06.12.2021

What is transcreation? And why it’s important for content localisation

Anna Wildman

Transcreation and localisation are key for global reach

As the world becomes more globalised, there is an increasing need for transcreation and localisation. This is easier said than done, especially if you are localising content from two completely different cultures like the UK and Japan. 

Both are necessary when entering a new market. If your target audience cannot understand what your company is selling or providing, there is little chance for success. 

In this article, we’ll explore the definitions of transcreation and localisation, what they look like in practice, and how they fit into marketing with an emphasis on the Japanese market. 

What is transcreation? 

Transcreation is the combination of “translation” and “creation”. It is where translation meets creative copywriting. While translation is simply taking text in one language and directly translating it word-for-word into another, transcreation goes beyond. It considers the local context, ensuring that the text is culturally appropriate for the target market. 

These are especially important in Japan, where English literacy is below 10%. In fact, one survey by Rakuten found that 70% believe they are poor at English, while only 8.7% believe they are good at it. Thus, transcreation is important to gain trust and communicate properly with Japanese people. 

One important aspect of transcreation is that the original text’s intended impact and message do not get lost in the process. Sometimes the transcreated text can look completely different from the original, which is fine as long as the intended message remains. 

Example of transcreation: English to Japanese

Let’s look at TAMLO’s own Twitter page. When we posted about hard seltzer’s entry into the Japanese market, we first wrote the English text and then transcreated it into Japanese. 

English tweet

Japanese tweet

The Japanese text, when translated back into English, is completely different from the English tweet. It says,

Hard Seltzer is a new alcoholic drink that is popular in the USA. According to our staff in London, it is starting to spread in the UK too. It seems in Japan, Sapporo has come out with a new product!

Let’s compare this to the English: 

Following the popularity of hard seltzers in other markets like the US, Sapporo has released their own version called 'WATER SOUR.' Could hard seltzer reach the same level of popularity in Japan?

The texts vary greatly, but the Japanese audience would not have understood the message as well without additional context explaining what hard seltzer is and its popularity overseas. Thus, creative copywriting was needed in order for the message to be meaningful and relevant. 

Transcreation and localisation: two peas in a pod 

Localisation refers to the process of adapting content to a particular language and culture. Transcreation is a part of it, but localisation is broader and encompasses things like website layout, images, video, or payment options. 

For example, Japanese websites have a specific aesthetic and will likely need to be adjusted when entering the Japanese market. They tend to be more text-heavy and information-rich, while Western sites tend to prioritise visuals. 

Top: Starbucks UK 

Bottom: Starbucks Japan 

Local holidays are another important aspect to consider when planning promotional campaigns. While Easter is a hugely important holiday in the UK and there are many promotions centered around it, it is not celebrated in Japan and thus it would not make sense to carry over the same promotions to Japan. 

Example of Localisation: British to American English 

Although both the UK and the US markets speak English, the language can look quite different. 

Take this advertisement for vegan recipe kit company Grubby. While it is intended for the UK market, let’s see how it would be localised for the American market. 

The text says: 

Get more plants in your gob.

Grubby. 

Vegan recipe kits. All flavour, no faff.

In American English, this would probably look something like:

Get more plants in your system. 

Grubby. 

Vegan recipe kits. All flavor, no fuss.

Some key points to consider when localising text are: 

  • Spelling - British English spelling differs slightly from American English (e.g. flavour vs flavor). 
  • Vocabulary/slang- words like faff and gob are common in the UK, but Americans may not be familiar with British dialects like these. 
  • Humour - e.g. British humour tends to be more dry and sarcastic than American humour 

When localising into Japanese, this becomes even more complex as it is not just the language you need to consider -- you also must consider cultural nuances and sensitivities, the writing system (hiragana, katakana, and kanji), product knowledge, sentence structure, punctuation, and more.  

We hope this has helped you to better understand transcreation and localisation, and why transcreation is an important part of the localisation process. It’s clear that in order for any company to localise effectively, native speakers and creative copywriters are absolutely essential. 

As localisation specialists for the Japanese and English-speaking markets, we at TAMLO are here to help. Please feel free to contact us to learn how we can help you localise your content. 

Writer

Anna Wildman

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