Translators have been the staple of the translation business for decades. Linguistics, multilingual communication, and quality of language—this is their domain. They are grammarians and often self-admitted language nerds.
Translators are usually bilingual linguists who live in the country where their native language is spoken—it’s the best way for them to stay connected with linguistic and cultural changes. Their responsibility traditionally has been to faithfully render a source text into a specific target language.
But now, with the advent of more complicated content types such as highly branded content (like mobile apps or PPC ads), and with much higher volumes of content like User Generated Content (think customer reviews), all bets are off. The role of the translator has to evolve: translators now have to offer the right solution to new globalization problems…or risk being left behind.
This reality isn’t just relevant for translators: localization project managers need to know what new qualifications to look for as they try to match resources to their content. Four new specialist roles have evolved out of changing global content needs, allowing translators and linguists to expand their offerings and learn new skills.
In transcreation, a highly specialized linguist recreates the source content so that it’s appropriate for the target locale. They key term here is ‘recreates’, which means re-invent or build again. The goal is to create content that inspires the same emotions in the target language as the source content does in the home market.
Typically, the process of transcreation applies to taglines, product names, slogans, and advertisement copy; anything highly branded.
The linguists performing this service are highly creative translators: senior, experienced professionals with lots of marketing content translation experience. They also might have agency expertise.
Many transcreators begin their professional career as translators, and as they gain proficiency in marketing content, they become adept at the re-creation process. If they are creative types, this expertise can lead them right into the specialization of transcreation.
Content creators or copywriters
In-country copywriters create materials from scratch for a target market—a highly creative process. There’s no actual translation here. While the resource is often an ad agency professional with copywriting experience, they may also be a translator—or have been one in the past. (It’s not uncommon for a translator with creative content experience to move into copywriting.) Like translators, these professionals must be in-country in order to represent the latest trends in that market.
These folks, who also reside in the target country, provide guidance to a client on the motivations and behaviors of target buyers. They are researchers and representatives of their culture. They also may be experts in local paid media, search marketing, social media, influencer marketing, CRO, and UX.
Whatever their areas of expertise, these in-country experts could, for example, plan and manage an international digital campaign, conduct focus groups to determine user preferences, or do demographic research to help an enterprise understand or identify their target client. Bilingual, in-country translators already have—or can learn—the skills required to become a cultural consultant.
It’s not uncommon for an enterprise with a maturing localization program to deploy Machine Translation (MT). And most MT programs involve some level of post-editing: the process by which a linguist edits the machine’s output to a level of quality agreed upon between the client and vendor.
Post-editing needs a different skillset than translation: instead of converting source text to target text faithfully, a post-editor has to understand how an MT engine operates and what errors might be typical, and then fix all issues required to meet the requested quality bar. It’s one part translator, one part linguistic reviewer, and one part Machine Translation specialist. Translators with good critical thinking skills can train to do this work.
Learn more: MT Post-editing Myths Debunked by an Expert
The needs of global businesses give translators an opportunity to stretch and grow into a variety of other industry positions that make use of their unique skillset and cultural expertise. Will translators of the future do any actual translation? Only time will tell. In the meantime, these newer linguistic services are growing in demand, and thus, so will the need for talent.