Posts Tagged ‘transcreation’

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #29

People may share a language, but be divided by cultural factors that stop communications from working.

For example, Northern Ireland has a strong sectarian divide between Catholics and Protestants that does not exist elsewhere in the UK.

In 1690, Protestant King William of Orange defeated a Catholic army.

Ever since, orange has been a symbol of Protestantism.

Mobile network Orange had great success with the tagline “The future’s bright, the future’s Orange” on the UK mainland, but this would not have gone down well with the Catholic population in Northern Ireland.

184_LBOT #29

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #28

Idioms should be handled with caution. If translated literally, they often make little sense!

Take the English phrase “to kill two birds with one stone”. In other languages, the equivalent idioms are rather different.

Germans “hit two flies with one blow”.

Chinese “shoot two hawks with one arrow”.

Burmese “get two pieces with one cut”.

Koreans “catch a pheasant and its eggs as well”.

And Italians “snare two pigeons with one bean”.

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #27

Brand names too sometimes need transcreation.

The Mitsubishi Pajero SUV was named after the Pampas Cat of Argentina (scientific name: Leopardus pajeros).

However, in Spain and Latin America, it is called the Montero (meaning “mountain warrior”).

Why? Because “pajero” is a derogatory sexual term in Spanish.

177_LBOT #27_montero 177_LBOT #27_pajero

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #26

Analogies should be handled with care. What is common in one country might be inappropriate or irrelevant in another. It is therefore important to use analogies that your target market is familiar with.

Walt Disney is an excellent example of how this can be done successfully. In the US, the Walt Disney World Resort is described as “half the size of Rhode Island”. But the analogy requires some knowledge of US geography.

So in Japan, the park is said to be “the size of the Tokyo subway system”, and in the UK, “the size of greater Manchester”. This makes the audience feel more included – and the copy more effective.

166_LBOT #26

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #25

Since 1969, BMW has used the tagline “Freude am Fahren” in Germany. The English translation of this is “Pleasure in driving”.

Would that be as effective as “The Ultimate Driving Machine”?

Same idea, different words – this is what transcreation is all about.

165_LBOT #25 The Ultimate Driving Machine



The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #24

No Comments » Written on February 27th, 2014 by
Categories: Japan
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There is more to adapting communications for foreign markets than just translating – or even transcreating – the words.

A TV spot ad for Procter & Gamble’s soaps showed a man entering the bathroom while his wife was showering.

In the West, this is an entirely unremarkable scenario. However, in Japan the husband’s actions were seen as an unacceptable invasion of privacy. This seemingly innocuous ad was therefore considered to be in very poor taste.

164_LBOT #24

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #23

No Comments » Written on February 25th, 2014 by
Categories: UK, USA
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The Harry Potter books have been translated into over 60 languages. But the US editions shed perhaps the most light on the transcreation process. Famously, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But the changes go deeper.

To give just one example, in the US a “jumper” is not a pullover, but a kind of dress. By changing it to “sweater”, the meaning came across in the US, but a British “feel” was retained.

The books’ US publisher says. “I wasn’t trying to ‘Americanize’ them … I wanted to make sure that an American kid would have the same literary experience as a British kid.”

This principle of recreating the reader experience is where the magic of transcreation resides.

163_LBOT #23 sorcerer's stone 163_LBOT #23 philospher's stone

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #22

No Comments » Written on February 17th, 2014 by
Categories: Argentina
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161_LBOT #22

Different pronunciations in different languages can be a problem – or an opportunity.

In 2009, PepsiCo found out that almost 25% of people in Argentina could not pronounce the “ps” sound. They were calling the drink “Pecsi”.

Rather than fight this local idiosyncrasy, Pepsi chose to embrace it.

It ran a campaign in which its familiar branding elements were recreated using the phonetic spelling.

The message was, whether you say “Pepsi” or “Pecsi”, it still tastes better than Coke.

As a result, brand recognition increased 23%. Proof of what happens when multinational brands work with local culture.


The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #21

No Comments » Written on January 30th, 2014 by
Categories: India, Japan, South Korea, UK
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When choosing a tone, tint or hue to represent your brand, you need to think beyond how nice it will look on your marketing materials. It can mean completely different things in different cultures.

In the Western world, for example, white is associated with peace and weddings, while in Asia, white is for funerals.

155_LBOT #21 wedding pic

155_LBOT #21 Korean funeral

In a similar vein, yellow stands for cowardice in the West, but in Japan, it means courage. And red symbolizes passion in the Western world, while in India, it means purity.

So as you can see, it’s essential to do your homework before picking a shade for your international branding materials.

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #20

“Transport … is not a good metaphor for translation, because the luggage never arrives. What interests me is what gets lost along the way.”

Svetlana Geier, 1923–2010

Geier was the 20th century’s pre-eminent literary translator into German, specializing in the works of Dostoyevsky. So she knew what she was talking about.

With literary works, the freer approach of transcreation may not be suitable, out of respect for the original. But where the message is more important than the medium – as in marketing – transcreation ensures that far less is lost along the way.

So travel transcreation class, to make sure your message gets there with you.

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #19

Transcreating jingles is not just about finding the right words – they also have to fit the tune.

Gillette’s German version of “The best a man can get” failed on both counts.

152_LBOT #19

“Für das Beste im Mann” (“For the best inside a man”) didn’t really make sense – facial hair is on the outside.

Plus, the line was too short, so each word had to be dragged out longer than sounds natural.

And it doesn’t even rhyme with “Gillette”!

The “Für das Be-e-e-est-e-e im Ma-a-an” jingle has therefore become something of a national laughing stock.

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #18

Sometimes transcreation involves more than words.

The all-American Spider-Man comic books have been reinvented for the Indian market. The sarong-clad superhero is the alter ego of Pavitr Prabhakar (a phonetic distortion of Peter Parker), swinging from Mumbai landmarks like the Gateway of India as he fights crime in the city’s teeming streets.

The character’s strong family values appeal to Indian readers, and his demon-like adversaries tap into mythologies such as the Ramayana, making this a great example of how ideas can resonate across cultures.

151_LBOT #18

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #17

One of the best-selling novels of recent years is Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. But did you know its original Swedish title, Män Som Hatar Kvinnor, means “Men that hate women”?

In liberal, social-democratic Sweden, the overt gender politics of the original name were no barrier to success. But the English publishers reportedly felt that a literal translation was equivalent to “Books that don’t sell”.

So they used a transcreation instead. And with over a million copies sold last year in the UK alone, it’s hard to argue that they made the wrong decision.

149_LBOT #17

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #16

No Comments » Written on January 6th, 2014 by
Categories: France
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In most markets, Xbox leaves its “Jump in” tagline in English. However, in France it is a legal requirement that all English used in advertising also has a French version.

A literal translation of the line would be “Saute dedans”. While grammatically correct, this does not sound snappy, and does not convey the same sense of getting involved as the English does.

So instead, they opted for the transcreation “Lance-toi”. This literally means “Launch yourself”. It retains the sentiment of the original, and expresses it in a bold, Xbox-like way.

147_LBOT #16

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #15

No Comments » Written on January 3rd, 2014 by
Categories: China
Tags: , , , , ,

When De Beers wanted to advertise its diamonds in China in the 1990s, a direct translation of the English line “A diamond is forever” wouldn’t have worked in Mandarin. It would have sounded abrupt and confusing, as it would have been understood as “A diamond lasts forever” rather than “A diamond is something to keep forever”.

The line was transcreated to “钻石恒久远,一颗永流传”, which literally means “Diamond is forever, it will always be handed down (to future generations)”. Poetic language is very popular in China, and the line sounded like a quote from a beautiful poem, with an elegant and sophisticated ring to it. The line became an instant hit, and was remembered fondly for years afterwards.


Words we wished we had

Trying to share how you feel with someone who speaks a different language can often be challenging and frustrating – especially when there’s a word in your mother tongue that perfectly encapsulates a feeling or situation, yet this word simply doesn’t exist in translation. You may think that a language as global and widely spoken as English would have an expression for every possible emotion or scenario, but interestingly there are many foreign words that have no English equivalent.

Let’s dive straight into the emotional side of things, with the Spanish word “cariño”. Used widely, it has several meanings that depend on context or tone of voice: it can mean “affection” when used as an abstract noun and as a concrete noun it means “a kiss”, “a cuddle”, or “a hug”. But that’s not all, this fantastically multifunctional word is also a verb, meaning “to be fond of something”, and is commonly used as a term of endearment, equivalent to “honey” or “darling” in English, too. There are similar words in the English language – like the Americanism “cute”, that can mean everything from “adorable” to “good looking”, but none come close to the elegance and expressiveness of “cariño”.

The example above is just one of many causing people to bemoan the limitations of the English language. The Dutch word “gezellig” is another candidate for the “word wish list”– it can refer to a situation, to a person or to surroundings and has no real equivalent in English. It’s often translated as “nice”, but we all know what a generic word this is in English and it doesn’t come close to sparking the same associations as the Dutch word. This makes it something of an untranslatable word that English can never do justice to, but is it not better that every language retains a certain degree of enigma? After all, we don’t need any more over-used additions to the English language, like the word “über” that all too few people recognize as the German word it is.

Aside from words that will always remain a mystery to non-native speakers, there are also those which are culturally defunct. The Spanish the word “sobremesa”, for example, refers to the period after lunch. In Spain, it is typical to enjoy a big lunch with family or friends, and stay chatting afterwards – the absence of anything similar in English-speaking countries negates the need for a word to describe it.

Looking beyond the borders of Europe, you still find words that many English speakers wish they had – the Hebrew word נו (pronounced “noo”), is a good example. It is used to add urgency to a situation, when someone isn’t doing something quickly enough. The equivalent in English is something like “get on with it already!” or “come on!”. Unlike the Hebrew, both of these examples rely on tone of voice to fully convey their meaning. However, it is worth mentioning that at least one English dialect has adapted to accommodate this absence of a single word implying the need for urgency or speed – the Geordie expression “haway” is used to mean exactly this. This speaks in favour of the richness of the English language – especially the way in which it is spoken in different regions of the UK.

The diversity of regional dialects means that even within the UK, there are some words we would like to adopt from other parts of the country. “Tartle” is one popular example – this word is used by Scottish people to describe the embarrassing hesitation you make before introducing someone whose name you’ve forgotten. It’s happened to all of us at some point, and is one of life’s awkward, but unavoidable issues – so why not take the Scottish approach, face facts, and give it a name!

The list of “words we wish we had” is virtually inexhaustible, but we shouldn’t see this as an indication of the shortcomings of the English language, rather a reason to embrace the expressive possibilities of language. Just because a word doesn’t have a direct translation, this doesn’t mean that we can’t understand it and much less that it cannot be translated. English may never feature the “words we wish we had”, but this is all the more reason to get creative and find new, and even better, solutions for these idiosyncrasies of language. What do you think? Which words do you “miss” when speaking English?

Catherine, London


The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #14

If you grew up with the Asterix books, you’re already familiar with a great example of transcreation.

The characters’ names are all puns, many of which don’t translate – but do transcreate.

In fact, the English is sometimes even cleverer than the original French.

The names of the tone-deaf bard and food-poisoning fishmonger are merely silly in French: Assurancetourix (“assurance tous risques” means “comprehensive insurance”) and Ordralfabétix (“ordre alphabétique” means “alphabetical order”).

But the English names actually reflect character traits: Cacofonix for the bard, and Unhygienix for the fishmonger.

Unhygienix the fishmonger (the English names of the Asterix characters actually reflect character traits)

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #11

No Comments » Written on January 27th, 2012 by
Categories: France, UK
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It is a common marketing practice to leave slogans, titles etc. in English.

But just because English is the global language, it doesn’t mean people’s levels of English are the same around the globe.

Even when a title is not translated, it may still need to be transcreated.

Take the film “Date Night”. The title seems simple enough – but research found that French people aren’t familiar with the word “date” in the sense of a romantic meeting.

The film was therefore retitled “Crazy Night”.

Whatever the language, you need to know your audience.

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #10

1 Comment » Written on December 21st, 2011 by
Categories: Germany, Russia
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It’s important to research your product name in the market you want to break into. Even if a certain word doesn’t “look” offensive, sometimes the way it is pronounced can give it a whole new meaning.

When Vicks first introduced its cough drops to the German market, they were embarrassed to learn that the Germans pronounce “v” as “f” – and “ficken” is a crude term for “have sex” in German.

In the 90s, a mineral water called “Blue Water” was launched in Russia. But when Russians said the English name aloud, it sounded very like “блевота” (pronounced “blevOta”) – slang for “vomit”.

So they changed the name to “Water Blue” – a simple solution, but one that sounds much more appealing.

The Little Book of Transcreation – excerpt #7

A recent Intel campaign in Brazil shows a great example of effective transcreation. The original English slogan was “Sponsors of Tomorrow”. But if translated directly into Portuguese, this would imply that the brand doesn’t yet deliver on its promises. The solution was to find something relevant to a country that is becoming more technological and is known for its passion.

The chosen line in Brazil, “Apaixonados pelo futuro” (“In love with the future”), fitted the bill perfectly: it’s an emotional line that evokes desire (as Brazilians are falling more and more “in love” with the latest high-tech products), while keeping the values of the rational, original English line.

Intel is in love with the future.