The Difference Between Transcreation and Translation

Translation and transcreation are often confused by people looking to hire specialists of either type. Some people even use them interchangeably – even though there are significant fundamental differences between the two. 

The Difference Between Transcreation and Translation The Difference Between Transcreation and Translation 

Understanding how translation differs from transcreation and when each one is appropriate to use can make a huge difference on the success of your campaigns when working with professional language service providers. 

What Is Translation? 

Translation involves converting text from one language to another while keeping the original meaning and structure as unchanged as possible. While there’s some room for creative freedom in translation work, that’s not the primary goal. Clients ordering translation services are usually interested in seeing the original text converted to one or more new languages without making any creative changes to it. 

What Is Translation?What Is Translation?

Translation is commonly used for general business purposes where the creative intent behind the text is not that important. This includes documentation, communication, and other instances where creativity is not the primary goal. 

What Is Transcreation? 

Transcreation, on the other hand, is translation with significant creative freedom. Transcreators are free to add additional content to the original piece where they feel it’s necessary to help convey a certain message better.  

What Is Transcreation? What Is Transcreation? 

Transcreation work is more about preserving the original creative intent of the message, rather than coming up with a literal 1:1 translation. Some parts may even be deleted if they would affect the structure and flow of the text in a specific language. 

This type of work can also refer to context outside of the text itself – for example, using attached illustrations to extract some additional meaning. The work of a transcreator is generally more challenging for this regard, as it requires a strong understanding of creative writing and advanced literary skills. 

When Should Each One Be Used? 

Translation is best used when there’s no important creative intent behind the original text that needs to be preserved. For example, various kinds of business documents can benefit from direct translation as all the context needed for their messaging is already contained within them. 


That’s not to say that transcreation is not useful in the business world though. Quite the opposite, it can find a good place in situations involving copywriting and other business messaging that must deliver a more unique message. 

Direct translation is often a bad choice when it comes to marketing materials. Especially when cultural differences and subtle word play are added to the mix. Time and time again, companies make the same mistake of assuming that they can just translate a creatively written PR message without any issues. Depending on how the original message was written. This can lead to confusion among the target audience, or even worse – poor reception due to a misunderstanding.  

Can a Translator Do Transcreation as Well? 

While the work of translators and transcreators may seem similar, there are some significant underlying differences that have to be taken into account. A good transcreator will often have no problem providing translation services – but the opposite is not true in all cases. 


That’s because transcreation requires additional mastery of creative writing in each target language. It’s not enough to be able to simply put the same message into similar words – the kinds of adaptations that most transcreation work requires are often above the capabilities of translators without sufficient experience in the field. 

Good Translation Is Never Literal 

It’s also important to note that good translation work should never produce a 100% identical copy of the original. Unless, of course, the client specifically requests that. Even then, a responsible translator should run their clients through their list of options and inform them about opportunities to handle this task better. 


That’s part of the reason why people sometimes confuse translation and transcreation. Translation work does occasionally involve some creative modifications to the original text. But it must never go beyond the framework of the original messaging. Especially in terms of introducing additional context or other elements to the final product.  

The Importance of Choosing an Experienced Transcreator 

Finding a good transcreator is more difficult than finding a good translator. Especially when a client needs services in multiple languages. On top of being a good translator, a skilled transcreator must also possess a number of additional skills. They also tend to be busy most of the time due to the heavier workload associated with their work. 

A good transcreator must have excellent creative writing skills. These go far beyond the language mastery required for regular translation work. That’s what makes multi-language transcreators so valuable. Obtaining the necessary language mastery is already difficult for just one language. When more are added to the mix, the number of specialists available on the market shrinks drastically. 


This also leads to increased service prices. Transcreation typically costs more than translation. On top of that, it usually takes longer too. This means additional price inflation when working with a specialists who charges by the hour – which most transcreators do. 

Last but not least, transcreation work can sometimes change parts of the underlying message. This is occasionally necessary in order to get the general idea across in a way that makes sense in the target language. As a result, it’s crucial for transcreators to understand the implications of the changes they’re making. Especially when it comes to marketing materials. Which may feature creative uses of the language that don’t often carry over well to other languages. 

What Other Services Can a Good Transcreator Provide? 

A transcreation specialist can go beyond converting a piece of text into another language. They can also provide general guidance and consultation services on aspects like flow and structure. Advising their clients on ways that their texts can be improved in order to tighten up the message delivery and make everything flow more smoothly. 

transcreation specialistTranscreation specialist

This also applies to the original language of the text. A transcreator can help identify existing issues with the flow and alter the message in a way that it’s not only more suitable for translation or transcreation. But also has a better impact in its untranslated form. 

Closing Thoughts 

The differences by transcreation and translation often get overlooked by customers looking for one or the other for the first time. It’s important to assess the needs of your current project as thoroughly as possible and identify your goals when ordering services of this type. Especially if it turns out that you need transcreation. This will not only cost more and take more time on average. But it will also come with a more challenging search process as you won’t have access to that many different specialists on the market. 

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