation is an art form  in itself and must be approached with an open mind in order to produce effective results.

Cultural sensitivity in creative translation

When it comes to creative translation, it’s important to be sensitive to the culture of the target audience. This applies to both content and style. For example, it’s important to know what kinds of topics are appropriate to discuss with a particular audience. 

In addition, it’s necessary to use phrasing that’s appropriate for the culture. For example, saying “yes” to everything can be seen as overly submissive in some cultures. Instead, it’s better to use a more nuanced phrase such as “I will try” or “I will certainly try my best.” 

Finally, it’s important to be mindful of cultural conventions when it comes to things like punctuation and syntax. For example, the use of commas may be different in some languages than it is in others. As a result, it’s important to take cultural differences into account when translating creative content. By being sensitive to these kinds of factors, creative translators can ensure that their work is appreciated by a broader audience.

The role of creative translation in SEO content

Localising content for consumers around the world is an important task for businesses, and creative translation can play a pivotal role in ensuring that particular messages resonate with audiences in each region. 

Creative translation helps companies produce optimised content that is tailored specifically to certain countries and cultures, across multiple languages. However, the impact of creative translation can only be fully realised if the translated content is easily discoverable by the target audience. That’s where SEO comes into play.

Creative translators are alchemists

Creative translation transforms words and ideas into something entirely new and captivating. Creative translators possess the power to transmute the essence of a message, capturing its spirit and recreating it in another language. They wield linguistic expertise, cultural understanding, and a deep sense of creativity to craft translations that resonate with audiences on an emotional level.

Just as alchemists experimented with different elements and compounds, creative translators experiment with words, syntax, and cultural nuances to create a translation that goes beyond a literal rendition. With their transformative abilities, creative translators breathe life into words, turning them into a powerful tool for connection, understanding, and engagement across cultures.

In the hands of these language alchemists, translation becomes an art form, where words transcend their boundaries, and new worlds of meaning are unlocked. At Crisol, we’re alchemists. To find out more about creative translation services and what we can do for you and your company, book a discovery call with us today.

Helen Hadley

Authored by: Helen Hadley.

Helen Hadley is a Spanish-into-English creative translator and copywriter specialised in marketing, SaaS, and SEO based in the south of Spain. She helps companies and professionals of all sizes optimise their content for English-speaking markets.

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