What I learned from the NYU Transcreation course

I have been interested in transcreation and creative translation for a long time, have been taking small-scale informational courses and attending presentations on the topic. However, although these were a good way to learn more about the field, passive learning, even from excellent informational materials, seemed insufficient.

That is why I was very excited to find out about a new NYU Transcreation course taught by a fellow ATA member Angela Benoit.

The course is designed to be language-neutral, and, surprisingly, I did not find this to be as much of a disadvantage as I expected.

NYU Transcreation course

  • Process

  • Practice

  • Guidance

I also got a shiny virtual badge!

I also got a shiny virtual badge!


Image by Rob Bye via Unsplash

Image by Rob Bye via Unsplash

The course presents information step by step, from a discussion on what makes transcreation a success or a faliure to a sample workflow of a transcreation project from start to finish.

Starting the course, I thought that the most important aspect of transcreation is being able to apply the best practices of creative writing. Turned out that for me, at least, the key to producing creative options was in research. For the final project I spent about half of the time really drilling down to the motives behind the Russian-language copy and the intended impact on the reader. By the time I started working on the transcreation options, I already had a fairly good idea of how to approach them.

I’m still interested in discovering more structured ways to approach the creative process itself, but rediscovering the importance of research was an extremely valuable takeaway.


Image by Fabien Barral via Unsplash

Image by Fabien Barral via Unsplash

This was my favorite part of the class – each lesson came with a specific assignment that helped learn the key transcreation concepts and principles by doing (and failing). I loved the way the assignments touched on all aspects of the process, so that when I was time to work on the final project, you could use the detailed feedback on what went wrong in the previous assignments to avoid making the same mistakes.

But what about feedback on transcreation options? Yes, it would have been wonderful to get feedback on them as well, but taking a language-neutral course was a great practice of making communications with a client who does not speak the target language even more effective: we had to be very clear on the pros and cons of our transcreation options, anticipate possible issues with the copy and proactively ask for clarification(s).


Image by Garrett Sears via Unsplash

Image by Garrett Sears via Unsplash

Throughout the course Angela remained an encouraging teacher who was very generous with her time and advice.

As the course was running for the first time, there were some technical glitches, but they did not interfere with the learning too much, and did not become a source of frustration.

For some of the course participants the learning material was a bit more of a challenge, so if you have not been taking any marketing-related CPD and are not familiar with basic marketing concepts, this will be the time when you’ll have to cram in all of that information.

Added bonus: looking at Russian-language copy with fresh eyes

An unexpected benefit of taking the course was discovering all kinds of strange and sometimes baffling copy samples in Russian, from localized websites of foreign brands to bizarre motivations and claims in “native” copy ("magical moments" in Krispy Kreme? I am missing out!). My favorite is the multi-faceted approach described below:

Everyone loves burger(faces)

Image by Ellie O, via Unsplash

Image by Ellie O, via Unsplash

TGIF franchise has been in Russia for some time, but I never paid much attention to the copy on its website, until recently. Turns out, the website is tasked with a difficult task of attracting three target groups at once: children, office workers and young people.

Watching the copywriter trying to reconcile all the different benefits and styles (including latest memes) within the website is quite an education in itself. My favorite claim is that ordering a delivery of burgers for your kid is a good idea, because all kids love burgers. I think that's quite a stretch even for a more cosmopolitan Moscow market.


Ekaterina Howard is a bilingual copywriter, the current Administrator of the ATA’s Slavic Languages Division, and a Copy School Graduate. She believes that both freelance translators and interpreters and T&I companies can do better than “great quality at a reasonable price” and blogs about the ways in which they can make their copy more relevant and more persuasive.

To find out more about her localization services, go to YourCopyinRussian.com