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What is Transadaptation?

Transadaptation is a relatively new term in the translation industry, and it seems to have several meanings. This article deals with what we call transadaptation here at Crisol, and why it can be the best choice for your business in certain cases.

Transadaptation is a kind of middle ground between translation and transcreation that is more budget-friendly for the end client. It involves the intra-linguistic tweaking of a text to make it fit for other language varieties (the process takes place within the same language, between different varieties).

On Language Varieties

Transadaptation is built on the premise that language varieties (eg., European Spanish vs. Mexican Spanish) should be considered when it comes to enhancing the fluency and naturalness of translated texts. This is especially true when the purpose of a text is to make its audience feel the text has been produced locally, or to evoke a particular emotion in the reader (emotion being the key word here). Also, it is important to remember that linguistic variation takes place not only among languages but also among cultures. 

According to a recent psychological study, “emotions are cultural phenomena because we learn to have them in a cultural way.” Consequently, translation alone is never enough when emotions are at play. Other techniques such as localisation, transadaptation, transcreation, and blind transcreation are designed to trigger the same emotional response in the target audience as the source text does in the original audience.

When Is Transadaptation the Right Choice?

When it comes to transadaptation, the best and most affordable option for the client is to hire a translator to localise the source text and then have it ‘transadapted’ into the different varieties needed, as opposed to hiring many different native translators for each variety that work on the same source text. For example, if a text in English is needed in Mexican Spanish, Argentine Spanish, European Spanish, Venezuelan Spanish, etc., transadaptation means picking one of those target Spanish varieties first, completing the translation from English into it, and then transadapting the result into the rest of the Spanish varieties required.

Transadaptation is usually charged by the hour, and it can be a pretty quick job if there is not too much that needs to be adapted; this will always depend on the varieties involved, and on the nature of the text (a creative text will typically need more adaptation than a technical manual).


However, it is worth mentioning that the transadaptation process does not necessarily involve an initial translation. In fact, it can consist in simply adapting a text that was originally written in a certain language variety to make it work in a different one within the same language. As an example, think of a company based in the United States that wants to start selling in the United Kingdom; or a business in Spain that wants to start selling in Latin America, in which case the transadaptation would be into the corresponding Spanish variety.

Transadaptation Among Varieties of English

English includes numerous varieties around the world. Among them, we can find American English, British English, Canadian English, Australian English, New Zealand English, South African English, among several others. Even though all varieties of English share the same basic tenets of the language, there are words, phrases, or semantic, spelling, lexical, and grammar constructs that may differ from one another. 

For instance, in terms of spelling, American English favours the ending -yze and -ization, (‘analyze’, ‘organization’) while British English favours -yse and -isation (‘analyse’, ‘organisation’). In terms of lexicon, as another example, American English favours the term ‘car trunk’ whereas British English prefers ‘car boot’; similarly, ‘garbage’ is typical of American English while ‘rubbish’ is characteristic of British English.

In general, transadaptation is mostly lexical among the different varieties of English. By contrast, when it comes to Spanish varieties, it can get more complex than that, and we will expand on this in the next section of this article.

Spanish as an Example of a Language with Numerous Varieties

The same happens with Spanish. Because language is a social phenomenon, there are differences among speakers from different places around the world. Some of the factors influencing what language variety is used by a community include place of origin, place of residence, gender, income, etc. 

In terms of the varieties of Spanish around the world, we can group them into US Spanish, European Spanish (Castillian, Andalusian, Murcian, etc.), and Latin American Spanish (Rioplatense, Colombian, Bolivian, etc). All of them share a common historical root, but there are words, phrases, or semantic, spelling, lexical, and grammar constructs that may differ from one another.

For example, in terms of lexicon, Latin American Spanish favours “auto” (car), “computadora” (computer), and “ruta” (road), while European Spanish prefers “coche”, “ordenador”, and “carretera” for the same concepts. In terms of grammar, Rioplatense Spanish uses the second person singular “vos” (you) which is the equivalent of the European Spanish form “tú”.

The transadaptation process will have to take all these differences into account to produce successful and accurate results.

In Short

Languages build historical and collective identities. They are not just simple nomenclatures, but different ways to see the world. If you want your translations to not only be correct but also sound natural to your Spanish-speaking audiences, you have to tread with care. Make sure your linguistic services provider is capable of making the intent, style, tone, and content of your texts sound local to your target audience. Just focusing on general linguistic codes (e.g., “Spanish” as a homogeneous category) will do you more harm than good. Most global brands have now learned this lesson and are resorting to transadaptation to make the most of their marketing efforts.

To sum up, in order to achieve naturalness and fluency in translated texts, knowing that there are different varieties to one same language is the key. So, whenever you need a text to fit a specific language variety, make sure you find a linguistic service provider who knows how to apply these intra-linguistic adjustments we are talking about in order to make your content sound natural for the local reader.

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