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Four paths to the perfect translation

Jan, 2024
Anja Peschel

So you have a text and need it in one or multiple different languages? That’s a clear-cut case for translation. Right?

In fact, it’s a bit more complicated than you might think. First you have some decisions to make in order to get a text that ticks all the necessary boxes.

Not all translations are the same, and expectations can differ widely. Below we’ve listed four possible methods that can be used to relay a given text in another language and we describe when each method is most appropriate. These are: simple translation, localisation, transcreation and copywriting. So which method is suitable for which cases?

Simple Translation

When we say “translation”, many people imagine taking the words from one language and replacing them with their equivalents in another. But even simple translation is not as simple as all that. Even if two languages are relatively similar, it’s important to pay attention to the small details so that the translation does not sound awkward or clunky. Just think about idioms – translating those word-for-word would be as useful as a chocolate teapot!


Localisation goes one small but important step further than literal translation. Although it remains relatively close to the original text, localisation goes beyond the individual words and places greater focus on their meaning. Localisation is chosen so that the text reads well as a whole. Units of measurement, for example, will be altered to suit the target culture. A localisation exactly reflects the contents of the original and only deviates if the target text would otherwise not be understood.

When do we recommend localisation?

Localisation is most appropriate for technical texts in wich the structure and individual sections of content musst directly correspond to one another. Such texts include:

  • Contracts
  • Manuals and installation instructions
  • Software

What are the advantages of localisation

  • Content doesn’t deviate from original document
  • Text is easy to understand
  • Excellent transparency due to sentence by sentence translation

Transcreation or adaption

With other text types, it might be necessary to move a little further afield from the source text. This strategy is known as “transcreation” or “adaptation”. While linguistic expertise and specialist knowledge about the topic at hand are a given, the translator who produces a successful transcreation must also be well-versed in the cultures in question and have a knack for creative writing. Using transcreation means the translated document will deviate more from the source text in order to evoke the same (emotional) response in both or all languages.

When do we recommend transcreation?

The more a target market differs from the source market in terms of cultural background and society, the more a translation will differ from the original. That is particularly true for texts where emotions and cultural norms play an important role. Such texts include:

  • Marketing and website texts
  • Advertising
  • Newspaper and blog articles

What are the advantages of transcreation?

  • Evokes the same (emotional) response as in the original document
  • Texts are creatively appealing
  • Cultural norms are taken into greater consideration


In advertising and marketing, it can sometimes make more sense to leave the source text to one side and start afresh in the language of the target market. This is called copywriting. Based on a language-independent briefing, copywriters create a text for the target market in question. This enables the copywriter to unleash all their creativity, without the constraints imposed by a source text, in order to create a text which fulfils a certain purpose. In fact, copywriters are not necessarily multilingual; what matters is that they boast exceptional talent in the language in which they write.

When do we recommend copywriting?

There is a huge overlap between transcreation and copywriting. A new text, independent from the original, is most beneficial if the demands in each market broadly differ. Such texts include:

  • Texts which form part of a large marketing campaign
  • Email campaigns
  • Texts and campaigns posted on social media

What are the advantages of transcreation?

  • More opportunities to tailor texts to target group(s)
  • Even more creative freedom
Check out the following table to compare the different types of translations:
DefinitionA translation which has been checked for accurate meaning. Context-dependent terminology, adjustment of units of measurement etc.The text is tailored to the target audience. It does refer back to the source text, but does so without using it as an exact templateNew text, created specifically for the target audience. This is done using a language-independent brief that ensures the same impact in all markets
SpeedRelatively quicklyNeeds some timeNeeds some time
AccuracyReflects content accurately, only deviates if otherwise hard to understand or problematicCan differ substantially from the literal meaning in order to send the same message; target-market corporate language is usedCan differ substantially from the original while retaining the same effect
Added valueYesSignificant added valueSignificant added value
Cultural implicationsNo faux pas, easily understandable by reader in target languageAdapted to target culture/market, fulfils the same function as the source text but for the target audienceAnchored in the cultural setting of the target audience
Types of textsTechnical texts (contracts, IT texts, manuals …)Advertising, marketing, articlesAdvertising, marketing, articles
RequirementsTranslator needs cultural and technical knowledge in addition to linguistic skillsTranslator needs technical knowledge, cultural awareness and linguistic creativity in addition to linguistic skillsTechnical knowledge, cultural awareness and linguistic creativity. Copywriter does not necessarily need to know how to translate or speak the source language.

As you can see, there are plenty of questions that need to be answered. Let us help you find the right type of translation for your project. Contact us now.

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