Translation vs Localization: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve been using translation and localization interchangeably, you’re missing out a crucial distinction.

While translation is relatively straightforward—typically defined as a word-for-word conversion of text from one language into another—localization is far more nuanced.

You can’t have localization without translation: the process encompasses the conversion of text into a new language. But unlike translating, localizing also demands an attention to cultural considerations, as well as your content’s tone and style. Rather than simply converting the exact text, you’re refining your message to cater to your target market.

With localization, you’re also ensuring your translated text has the same look and feel as its original form. Your website’s design and layout, for example, may need to be adjusted to properly display copy that differs in length when translated. Similarly, graphics must be altered to serve different target markets, and a conversion of all currencies, date formats, and units of measurement must be carefully executed.

Understanding the distinction between these two processes is crucial for any company wishing to maximize their global reach. There are many scenarios in which a simple word-for-word translation won’t cut it: content that has not been properly adapted for a given audience is unlikely to resonate—and may be poorly received.

Marketing content is a prime example of text requiring proper localization. Your marketing team spent hours brainstorming a slogan that is concise, catchy, and accurately captures the essence of your brand. Translated into another language, this slogan might be wordy, tough to pronounce, or even unintelligible.

In this scenario, localizing your slogan—rather than translating it—will involve recreating the slogan in a manner that embodies its original meaning, while ensuring it has equal appeal in its new language. This new slogan may in turn require a layout redesign, and different graphics that better appeal to the target market.

Gaming is another industry in which localization is key. Gamers across the globe deserve a version of their game that accurately represents the game’s intended themes. An attention to nuances beyond the text—cultural references, colors, graphics, etc.—is necessary to deliver an experience that is equally enjoyable across borders.

Translating your content is a great first step toward building your global brand. But true global powerhouses must adapt a comprehensive localization strategy to ensure their businesses are best-suited for a worldwide audience.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for more details about localization processes, or for any other help with your translation needs.