By Christophe Fricker, Managing Partner
Sometimes it’s easier to tell others what to do than to follow your own advice. But then again, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to achieve the things that you put within the reach of others. We’ve enjoyed this process in recent weeks as we set up operations in the UK. Having assisted numerous clients in expanding their global business, we found ourselves having to do for ourselves what we usually do for others: go through the transcreation of texts and other company materials.
Transcreation means creating texts and strategies in another language when they already exist in one. Our clients benefit from this service when expanding into new markets: they are able to retain the best of their campaigns and communications portfolios while making the necessary adaptations to best address local needs.
Nimirum.uk has now been launched as the gateway for our British clients. Let me share a few impressions of our transcreation process with you. They highlight a range of aspects around the question of a ‘good translation.’
Are Germans Constantly Making Assumptions?
Here’s a phrase that is typical of how we might present our services in German:
„Sie wollen wissen, wie sich Trends und Debatten national und international entwickeln.“
It’s a statement, which could be crudely translated to mean:
‘You want to know how trends and debates are developing, both nationally and internationally.’
What we’re doing is to define the situation that our clients find themselves in, in order to signal that we understand their needs and are able to design research projects suited to a particular challenge.
English readers would be baffled by the rough translation offered above: Why are they telling me what I need? What do they know that I don’t know? Why are they speaking in my name, making assumptions about what I need?
Our English pages sound to English ears the way our German texts sound to Germans, and in order to achieve this form of equivalence, we had to adjust the syntax: ‘You take pride in operating in a fast-moving business, but you need to make sure you continue to be aware of trends and controversies that affect your position in the marketplace.’
English Sentences are Longer than German ones!
„NIMIRUM recherchiert für Sie und bietet Ihnen Expertise zu aktuellen Trends und Debatten. Unsere Experten erarbeiten wissenschaftlich fundierte Themendossiers vor dem Hintergrund von Trends in Ihrer Branche und Ihren Märkten.“
That’s how we describe our trend research services on our German website. Two adjustments are needed in order to make this text work in English: first, unlike German, English needs to employ its future tense when talking about the future. „Morgen fahre ich nach München“ – ‘I’ll drive down to Munich tomorrow‘ (rather than: I drive to Munich tomorrow). Similarly, we need to say that we ‘can provide answers to your questions on national and international developments,’ rather than claiming that ‘NIMIRUM does research for you’ or, worse still, ‘is doing research for you.’ Wouldn’t this sound quite creepy?
Now, let’s have a look at the whole passage in English:
‘NIMIRUM can provide answers to your questions on national and international developments in the form of a concise overview or a detailed analysis.’
You’ll notice of course that this is just one sentence – and it’s longer than either one of the two in the German source text. Granted, German sentences can sometimes be very long too, but German is able to present you with a whole sequence of main clauses without sounding abrupt or aggressive – the reason being that German syntax is more flexible, and each one of the sentences can have a different structure. English, on the other hand, is bound to a rather rigid pattern, so it needs to introduce syntactical variation: „Ich fahre nach München, München ist schön“ – ‘I’ll drive down to Munich, which is such a great city!’
Transcreation: One Step Back and Two Steps Forward!
So I guess what we’ve learned is that transcreation is a three-step process: one backwards, to allow you to remind yourself what you want to say, followed by two – confident – steps forward, into a new market.
We’re excited to be in the UK, and I am personally looking forward to hearing from you – do get in touch if we can assist you through research and transcreation projects!