If translation is a waltz, transcreation is a tango
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If translation is a waltz, transcreation is a tango

If translation is a waltz, transcreation is a tango

Flickr: "Tango legs" by Henrik Schroeder Occasionally, missives from the world of translation charm us like no other. Here’s one of those: a quote from “Exercises in Translation, Spanish Edition,” written by Kevin Murphy, who is the digital marketing manager at Melville House Books, on the struggles that translators have to overcome to convey more than the literal meaning of a piece:

I’m no translator, and so can only comment on this from the outside looking in, but translation to me seems like a kind of dance, a partnership that works best when one individual compliments an other’s strongest attributes. 

Exactly. That’s why, in marketing translation especially, there’s much talk in the industry now about “transcreation.” As Wikipedia notes, the term probably emerged from gaming industry translation in the 1980s. The distinguishing characteristic of transcreation versus translation is, say, the difference between “this word equals that” to “in my language, we say this to mean that.”

For example, in German, you would wish someone good luck by saying “Ich drücke dir die Daumen.” Now, you *could* literally translate that to say “I am pressing my thumbs for you,” but in English — well, in American English, that is — you’d say “I’ll cross my fingers.”

At Moravia, we do more than cross our fingers to make sure the translations are right, of course, but that’s because we know this dance very well. 😉

Have your own “Daumen/fingers” examples to share? Post them in the comments. Watching Germany play Italy tonight? Feel free to let us know which team you’re crossing your fingers for!