The Appeals and Advantages of Creative Translation

What is Creative Translation?

April 6, 2015

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Creative translation

Translation is the art of rendering language A into language B. Translators may also be called upon to be creative with their translation skills.

The word creative means to have the skill and imagination to produce something new. Creative translation can make translators rack their brains to find just the right words. Let's take a look at the need for creative translation and its effectiveness.

What is Creative Translation?

Translation generally refers to transferring the words and phrases of the source text into another language while being careful to retain the meaning and content as much as possible. Creative translation is not merely substituting words in language A for words in language B. Creative translation requires a flexible approach that suits the target audience.

For example, creative translation includes advertisements with attention-grabbing taglines for products or marketing material. Translation that catches only the literal meaning will not convey the message appropriately and might not even make sense. Creative translation will make the content have the same effectiveness and convey the same impression as the original source text.

The Difficulty of Creative Translation

Capable translators may not be good at creative translation. As well as the linguistic skills usually required of a translator, creative translation requires the ability to understand and to be able to express oneself well, while a sense for language is vital.

For example, let us think about translating an advertising document about a new product XYZ from English to Japanese. First, gaining an accurate understanding of the distinguishing features and the selling points of XYZ is important. What is also needed is the ability to write attention-grabbing copy. Unless the translator has the ability to come up with some good copy without even using the source text, they will most likely find it difficult to produce a creative translation. Flexibility in thought processes and an ability to produce translations that reflect not only the content of the source text but also its tone; this is the kind of versatility required of the translator.

The Advantages of Creative Translation

Creative translation is effective in cases where a product's copy wording is already established in Japan and the client wishes to extend it to outside of Japan. Ordinarily in translation, close attention is paid to accurately reproducing the source text in the target language, and avoiding mistranslations and omissions. On the other hand, in creative translation, higher priority is placed on conveying the information effectively and using innovative expressions and wording, for each target language. Who is the target audience? What is it you want to tell them? These two points are accorded higher priority in creative translation.

Tougher Than Normal Translation and Nearly as Difficult as Writing

No matter how much focus is placed on creative translation, the source text cannot be ignored. Attention must be given to the gist of the source text and the tone. Simply writing anew would facilitate more creativity, free from any of the limitations that go with translation.

Creative translation - different from traditional translation and the kind of writing where the writer can start from scratch - requires mastery of extremely difficult techniques.

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