Literal vs. Creative

I translate literally and rewrite texts creatively. What’s the difference?

Can any text be translated?

Yes and no . . . Technically yes, but not every text is suited for a translation. What does this mean?

If the target text needs to represent the wording of the original text as literally as possible, a translation is appropriate. Examples include official and legal documents as well as scientific or news reports.

Some texts require localization, others need to be transcreated.

Whether or not a translation is the best choice for a text depends on its context and purpose.

When does creativity come into play?

When your text aims at building or maintaining a relationship or at eliciting an emotional response, it will require localization or a transcreation that is tailored to the culture of your audience.

A memo to the employees at the German site of a U.S. company will likely not help foster the relationship if it’s worded in the typical American casual or semi-casual tone. A reference to fairies on beauty product packaging for women may be perceived as whimsical and fun by an American target audience. German women, by contrast, would likely find this weird or even patronizing. Vice versa, a risqué play on words in a slogan may amuse a German audience but would upset American customers.

These types of texts require an expert localization or transcreation: the information and message in your text is reworded, tailored to the culture of your local audience. In short: when you want to drive a message home for someone, tell them in the language they’re at home in.

With a strong background in corporate communications and at home in both the German and American culture, localization and transcreation are my specialty.