Translation and copywriting
Thread poster: KateKaminski

Local time: 11:35
German to English
Sep 25, 2013

When you translate a text, do you consider copywriting to be part of the service?

For instance, imagine you have been asked to translate an awkward, very German-sounding text aimed at top clientele for an expensive restaurant.

It would take longer than average just to make this text sound decent in English - but even then, it would still sound awkward to a native English reader. The only solution is to translate the text very loosely and perhaps even re-write some sentences entirely.

Is this still a "translation" job?


Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
Transcreation Sep 25, 2013

Hi Kate,

I would call this transcreation.
See: Transcreation is a term used chiefly by advertising and marketing professionals to refer to the process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone and context. A successfully transcreated message evokes the same emotions and carries the same implications in the target language as it does in the source language.

Transcreation usually commands higher rates than translation because it requires a great deal more time and creative skills.

Have you actually been asked to do this job by a client? Have you accepted it already?
If not, I think I would be inclined to explain that what is needed is transcreation and propose a suitable hourly rate for the same.


Local time: 11:35
German to English
Learning experience Sep 25, 2013

Thank you Marie-Helene. It seems that I should have clarified this with the client!

I completed a project recently which proved to be completely different to my standard translations (I usually work on legal contracts where everything is very clear-cut).

After some back and forth with the client, we eventually sorted things out. I spent twice as long on this text as I usually would on projects of this volume. I felt it would have benefited from at least one other pair of eyes (even just a proofreader/editor?), who could have looked at the target version with a fresh pair of eyes and come up with new creative input. But of course clients want low costs and top-class results!

[Edited at 2013-09-25 18:21 GMT]


Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
Indeed Sep 25, 2013

I think that if you've already agreed to something you have no other option but to take it on the chin but yes, as you say, you can always learn from these situations for next time.

The same thing happened to me a while ago when I was asked to proofread a translation agency's website text translation and foolishly accepted before seeing the text (I haven't fallen into that trap since!).

You would have thought that at the very least, a translation agency would be good with words. Well no. You would not believe how badly written the original text was. Unfortunately the translation was literal. It was ridden with horrid errors and insults to potential clients that literally made me shudder. I ended up making copious changes to the text with an explanation (trying to be diplomatic) against each change that veered from the original text.
They never commented on my changes but sent me more of the same at a later date to which I replied that, given the work this entailed, I would require X to take on the job and they never assigned it to me. They must have found another mug!

There's nothing worse than feeling ripped off while you work though so I sympathise.


Eileen Cartoon  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:35
Italian to English
I have had the same problem a few times Sep 25, 2013

but I did it with Track Changes on so they could see exactly what I did. Sometimes they come through, themselves with an offer. It is Amazing how they can be maliable when they actually "see" the changes and how much the result is improved.


Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:35
English to Polish
+ ...
Depends Sep 25, 2013

I won't allow a 'client', i.e. one of the many agencies in a long food chain, complain about not receiving a transcreated text after paying translation rates only.

However, I will usually take liberties with formal equivalence in marketing texts, as they've got a marketing job to do first of all before serving as material for any sort of analysis. I would actually be quite belligerent if a client were to complain about a marketing translation not reflecting the original grammar and syntax point-for-point, for example.

In effect, it probably is copywriting but not transcreation. And without any sort of warranty for the marketing effect. I just write and have ideas and know how to write for marketing, for the Web etc., but I don't do polls or sociological research or study marketing theory really in-depth. For that, they need an advertising agency.

[Edited at 2013-09-25 16:04 GMT]


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