In the translation industry, we tend to undervalue the creative aspects of the translation process. We rather focus on objective quality standards and evaluation methods to obtain measurable results about the translation output. We prefer to link translation quality to quantifiable and assessable variables. Our different QA steps are designed to guarantee accuracy, completeness and linguistic correction of the target text. This objective and scientific approach to translation prevails, and these are also the values that we present to clients when we describe the benefits of our professional translation services. Creativity is not a good companion of objective quality, neither a popular sales argument in the translation industry.
However, creativity is a very important skill that operates throughout the whole translation process. First, translators need to be extremely perceptive when they read and understand the source text. This initial interpretation work requires high levels of creative alertness to explore possible multiple meanings and grasp all the nuances and connotations conveyed in a text. Creativity will also play a crucial role in the second part of the translation process, when this complex meaning and content network is transferred to the target language and culture. A successful projection of the richness of meanings and evocations of the original text will be partly determined by the writing abilities of the translator. It is obvious that a technical user manual will not contain metaphors, second meanings, connotations or evocations and will thus not require as much creative talent in the interpretative as well as representative work involved in translation.
However, a clear insight of the source and an intelligent representation of the target message are crucial to reach the audience through certain document types or messages related to advertising or marketing. This is why many argue that another step beyond translation is sometimes required for certain texts to accomplish complex communication goals. Transcreation is the term used to define this extra creative effort to adapt a message to the target culture. Yet, any translation process and any translation work that aims at excellence should include transcreation, as well as the creative value it entails. As Walter Benjamin states in his essay ‘The task of the translator’: ‘to some degree all (great) texts contain their potential translation between the lines’. We could add that to discover this ‘potential translation’ and reveal it can be actually considered an art. Moreover, the quality and greatness of a translation work can depend on the artistic and creative talent of a translator or team of translators. The fact that the industry prefers to look in another direction will not change that.