Transcreation vs. Translation: 8 Key Differences Explained

Transcreation and translation are different processes of converting written words from one language to another. Discover their key differences and how to choose the right service for your translation project here.

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Dominic Dithurbide

19 de dezembro de 2022


What Are The Differences Between Transcreation and Translation?

Translation and transcreation are both processes of converting written words from a source language to another target language. Translation focuses on accuracy of content, while transcreation requires a greater understanding of the intended message to create content that conveys the same meaning or impact as the original.

Here are eight critical differences between transcreation and translation:

1. Transcreation is rooted in cultural context. 

Transcreation works beyond translation by focusing on cultural differences in the content rather than straight language-to-language translation. Furthermore, transcreation encompasses the content's style and intent. As a result, the translated text should bring the same emotions and implications as the text in the source language. Essentially, transcreation takes the spirit of text and re-creates it in another language.

2. Translation focuses on accuracy, whereas transcreation focuses on creativity. 

Straight translation is the best option if content needs to be translated accurately but without creative elements. Transcreation, often referred to as creative translation, is a powerful aspect of international marketing. Slogans, taglines, mottos, and other components of marketing copy cannot simply be translated. This type of messaging is too valuable for a brand to risk not being understood by international consumers. Branded materials, including advertisements, brochures, and websites, can all be transcreated creatively to support a business wherever they expand.

3. The process of transcreation begins with a creative brief. 

Transcreation creative briefs are project outlines that can include instructions on where transcreation is appropriate or not, as well as detailed instructions for the creative approach based on market research, focus groups, and audience demographics. Following the creative brief, a native copywriter or creative team in the target language begins adapting the message to the target market.

4. Transcreation takes into account subtle nuances and colloquialisms. 

Understanding the cultural nuances of an intended audience is crucial to the transcreation process. For a transcreator, knowledge of the target culture is just as necessary as linguistic expertise. This means being aware of trends, buzzwords, and modern idiomatic phrases, particularly concerning the business's industry. When done well, subtle nuances can make all the difference for a target audience to understand and appreciate a business' thoughtfulness about who they are as a culture.

5. Transcreation projects typically cost more. 

Translation work can be based simply on the number of words needed to translate into the targeted languages. Transcreation projects, however, take into account more complex processes. Time needs to be allowed for the ideation phase of the work, as well as the copywriting itself. Transcreators use their language, translation, and writing abilities to ensure the content hits the mark. Because transcreation requires an in-depth study of the source content and a knowledge of the target audience at a native level, this kind of content can be more expensive and time-consuming than a literal translation.

6. Translation is more literal than transcreation. 

With word-for-word translation, the translator has to stay true to the source language and translate within the limits of the original text. Transcreation, however, can break away from language constraints to convey similar meanings through different cultural lenses.

7. The use cases for transcreation and translation are often different.  

Not all types of content necessarily need a transcreation solution. For example, step-by-step operating instructions or an ingredients list are straightforward enough that literal translation will work. However, if the content is to be used for marketing or advertising purposes as it allows for more creativity to convey a message. An essential part of transcreation is understanding how people use their native language in real-life scenarios. 

8. Transcreation is generally a more complex process. 

Transcreation is more complicated than word-for-word interpretation because it considers all aspects of the target language's meaning and involves several stakeholders. A transcreation project stakeholder is anyone actively involved in the transcreation process and shapes its outcome. Stakeholders are typically the linguists (i.e. transcreators, translators, copywriters, editors, and proofreaders) and any person given decision-making power on the project. It also includes the project owner, account managers, and native or language speakers who are asked to choose, validate, or change the proposed solution.


Kentucky Fried Chicken was unable to use straight translation on their website.

Examples of Transcreation vs. Translation

Transcreation serves various purposes and is necessary when content conveys a distinct voice, style, and meaning in a different language. Advertising and marketing use transcreation heavily to sell products and enhance brands' reputations within international markets. Transcreation can occur with print and digital advertising, marketing copy, presentations, brochures, videos, social media content, and more.

One example of successful transcreation is the introduction of Red Bull to the Chinese market. Red Bull had to make significant changes to its product and marketing before debuting in China to ensure its product was conveyed properly in Chinese culture. First, they altered the formula to a non-carbonated version, which is preferred in that market. Next, Red Bull changed the can's colors from silver, red, and blue to red, gold, and black - a color scheme that signifies luck, wealth, and good fortune to Chinese consumers. These significant brand changes helped Red Bull successfully launch in China and illustrate successful transcreation in action.

With straight translation, a slogan or intended message might differ significantly from the original and doesn't always translate for other cultures and languages. For example, when Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) translated their famous "Finger Lickin' Good" slogan for a Mandarin audience, the slogan became "Eat your fingers off," which conveys an entirely different (and probably unappealing) meaning.

Let MotionPoint Help You Reach Multilingual Audiences

Transcreation can differentiate how new audiences receive a brand's products or services. If your business is looking to expand internationally, it's never too soon to consider how transcreation can help your business gain valuable visibility. After all, if you're going to put effort into connecting with international audiences, it makes sense to ensure that your communications will evoke the responses you want from your target audience.

Transcreation helps you better connect with your target audience by ascending both language and cultural barriers. MotionPoint is a professional translation services company that offers contextualized transcreation services to help your brand work through the process of adapting messaging for new markets while retaining the same style, essence, and voice of your brand wherever your business takes you.

Última atualização: 19 de dezembro de 2022
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Sobre Dominic Dithurbide

Dominic Dithurbide é um líder de marketing criativo, focado em objetivos, que dedicou sua carreira ao setor de tradução. Dominic é proeficiente em marketing global, geração de demanda e estratégias de entrada no mercado para a equipe de marketing da MotionPoint.

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Dominic Dithurbide

Gerente de marketing