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Introducing transcreation skills in translator training contexts: A situated project-based approach

Marián Morón and Elisa Calvo, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Spain


This research presents an innovative training project developed during the academic year 2016-2017 at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide (UPO, Spain), aimed at integrating transcreation skills in an undergraduate translator training context: the TeCreaTe project. This paper defines transcreation as a new service vis-à-vis other services such as translation and/or localisation. The main intercultural challenges transcreation poses for translator trainees are analysed and illustrated, on a brief-based approach. Responding effectively to market changes and opening up new employment opportunities are demanding goals. The TeCreaTe project has positively contributed to the development of participants’ key translation-related transferable and specific skills thanks to the inclusion of simulated transcreation projects.


Transcreation, copywriting, marketing translation, brief-based approach, simulated projects.

1. Introduction: Transcreation skills in translator training contexts

This paper discusses the foundations, methodology, experience and results of the TeCreaTe project, an innovative translator training project aimed at integrating transcreation skills in an undergraduate translator training context. The project was launched and developed in 2016 by a team of translator trainers and their final-year students at the state-funded Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville (UPO, Spain).1 Before presenting the nature and details of the project, it is first necessary to clarify how and on what grounds this initiative took shape and became a reality.

Only a few years ago, transcreation had a very limited presence in Translation Studies (TS). Despite having been anecdotally mentioned in TS since the 17th century (Katan 2016), in contexts where literary translations were rendered mostly freely or creatively, it is only after the consolidation of localisation as a well-established service in the language industry that the notion of transcreation starts gaining momentum, i.e. after about 2010, as will be discussed below.

Back in 2013, one of our undergraduate students at UPO presented a final-year project proposal to analyse advertising content of the well-known British tea brand PG Tips from a translational and intercultural point of view (Cabello 2014). Cabello analysed which marketing elements on the PG Tips campaigns could effectively be translated or localised for the Spanish market, which would require major adaptation, and which would necessitate a completely new creation. For this, a simulated creative brief based on real copywriting briefs was designed. This global and flexible approach to working with marketing content proved to be interesting and fresh, with great potential to enrich learning beyond conventional approaches.

A thorough research on transcreation as a new concept or service from a critical-sceptical point of view in 2013 only retrieved a meagre handful of significant results, mostly hosted on corporate sites.2 However, the pioneering industry report by Common Sense Advisory, entitled Reaching New Markets through Transcreation: When Translation Just Isn’t Enough (Ray & Kelly 2010), helped shed light on whether ‘transcreation’ was just another fancy word to refer to what good translators traditionally do, i.e. transferring and adapting content to target cultures, or it meant the emergence of an essentially different service.

Since 2014 an increasing amount of literature started to appear on transcreation innovations and developments, including a few interesting dissertations or doctoral theses (e.g. Reilly 2014; Pedersen 2015). Furthermore, we supervised a few more final year dissertations on simulated marketing translation and transcreation projects while, in what might be interpreted as a significant development, standards such as the ISO 17100 (2015) acknowledged transcreationas a distinct added-value service in the language services industry. Thus, transcreation seems to have been recognised by both academia and the industry as a distinct service, and the notion of transcreation seems to be here to stay.

2. Transcreation is localisation is translation?

Having been recognised by the industry as a different commodity or service to translation or localisation, it is time to consider the nature of transcreation processes and skills from a theoretical perspective. In order to ascertain what transcreation is about in TS terms, further grounded theory research is needed.

Some ten years ago, localisation as a concept was carefully examined by authors such as Mangiron & O’Hagan (2006) for the same reasons transcreation is now being critically analysed within TS. Back then, several authors borrowed the already classical definition of localisation by the former LISA (Pym 2005; Jiménez-Crespo 2013; De la Cova 2016), which stated that localisation was about adapting a product to make it linguistically and culturally appropriate to the target locale (country or region, and language) where it will be used and sold. This is done under a project management perspective which integrates linguistic, visual, physical, commercial, cultural and technical aspects within very specific contexts:

The need for localisation emerged in order to create target market versions (also known as locales) of content in electronic form, notably computer software. Software localisation is different from the traditional concept of translation in the sense that the former calls for the linguistic transfer to be combined with software engineering, as the translated strings (lines of text) need to be compiled back into the given software environment. Localisation is a dynamically evolving sector, responding to the demand arising from new types of electronic content to be made global-ready. As such, localisation practices are presenting new dimensions of translation which are not yet fully explained. (Mangiron & O’Hagan 2006: 10-11)

Bearing in mind that translation is an ever-expanding, evolving and open concept (Tymoczko 2005: 1082), it comes as no wonder that other related notions such as localisation are frequently regarded as complex or blurry and face resistance. For some, localisation is just another name for translation or a translation subtype (see Mazur 2009: 160). On the other hand, those studies which acknowledged fundamental differences in localisation tended to focus on two different aspects: 1) the process of adapting a product to a new culture, and 2) the technical component (e.g. code-based content) which is typical for a range of localisable products (e.g. software, web and/or videogames) and whose size and complexity frequently require streamlined project management practices (Calvo 2018).

Whereas the adaptation factor is present in or easily merges with many ‘conventional’ functionalist and communicative translation approaches, and is, therefore, not limited to localisation processes, technological settings and the quality-based Project Management approach may point to more clear-cut criteria for outlining localisation services (Esselink 2000; Pym 2003).

Once more, the industry (e.g. LISA) and its standards (EN 15038) were first to embrace a distinction between translation and localisation. According to more global perspectives on translation, localisation and transcreation processes, the latter two cannot be simply considered as translation subtypes but rather as complex processes which, to some extent or at certain stages, include translation skills and processes (Pym 2003; Mazur 2009; Pedersen 2016).

In order to better understand the challenges that transcreation poses for professionals, an updated review of the existing literature was carried out while we directly cooperated and shared knowledge with our industry partners. Collaborators and partners included, a marketing and copywriting agency, and, a well-established translation and transcreation company from Seville, as well as freelance transcreators, some of whom were UPO alumni who have specialised in transcreation. Further exploratory and preparatory activities were conducted:

  • Invitation to take part as intercultural communication experts on the workshops, coordinated by the marketing Agency INNN in Seville, Spain (Youngle-Aprenday Weekly Workshops 2016) and addressed to marketers and copywriters in Seville who were interested in sharing know-how on internationalised marketing processes.
  • Organisation of a round table on Transcreation and International Copywriting at the UPO, with guest speakers from the industry, representing both companies and freelance translators-transcreators. Our guest speakers illustrated for our students how transcreation projects are managed and developed, and explained the main differences between transcreation, localisation and translation projects, as well as the main difficulties arising within this context (December 2016).
  • Organisation of a ‘train the trainers’ course on Transcreation Project Management at the UPO in January 2017 (12 hours) by the language service provider Tatutrad (Seville). Funded by an Erasmus Plus Project (OTCT3). Workshops were led by professional and experienced transcreators from the OTCT project’s partner company Tatutrad.

This collaboration between trainers and the industry helped shape the TeCreaTe project. The fact that there are not many previously documented experiences on working with copywriting content from a transcreational perspective within TS made it necessary to develop the whole project outline from scratch. Every project stage (from text selection to project management, guidance, project documentation and other supportive elements) was carefully designed once enough information on the nature of transcreation projects was available.

3. The TeCreaTe project approach

In a relevant industry report (SDL 2010), transcreation is described as follows:

Marketing content needs to appeal to people’s senses, rather than their rational intellect, which is highly subjective. The transcreation approach is therefore a creative, subjective, emotive process, where parts of the messaging are translated, but other parts are adapted for the target market. (our emphasis)

Pedersen (2015: ii) explains transcreation in similar terms:

Transcreation can involve the creation of new text as well as the translation or adaptation of existing source text elements. Particularly the creation of new content can be argued to elicit the discussion of whether the scope of translation is wide enough to encompass the concept of transcreation. (our emphasis)

After liaising with industry sources and reviewing the available literature, it appears that transcreation can be distinguished from translation and localisation when analysed using the following two axioms:

  • Translation (and localisation) are based on a source text (ST).
  • Translation (and localisation) result in a single final target text (TT).
  • While translation and localisation products are always either more literal or more functional transformations of a given ST (Nord 1991), transcreation products can sometimes be derived from a ST, then intersecting with translation or localisation processes, but in many other cases the ST does not play a role in the rendering process. For instance, there might be clear specifications from the client not to follow an existing source content or there might not even be a ST. So, what does the translator-transcreator render when the ST is not a steady source of reference? The role of the ST is subordinated to or replaced by the creative brief (also called transcreation brief). A creative brief is a planning tool which includes an overview of the most important specifications by the client to be considered in the development of marketing and copywriting content. The creative brief explicitly describes what the client wants to achieve with the new copy. As the main marketing associations in the UK explain (ISBA et al. 2011), a creative brief typically covers: campaign background, marketing or sales objectives, brand identity and values, communicative objectives (expected call-to-action), target audience, corporate tone, key message or proposition, target context (where, how (media) and when is the new copy to be received), and so on.

    From a functionalist TS perspective, a creative brief can be considered a perfectly explicit skopos (Vermeer 2004; Calvo 2018). As quality is linked to effective communication in the target context, it comes as no surprise that both TS and the transcreation and marketing industries have embraced the functionalist notion of a brief, albeit involving different formats of the brief. Vendors and LSPs offer transcreation or creative brief forms to their clients to get as much information as possible on what kind of service is required. Conversely, whenever translation and localisation projects include explicit specifications or briefs, these are usually provided by the client to the vendor or final translator, in an attempt to clarify what translation quality the client aims at (Calvo 2018).

    Transcreation processes aim to match clients’ subjective expectations, which focus on persuasive communication functions. As Pedersen states (2015: 96), transcreation can theoretically be placed within the scope of functionalist theories of translation, as the concept relies heavily on the cornerstone of Skopos theory and the notion of brief-oriented translation.

    To better understand how creative briefs are used, a corpus of authentic briefs from professional transcreators and transcreation agencies was compiled within the TeCreaTe project. This material was then adapted and applied to the TeCreaTe project by composing a specific brief for the simulation.

    Additionally, translation and localisation processes result in a single deliverable text (TT). However, in transcreation processes, it is not uncommon for the client to require, accept or welcome the opportunity to choose from more than one option. Therefore, in transcreation contexts, a new approach to the core notions of ST and TT is needed according to this functional and conceptual transmutation.

    Creativity makes content unique, so string repetition and concordance do not play a significant role in most clear-cut transcreation projects. This explains why our industry partners reported using mainly MS Excel and Word to work with the material to be transcreated. Translation memories (TM) might not be essential because creative content is not so easily leveraged. However, transcreation content is not always presented in a pure form, and whenever transcreation, translation and/or localisation content is combined within one project, TM might become relevant again.

    Pure transcreation projects can include a validation stage based on back translation(Smartling n. d.: 3; Pedersen 2015: 51). Back translation is required mainly when clients do not speak the target language and wish to understand what the transcreators have suggested. Clients also frequently require an explanation or justification about each transcreated option and the inspiration or rationale behind every idea. Paradoxically, an extremely functional and creative process such as transcreation might finish being back translated, a literal strategy which relies heavily on the equivalence paradigm.

    As mentioned above, although pure transcreation projects do present distinct features in comparison to other better-known processes, it is often the case that projects including evidently ‘transcreatable’ elements are mixed-up or even merged with what is traditionally considered a typical localisation project.

    For example, if we consider online shops, corporate webpages, technical catalogues and user manuals as typical localisation genres, one frequently finds marketing and copywriting elements in this kind of material. Copywriting comprises creative writing for promotional purposes where many complex translation problems are to be found (e.g. cultural elements, humour, poetry, neologisms, puns and other evocative and emotional resources). The translator/localiser will be translating creatively at some point to such an extent that the process becomes transcreative (the weight of the ST is significantly reduced while the brief is upheld) without even realising it.

    Creative tasks in the translation of advertising materials draw transcreation fees closer to fees linked to marketing and publicity campaigns than to localisation or translation. While translation and localisation are usually billed per word and some planning can be carried out in terms of project productivity by the hour or day (Calvo 2015), inspiration or creativity follow their own course and are not easily timed. This is why transcreation processes, once duly identified, are invoiced by the hour (Smartling n. d; Linguasoft 2015) or, in any case, with fees per word which tend to be higher than those corresponding to localisation or translation.

    To summarise, there is no getting away from the fact that core translation skills lay beneath localisation or transcreation. Sometimes the lines between translation, localisation and transcreation are blurry. Large-scale internationalisation projects (Esselink 2000: 2) include a wide range of content types, from creative copy to technical writing, from legal elements (licences, guarantees) to publicity. Our first approach to transcreation from a critical and analytical perspective led us to identify significant differences between transcreation, translation and localisation, as shown in Table 1. It should be noted, however, that they are only apparent or valid when projects include a homogeneous and distinct type of content.

    Table 1. Key differences among distinct translation, localisation and transcreation processes.

    4. The TeCreaTe project

    The TeCreaTe Project is an innovative training project carried out by a team of five lecturers in Translation: Marián Morón (project coordinator, English edition), Elisa Calvo (English edition), Elena de la Cova (localisation advisor), Ana Medina (German edition) and Julia Lobato (French edition) at the UPO in Seville. The UPO is a Spanish state-owned institution, i.e. undergraduate groups of students are generally large. Three language-dependent versions of the project were developed within the same year: different text selection and tasks were designed for the main first languages taught at the 4-year BA in Translation at our institution, comprising of the following groups: 75 students with English as their first foreign language (divided into two class groups), 34 students with French, and 18 students with German.4

    In this paper, the focus will be on the English version of the project, with the aim to illustrate with contextual examples how it was designed and implemented.

    The project was integrated in the syllabus of our core 4th-year Professional Translation module, where students work from a foreign language into their mother tongue. Project timing was 8 weeks starting in week 3 of the first semester. Projects were designed under the premise of situated collaborative project training (Kiraly 2016, Calvo 2015), where every student played a different professional role (translator-transcreator; reviewer; project manager). Each role was described in detail in the project documentation so that all participants knew in advance what tasks were expected of them. A series of guidance materials were also created and preparatory sessions were carried out with the students, including a round table with transcreation professionals. Some of the tasks were individual and autonomous while others required cooperation and teamwork, outside of the module contact hours. The project was estimated to involve an average of three to four independent learning hours per week, a calculation which proved feasible and accurate by the end of the study. The students did not have to complete any further homework tasks for this module during the project life cycle.

    The TeCreaTe main objectives were as follows:

    • Developing transcreation projects which could be integrated into a core Professional Translation module. Project tasks included:
      • Transcreation where a given ST exists: Two different tasks were developed, 1) students receive non-translated content with a transcreation brief to produce transcreated deliverables; 2) students receive low-quality translated copy to review and improve the deliverable text according to the creative brief.
      • Copywriting based on a brief, no ST available: students write brand new content following the indications of a creative brief.
      • Students detect realia, culturally-bound variables or other translation problems in a ST, and then decide how to work with these: explicitly identifying non-translatable elements for the client, writing transcreation reports informing clients on nuances and risks of a given content when processed interculturally, researching functional equivalences of given realia and culturally or brand-bound elements in order to offer functionally equivalent examples to the client following the briefing, etc.
    • Organising panels with transcreation experts so that students and lecturers can learn directly from the experts (round table).
    • Integrating transcreation skills in translator training and informing students of employability and further training prospects vis-à-vis transcreation.
    • Designing and piloting brief-based assessment tools for transcreation processes.

    The language data network TAUS recently forecasted how the rapid changes in the industries had the potential to change the way translation and the role of translators are understood and the impact of this change on translation training (Van der Meer 2016: n.p.):

    The future does not need translators, at least not in the old way. […] By the time the lights in the old translation shop are switched off, what are the talents that we are looking for? We still need literary translators and ‘transcreators’ (don’t expect MT to take on poetry, literature, marketing slogans and copywriting successfully). The human skills that a highly automated localization environment depend on are related to quality evaluation, content profiling, cultural advisory, data analysis, computational linguistics, and yes on post-editing for the time being at least, but indeed less and less so on translating plain text. How universities train talents for the future of our industry is a topic that should appear high on our to-do list.

    As explained in a previous study (Calvo 2011), we are confronted here with different translation competence approaches where students could stereotypically become highly qualified professionals who fit in a specific translator profile (purely vocational model, with a high risk that qualifications become rapidly outdated), or empowered individuals (Kiraly 2000) whose skills are useful for society in different ways and can be applied and adapted to a variety of settings (beyond or even outside very specific translation industry profiles) (transferable skills-based model). In fact, we consider these not necessarily to be mutually exclusive options. Morón’s (2012b) findings show that translation graduates from different universities within the European context ended up working in various international language-related settings, where translation competence elements seem to open up different pathways in which communication, linguistic transfer and mediation play a key role. The author highlights that translation schools are thus training international intercultural experts to operate in different non-translation specific fields (Morón 2012a), something related to the idea of boundaryless careers (Morón 2017). In our experience, transcreation or creative translation approaches may have the potential to integrate specialisation, core skills and transferability at once (Nord 2005; Kearns 2008: 210), with a significant power to reinforce student employment opportunities in a variety of sectors while helping to understand complex intercultural processes.

    The TeCreaTe project responds to the following translator teaching and training approaches and theoretical principles:

    • Functionalist theories of translation (Vermeer 1996; in Nord 1991).
      • Skopos: the role of briefs and the orientation towards the target context, with a dynamising impact on the notion of equivalence (Pedersen 2015; Pedersen 2016).
      • Translational action (Holz-Mänttäri 1984), where the human factor takes a lead role in the intercultural communicative process and the target effect of the translation product is paramount.
    • Situational translator training (Vienne 1994, Gouadec 2002, Calvo 2015, Kiraly 2016) by reproducing or simulating real professional contexts where the creative brief is central, and by selecting potentially real materials to work with.
    • Socio-constructivist translator training (Kiraly 2000) where teamwork is key, with a role-play scenario in which every student will develop different tasks and skills in a coordinated manner.
    • Emergence Theory (Kiraly 2016), because transcreators are an emerging profile in the labour market and there are not many training initiatives to tackle this.
    4.1 Text selection and professional role plays within the TeCreaTe project

    The first stage of the project consisted in the selection of corpora appropriate to pose transcreation challenges to students, but also responding to real market needs by representing typical texts, business and products to be transcreated. Two fashion brands were selected, both competitors in the market and who follow different international communication policies: Topshop (from the UK) and Primark/Penneys (from Ireland). This was done so that trainees would be faced with different communication strategies when dealing with specific terminology and language, but also with different approaches to address challenging culture gaps in the internationalisation process:

    • Topshop: a consolidated brand in the fashion business, with a marked British identity. Topshop has its webpage and online site available for the Spanish market, though very little content is available in Spanish.
    • Primark (Penneys in the Irish market): a business group whose web site does not allow e-commerce; its webpage only consists of an online catalogue and a newsletter-type page informing on the launch and presentation of core products and collections. Contents are fully translated for the different markets.

    Primark, compared to Topshop, offers full content in Spanish, however some asymmetries were found in the Spanish version with regard to the originals in English (UK, Ireland), with some sections and/or segments left out of the Spanish version. In addition, the quality of the Spanish translated version was initially given a poor assessment by the project coordinators (in terms of readability, communicative efficiency, register, correctness, etc.).

    Furthermore, Primark is also known for its scarce investment (if any) in advertising, with this having a key effect on the content produced for both companies by students in the TeCreaTe project. While Topshop’s texts were far richer, evocative and more complex in terms of their translation, with no Spanish version to be compared to, Primark’s translated texts which were available had been produced in substandard, incorrect language for the target Spanish consumer. Translation errors in the Primark corpus included many calques and literal translations which could benefit from transcreative revision.

    Two different briefs were finally drafted as per type of project and company:

    • Revision-Transcreation (RevT): texts had a Spanish version already available. Here trainees were asked to perform an overall revision of texts, identifying elements to be transcreated and providing their transcreation alternative.
    • Translation-Transcreation (TrT): for texts only available in English to be transcreated following the designated skopos. Students were advised to first consider traditional translation techniques, but they were also encouraged to follow some less literal and more creative, manipulative and interventional strategies, including omissions, additions, modifications, domestication, etc. for the different elements (images, videos, cultural elements, text, etc.) to be transcreated. Students could do so if they considered it necessary to reproduce the same effect, sensations and feelings of the original on the target audience.

    Table 2. Projects outline: brand and word count.

    Despite the limited number of words, collaborative work was prioritised as we aimed at simulating transcreation tasks and group work seems to be the norm in creative industries. Moreover, simulated teamwork tasks situated them within a group with some guidelines regarding individual tasks and project management: from the initial meeting, role assignment —transcreator, reviewer, project manager—, task distribution and time and resource allocation, to project post-mortem meeting. Trainers also provided students with specific instructions for file naming, stating the group member’s identification on each deliverable.

    Basic tools were suggested for the implementation of the project (Excel, Word), but groups were free to incorporate different tools (PM tools, Photoshop, Prezi, etc.).

    4.2 The creative brief

    The reference TeCreaTe briefs for the projects reported in Table 2 are described in Table 3. Students were also provided with further supporting documentation on the specific projects and on transcreation processes.

    Table 3. TeCreaTe briefs.

    5. Transcreation challenges in the TeCreaTe projects

    To illustrate the main challenges and problems arising from the TeCreaTe corpus, the following examples are selected from the TopShop sub corpus which help reflect what issues the students encountered and how these were solved.

    5.1 Slogans and hashtags: TopShop’s Lady Garden campaign (Project 1)

    Slogans are rich, succinct messages expressing the core ideas and values of a company or organisation, product, or brand. Slogans are considered effective if they are convincing and influential, synthesise the advantages or values of the product or service, represent the brand, convey the right message to the customers, arouse emotions and sensations, evoke feelings, etc. In a nutshell, slogans are a real challenge for translators or transcreators as they can have a major impact on the global success of a brand or campaign. Clients are frequently more willing and conscious of bearing the cost of this type of creative work, both in the source and in the target culture.

    For the purpose of the TeCreaTe project, a challenging campaign by TopShop was selected: The Lady Garden campaign (on line), as presented on the TopShop corporate blog, is a campaign to raise awareness about gynaecological cancer, in which TopShop cooperates by launching a limited-edition sweater created by a famous designer and promoted by celebrities. Part of the sweater proceeds are donated to the British Gynaecological Cancer Fund. The campaign comprises different features including the Twitter hashtag #LadyGardenCampaign (also subject to other Twitter-style conventions) and the slogan itself which is also printed on the sweaters. Lady garden is a slang euphemism to refer to the female pubic and vaginal area. The message behind this slogan aims to make women less embarrassed when talking about their bodies and their gynaecological health with their family and friends. It also serves to address the fact that a third of women aged 16-35 are too embarrassed to go to the doctor to discuss their gynaecological concerns (Ladygardencampaign online).

    As stated on the project documentation, the client required an adaptation into Spanish of the slogan which could also work as a hashtag and fit the design of the sweaters. Students were also asked to identify realia and culturally-bound elements within the Lady Garden Campaign and write short transcreation reports to inform the client about the main issues and possibilities surrounding the launch of this campaign in Spain.

    As regards translation solutions, different strategies were used by the 14 translation teams:

    • ST-centred decisions which maintained the reference to ‘garden’or other related images such as flowers, specific types of flower or plants, etc.
    • Brief-centred and more creative decisions aimed at reproducing the same effect in the audience while not reproducing the specific semantic elements of the original slogan.

    The Spanish language has its own slang to refer to female genital organs, however, most of these nicknames are inappropriate, negative or vulgar. Some possibly effective wordplays with the word flor (flower) were considered when trying to keep a semantic connection with the original. There were also some interesting wordplays with the word jardín (garden). Even though jardín is not commonly used in this sense in Spanish, some of the ST-based slogans had the power to evoke the same idea by including supplementary references linked with female values or references in art, history or mythology, e.g. jardín de Venus (garden of Venus), also denoting the Spanish anatomical reference to Monte de Venus (mons pubis); jardín de Eva (Eve’s garden); jardín del Edén (garden of Eden); or jardín de las delicias (garden of delights), evoking the famous painting by Bosch Garden of Delights.

    Brief-centred solutions offered a wide range of possibilities aimed at raising awareness of the need to talk about these issues. For example, the slogan Llámalo X (literally, Call it X) chooses a Spanish idiom which could work well in this context, as the label X is also frequently used to refer to erotic or audio-visual products with a sexual content. One of the main issues here was the need to avoid slogans which already existed for different products or brands.

    Students were asked to justify their transcreated slogans and hashtags in a presentation given in class just as they would do if they had to convince an end client about the efficiency and functionality of their creative solutions. Their transcreations were assessed by tutors vis-à-vis the brief (call-to-action, character limit, intentional message) and the background research and creative work done behind each slogan.

    5.2 Identifying further locale and realia

    Trainees were asked to identify those variables which would need some degree of adaptation or localisation into the target market. A DNT (‘do not translate’) report was to be produced as illustrated in Table 4.

    Table 4. DNT report.

    Students were simply asked to identify the locale, and mark it with a given non-alphabetical character in the TT, for possible subsequent localisation stages which frequently involve liaising with the end client to incorporate their preferences.

    In other cases, students had to provide short transcreation reports suggesting alternative Spanish realia or locale for original references (e.g. UK’s leading celebrities and proper names and/or key cultural references), and also for visual elements in the campaign which could require adaptation to the target audience.

    5.3 Setting the boundaries from translation to localisation to new copy

    One of the most challenging tasks in the TeCreaTe project was setting the boundaries of transcreation as compared to (a) localisation and (b) a new creation of the ST. Some student groups found it difficult to restrain themselves from being far too creative, neglecting the brief. For example, they easily detected locale but instead of communicating with the ‘clients’ (the trainers, as they were expected), they opted for full adaptation strategies at their own risk. This perverted the nature and spirit of the projects as there was no guarantee that their choices would match those of the end client (prices, choice of celebrities, etc.). Some examples which were expected to be part of the final transcreation reports and not replacements in the final TT are:

    • Designed by Simeon Farrar: Diseñado por David Delfín [a famous Spanish designer, who was a cancer awareness activist and fought cancer himself; Delfín died some months after the project was concluded]
    • Cara Delvigne talks about her Lady Garden: Blanca Suárez habla de su jardín… [a famous Spanish young actress, cooperating in different charity campaigns]

    While in principle the suggestion of these celebrities could match the client’s intention and could be included on reports, transcreators are not expected to make these important final decisions directly on the TT, because such choices entail substantial financial implications for the client. For this reason, this was considered a transcreation error.

    5.4 Client’s identity, commercial image and branding

    Even after receiving preparatory training, students still found it difficult to understand the creativity constraints under the transcreation brief, i.e. transcreating is not a completely free creative process. Some students did not fully grasp that transcreation had to respond to the corporate identity of the client, its brand, and the spirit and nature of the collection as it was originally created. Transcreators are meant to facilitate the understanding of these elements by making suitable adjustments.

    The kind of adaptation required to make Spanish consumers understand purely British references often involved the implementation of explicitation, explanation and sometimes neutralisation or omission strategies rather than domesticating decisions through substitution strategies. Replacing British evocations with correlated Spanish ones would disregard the typically British rationale which was central to the Topshop collection and the brand (see tables 5 and 6 below).


    Table 5. Examples from the TeCreaTe corpus (Project 1 and 2): Images

    Table 6. Students’ examples from the TeCreaTe corpus (Project 1 and 2) and tutors’ comments (1)

    5.5 Terminology and marketing style

    Fashion industry terminology did not seem to pose great difficulty to the students. Mention should be made to the fact that no restriction was set in this regard, allowing students, for example, to opt for established loanwords (anglicisms) in the Spanish fashion language (leggings, blazer, etc.). However, longer clusters were used in the originals, combining technical fashion terms with cultural references, and these became transcreation problems.

    Table 7. Examples from the TeCreaTe corpus (Project 1 and 2) (2)

    6. Assessing creativity

    Within the TeCreaTe project, trainers (acting as potential clients in the simulation) assessed quality in terms of the given brief specifications and the spirit of the brand and campaign, while focusing on the overall uniformity of the transcreative decisions. The assessment process also considered whether marketing and trading policies could be compromised, for example, by transcreative decisions where mention was made to (or was easily related to) other companies, registered trademarks, brands, slogans or products.

    Quality assessment of transcreation products has emerged as an interesting topic yet to be addressed in further research. Quality translations serve the skopos, whether implicit or explicit (brief), in the same way transcreations respond to a commercial brief of which the final purpose is convincing, persuading or moving the potential customer to buy something.

    An online student satisfaction survey (anonymous and confidential) was carried out once the project was concluded, to gain an objective insight into student learning experience and to see whether participant students had adapted well to the general design, resources and goals of the project. A total of 63 out of 75 students in the English edition completed the questionnaire. Final survey results are very positive in general, with over 90% of the students stating that they found this learning experience positive, enriching and inspiring, while 72% declared that they encountered no significant difficulties to adapt to the given project management processes or the marketing challenges posed by the texts.

    Additionally, a follow-up TeCreaTe project is currently underway, where marketers and fashion experts are involved in the assessment stage, allowing students to grasp quality not only from a linguistic, communicative or translation point of view, but also from a marketing and commercial one.

    7. Conclusions and further discussion

    The TeCreaTe Project tries to find a balance between vocational and transferable skills in order to respond to social requirements vis-à-vis new specific and emergent skillsets (Kiraly 2016), such as the services related to transcreation and international copywriting.

    Overall, transcreation calls for innovative assessment standards where the notions ofequivalence, source text and target text, can differ regarding other well-known and better studied translation-related processes. The brief, in functionalist terms, is what defines what options are more or less efficient for a given context. Therefore, explicit briefing specifications are actually required to set out valid assessment parameters and objectivise a process that would otherwise be exclusively based on subjective criteria and feeling. The question of quality in transcreated products is yet to be analysed given the commercial and trading motives linked to this service.

    Intercultural communication skills for the language services industry requires aware professionals who can bridge the gap between differences and adapt information and values in the best and most functionally efficient way. Internationalisation contexts call for interdisciplinary approaches and constant renewal of knowhow to keep pace with the latest developments and needs. The integration of transcreation skills in our context has proven to have a positive impact on our translator training module, with an increase in motivation and engagement on the part of the students.

    A number of both transferable and specific skills have been activated to different extents within this project:

    • translating culturally-bound texts
    • localising web content
    • proofreading and reviewing
    • creative writing
    • technical writing
    • identifying locale and realia
    • researching cultural and terminological references
    • adapting to brief-based quality
    • becoming more culturally aware
    • understanding the relationship and communication between the language services professional and the end client
    • working within a project management scheme
    • communicating professionally on digital formats
    • presenting and defending a project before a client
    • teamwork
    • autonomous working
    • identifying the rationale behind and justifying own decisions
    • getting to know new market profiles and their employability potential
    • getting to know the skillsets required for marketing-related profiles and postgraduate professional development options.

    In our experience, the integration of transcreation skills in a translator training context may help broaden the basic translator skillset towards new specialisations while deepening the understanding of intercultural processes, translation and adaptation strategies.

    The authors would like to thank the following institutions and individuals for their direct or indirect contribution to this project: The Erasmus Plus OTCT Project (Université Rennes II); Vice-Presidency for Faculty Staff and Educational Innovation (UPO), Partner companies INNN and Tatutrad; participating freelance translator-transcreator alumni and our keen 4th-year Translation students.

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    Marián Morón is a Translation Graduate and holds a PhD from the University of Granada, Spain. She has professional experience in translation and translation-related professions, including international trade and businesses. In 2006, she started working as a Translation Lecturer at the University Pablo de Olavide in Seville and her fields of research are related to specialised translation, translators’ and interpreters’ employability, intercultural training and processes, and translator training in general.

    Elisa Calvo studied Translation and Interpreting in Granada (Spain) where she also earned her PhD (2009). She has worked as a professional translator for over ten years. Today, Elisa works as a translator and interpreting trainer at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville. Her fields of interest are: intercultural communication processes, translation teaching and learning, field-specific translation and liaison interpreting.


    Note 1:
    The TeCreaTe Project was partially funded by the Vice-Presidency for Faculty Staff and Educational Innovation at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville (Spain).
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    Note 2:
    Such as,, (previously at, or Textappeal (
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    Note 3:
    The OTCT (Optimising Translator Training through Collaborative Technical Translation) Project was coordinated by Université Rennes II. During academic years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, the UPO was a partner member.
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    Note 4:
    A second edition is currently underway (2017-2018).
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