21 June 2018

A mandate to transcreate

I transcreate a regular technical journalism publication from French into English. The declared aim of this publication is to promote specific France-based industries. The source articles give people who read French access to in-depth news and analysis on companies, projects, products and services in the target sectors. For the English version, the editorial team selects articles of potential interest to a wider technical audience throughout Europe.

It is my job to translate while adapting the English-language content to suit the new target audience and emphasizing the positive, particularly with regard to French successes in tailoring products and services to client needs.

Where I feel a passage is likely to be of little or no interest to the target readership, I shorten or delete it. In the email accompanying my draft I explain my editorial decisions. To my mind, this is where transcreation differs from 'translation' in the normal sense.

Recently, I transcreated an article based on an interview with the CEO of an advanced technology company. The interviewee discussed recent news and the state of progress of his company's main technology among other issues of interest.

At one point, the interviewee explained why he thought the French government should subsidise his company's technology until it became cost-competitive with other technologies in the same general area.

I suggested to my client that this passage would probably have a distinctly negative impact on a large proportion of the target readership of the English version. Indeed, I felt that the passage was at odds with the declared aim of my client's publication. Because the passage was relatively long, I translated it, but suggested to the client that we delete it. After reviewing my version of the article, my client agreed with my line of argument and the passage was duly deleted.

While this is an extreme case, I think it illustrates how useful transcreation can be to a client and how much success hinges on close collaboration between transcreator and client.

Full circle

After completing a BSc in physics and maths in Australia and extended travels in Africa I found a job in Paris that left me with considerab...