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June 9th


The difference between localization and translation is subtle, and while many will happily use the terms interchangeably, there are some important distinctions. Recognising what sets them apart can not only benefit your knowledge and understanding of your business’ global industry but can also help your business to grow in both efficiency and profitability. Although the purpose of the two processes is the same in relation to bridging the gap in communication in the absence of a common language, the results from a translation and localization project can be quite different.


On a basic level, translation is the process of taking a source language and converting it into a target language. Online machine translation tools such as Google Translate often translate word-for-word and do not take into account the whole meaning behind the sentence or the overall context of the material in question. Professional human translators therefore include a certain element of localization during the translation process. For example, when translating a website from English into Spanish, a translator will need to consider phrases that do not exist in the target language and replace it with the best alternative without sacrificing the overall meaning. This means that when only translating, the content will still be concurrent to the messaging of the brand.


Localization on the other hand is the process of both translating and adapting the content, product or service from one language to another. The adaptation part is central to localization with it not only involving translating the content but also changing the brands so that they are relevant to the target market. To this extent, the need for localization services exists within the same language for example, taking into account colloquial differences that exist between British English and US English or, the linguistic differences between Spanish from Spain and Argentine Spanish. Localization allows a business to take a local idea and make it global, where the content is not only adapted to the target market but is changed to maximise its cultural appeal and avoid potentially fateful errors in its communication which could in turn ruin the brand image.


As translation can be simply defined as a utility for bridging language barriers with the cultural adaptation limited to the text itself; localization goes one step further, refining the content to align it with the cultural and language requirements of the target global or local market. The process of localization not only deals with modifying the content to become relevant to the market but also takes into account other elements of the content and brand as a whole such as the colours used on the website, the font styles and the design and functionality of the website. Localization implemented properly is extremely important as it protects the brand name of the business, enhances its global image and ultimately strengthens the relationship between the business and prospective consumers as well as understanding more about the target market. Despite there being some slight differences between the processes of translation and localization, it is important to remember that they function in a complimentary manner, and somewhat rely on one another to produce the best and most accurate results.

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