Live from Button: Don’t Just Translate

Don’t Just Translate, Boost your UX Content With Transcreation, by Anna Potapova

When McDonald’s started the “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign, the Chinese version was “I just love it and in Russia “That is what I love.” Why is it different? China and Russia don’t have the tense that “I’m lovin’ it” is written in, in englihs.

What is Transcreation?

Transcreatino is a re-interpretation of work in a target language. We need transcreation when we have words that are so original they need to be recreated – from scratch – to have the desired impact on the target audience.

How is that different from just plain old good translation?

3 levels of global content:

  1. Translation: changes words into another language
  2. Localization: adapts to local standards (visual language, time format, currency, etc)
  3. Transcreation: inspired by the source content, but entirely adapts to local culture

Here’s an example:

  • Source: Winter sale
  • Transcreation: Winter clearance

While all of these get the words into another language, transcreation needs a creative brief, and the creators need writing experience, rather than simply knowing both languages.

How does Transcreation improve UX writing?

Transcreation can personalize content so that it connects to the target audience. Idioms can be found in the new language, or words that are more popular in the new language. “Cut prices” in English might be localized to “Chop them down” in Russian. But that’s not a positive thing! Transcreation would choose a different phrase.

Evaluate your legacy

Not every language needs transcreation, and not every content piece within a language. There are 3 steps to identifying if you need transcreation.

  1. Define problematic languages. Not every language may need transcreation. You can learn this from user interviews after translation, or by checking the settings that customers prefer – if people prefer English to their native language, then your translation isn’t working.
  2. Define problematic content types. Language satisfaction surveys can help. Users will provide feedback on promotion banners specifically (for example).
  3. Pinpoint issues. Use a UX content scorecard or run a content audit to define the show stoppers. A UX content scorecard will look for usability and voice.

Test again after transcreation to learn what has improved.

Implement Transcreation

The sweet spot of transcreation is where you have maximum impact, involving the right people (PMs, designers, localization team, and user research), and the right process. This means involving multilanguage writers early on.

Train the PM, designer, user researcher on what transcreation is, and involve the localization team at kickoff. Then set up the right process: when the writers start writing, the transcreation team should be starting at the same time based off the same creative brief. When user research is done to test the content, both languages should be tested at the same time. You want to be able to measure impact for source and transcreated languages side by side.

The content brief is very important for source and transcreated content. Make sure to include in your brief:

  • The business and user goals for the project
  • Stakeholders’ expectations
  • Context and visual clues (just as the native English writers need it, so do the transcreation writers)
  • The rationale behind creative decisions
  • Character limits and development restrictions

In conclusion: Transcreation is reinterpretation. It requires multi language writers to understand user flow and create effective content to connect with target audiences.

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