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Concept of the month December 2015: TRANSCREATION

For the second time in my eleven years as a translator, I am taking part in a contest. On the previous occasion, it was organised by ProZ.com and all its members were allowed to vote. My Dutch translation of remarkable statements by an American sports legend earned me a gratifying third place. This time around, the contest is run by a national daily newspaper and has me translating a Spanish pop song and an English poem. That means I am participating twice. Just like the first time, this calls for a way of translating that is nowadays referred to as transcreation.

The concept of transcreation means translating creatively. This implies a distinction where there is none, as translating is impossible without creativity in the first place. Every translated word or sentence requires a search for something that sounds or feels similar. It is the art of finding ways to accommodate/make concessions to (which do you think is better here?) the truth of the source text. Provided you have fathomed it. It is always subjective.

Transcreation rubs against the concept of ‘free translation’. Free translation is often put on a par with bad translation, for the free flout the rules. But this can lead to beauty. Then, suddenly, free translation is called transcreation. Meanwhile, every translation is both a transcreation and free, because you have to write something new, to create something. And although there are rules in language, these cease to apply when switching to another language. This is because no language has evolved identically to another. This cannot be explained. Historical linguistics teaches us that only the how can be discovered, never the why.

Whenever I am tasked with providing a transcreation, I take this as recognition of my skills. This is because it enables me to take more time to think about my translation choices. I get to taste, weigh, feel, look, pick, mix, and mould longer. Until I get it just right. According to me. Or not. It can always be done better and differently. I wish all my colleagues a wonderful 2016, full of joyful transcreation.

Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
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Pepijn de Boer MA

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