What is the Difference Between Translation and Localization?

Many marketers assume that the terms website translation and website localization mean the same thing. It’s even quite common for those engaged in international business to be unaware of the differences, or even have an understanding that there are any. While translation and localization share some similarities, learning how they differ can assist you in globalizing your brand more profitably. To fully understand the difference Between Translation and Localization, let’s begin with the basic definitions of the two terms.

  • Website Translation: The process of changing the source (original) language version of web content into another (target) language by simply changing (in context) the words in the source language to words in the target language.

  • Website Localization: The process of adapting your web content for a different country, region, or locality. It goes a giant step beyond a simple translation by appealing to the targeted customers’ cultural preferences in their own language.

Website translation can be regarded as a utility for bridging the language barrier. Website localization will enable you to refine your message to meet the language and cultural expectations of your regional audience.

The Problem with Website Translation

When translating from one language to another, problems relating to intent and clarity can arise if the translation is allowed to remain in a primitive, word-to-word state. This often happens with machine translations that have not been subjected to professional editing. However, even if a qualified linguist translates content, it may still be lacking in the cultural awareness that is necessary to effectively resonate within a specific locale.

Meeting Cultural Expectations

To successfully compete in today’s international economy, companies must localize their on-line content to connect culturally with their international audiences. Consumer expectations may vary by industry and region, but they can typically be divided between two categories: functional and cultural. Here are some examples.

Functional Content

  • Language, including product descriptions and reviews.
  • Date and time formats, contact information, telephone numbers.
  • Measurements, weights, geographical references.

Cultural Content

  • Shapes, sizes, styles, colors.
  • Graphics, images, icons.
  • Societal considerations – etiquette, humor, myths, rituals, symbols.
  • Societal values –beliefs, relationships, power.

Taking a Local Idea Global

Localization means adapting your web content to cater to national or regional market preferences. However, localization can be taken one step further by recreating (or transcreating) your marketing campaign messaging to maximize cultural appeal and/or avoid potentially offending or embarrassing your audience.

An Example of Transcreation

One example of transcreation is the Share a Coke campaign conducted by Coca-Cola. This campaign was launched in 2011 in Australia and featured the simple but brilliant idea of putting 150 of Australia’s most popular first names on the front of Coca-Cola bottles. This marketing effort was so successful that the campaign was promoted in other countries around the world. However, it became necessary to modify this labeling of names in some countries, e.g., China.

  • In China, it was more acceptable to the Chinese to use nicknames such as Classmate or Close Friend. This approach maintained the friendly nature of the campaign but avoided breaching an important cultural boundary by respecting the formal significance of first names to Chinese people.

Streamline Your Online Translation and Localization with Localize

Localize can help you plan a focused website translation and localization strategy. We have experienced LSP partners to help you successfully execute your marketing campaign. Plus, our platform enables you to seamlessly integrate your own expert translators. With Localize you can be sure of quality translated and localized content for all of your global markets. If you are ready for the world, contact us today.