Automating Transcreation

From the first day of my career in the language industry, I worked with the latest technologies. I never imagined working without automating standard processes until I dove into the field of marketing translation — or rather, into creative adaptation, or transcreation.


The most creative and highly paid type of commercial translation turned out to be the least optimizable. While there were already at least a dozen CAT tools, terminology management systems, and machine translation engines on the market, transcreation projects were still managed in spreadsheets and text documents.



At the same time, for the translators themselves, the inconvenience was minimal: they had to fill in columns with three options for the translation of a slogan, give a back translation in the next column, and give a rational in the last. It was much more difficult for project managers to handle such projects (compared to conventional ones). If a slogan adaptation or a commercial voiceover text had to be performed in a dozen languages, managing multiple files, file versions, and editions was a real challenge.



In 2019, at the UTICamp conference, the topic of upgrading the transcreation process was tackled at a panel discussion with three translators and a representative of Trados, a company that develops a CAT system. We talked about what could be automated in creative translation and what benefit a separate module would bring. This conversation was not without results: after a year and a half, Trados presented the first tool on the market for transcreation projects, with support for integration into translation management systems (TMSs).


Just a couple of months later, another major player, Smartling, announced its solution in this area. It seems we should soon expect that other TMS and CAT tools will want to implement similar modules.


Although I am not currently doing commercial creative translation regularly, I got interested in comparing the Trados and Smartling tools.


Transcreation Solution from Trados


Since I have not had a Windows-based computer or a fresh Trados license for a long time, I could only get acquainted with their solution thanks to the presentation Paul Filkin recorded. The presentation is detailed and allows you to evaluate the capabilities of the module. If you’re interested in the details, you can watch it for free after registering on the Trados website.



Like everything else with Trados, the transcreation solution turned out to be substantial and cumbersome. First, the original content needs to be added to a specially formatted table. And this format doesn’t necessarily coincide with what you receive from the client or will send back to them. This additional step is required for Trados to understand how to import the data. After you’ve formatted your content, Trados will convert your regular project into a transcreation project. As a result, the system clones the original phrases into a given number of versions for work. In general, we see a familiar CAT tool interface where we can connect a translation memory and a termbase. It’s also possible to add comments to each segment. However, there’s no separate block for reverse translation at this stage. To add it, you first need to finish working on the options and then perform a few more manipulations with the project.


Advantages of the Trados solution:

  • Translation memory and a termbase facilitate the work, allowing you to add terms and trade names preapproved by the client.

  • You can organize a project by languages and stages. When you work on a multilingual project, you can easily find a back translation for Spanish if needed, for example if you need to revert to it .


Disadvantages of the Trados solution:

  • You need to make an incredible number of manipulations with files, settings, projects, imports, and exports. This makes using the tool irrational if you only need to adapt one or a couple of slogans into one language.

  • It’s not possible to save only the final version in the translation memory (TM) to keep it clean.

  • There’s no integrated machine translation for back translation.


If your company already has a Trados license and Trados is your primary tool for managing translation projects, then if you need to carry out a large transcreation project, it makes sense to use this solution. If you’re looking for a new tool for your transcreation needs, I would still wait. The Trados transcreation solution has potential, so we can hope that Trados will have the resources to develop it further.


Transcreation Solution from Smartling


Smartling has also created its own original transcreation solution. I had the opportunity to test it, so I can judge this one not only based on a presentation.