If you are a frequent international traveler, someone who has taken a vacation abroad, or even just had a conversation with someone who doesn’t speak your language, then you know that language barriers can be thick, almost unscalable walls. It’s tough enough to get your point across clearly in your native language, let alone in another language. Moreover, for global companies and creators, where success is determined by whether or not your message strikes a chord with the local audience, the problem is compounded.

This is where the art of transcreation shines through. As a digital company with international clients, here is a quick breakdown of what transcreation is, how it differs from translation, why it makes such a big difference, and some quick examples of it in action.


Very basically, transcreation means to convert a message from one language into another while ensuring that the purpose, tone and context of the message remain the same. The process takes into account language and its contexts in culture to give you a natural, convincing voice in the new language. It is literally recreating the message so that it fits right at home in another culture.


The answer is freedom. Translation focuses on taking words from the original language and replacing them with the corresponding words in the new language. Transcreation focuses on producing the same message with the same intent and feeling behind it – giving the transcreator the freedom to add or subtract content, reword, reorganize, and as the title suggests, create.

Translations aren't always "wrong" persay, they just don’t always have the same feeling and impact that a transcreated message can provide. The goal isn’t to produce the same words in another language, but to produce a message with the same feeling, purpose and connotations.This means that in the literal sense transcreated content may differ drastically from the original source material. But if you look closer, the message itself and the feeling behind it are the same.

Let’s take a look at an example. Recently, a client asked us to transcreate a product page from Japanese to English for a traditional tea set that they designed. Let’s examine just the product catchphrase.


For any bilingual readers out there, the original Japanese phrase was:



A literal translation of the phrase comes out to: 

“Beautiful when you drink and when you put it away”


And this is where translation stops. The sentence is grammatically correct. It is faithful to the original Japanese, and it conveys the message. Done deal.


Transcreation takes it one step further. We took a step back and looked at the context of the target language and the product itself. This is a catchphrase. It should convey what the product is all about, but also be short and memorable. The product itself has a very stylish and modern design with vivid coloring, and is designed to be a decoration as much as a functioning tea set. Even when the product is not in use, it adds a touch of elegance to the home. 


With all of this in mind we created the new English tagline:

“Beautiful at tea time, beautiful anytime”. 


While not terribly far from the original, it is objectively a much better catchphrase. It’s shorter, catchier, identifies what the product is, and most importantly, maintains the same message and feeling.


To be clear, transcreation is 100% not always necessary, or the way to go. For starters, it’s a lengthier process, requiring more time to brief the transcreator on the intent of your message and emotions you would like it to inspire. Additionally, it’s more expensive than strict translation as it requires creative copywriting and analysis of cultural context. For informative content – emails, announcements, schedules, and other such media, it would almost certainly be a tad overkill, and completely unnecessary to spring for the costlier option. Where transcreation really pays dividends is in persuasive or artistic endeavors, where your message needs to evoke emotions.



Posted in