Although at first glance both processes might look the same or closely similar and their names are often used interchangeably, translation and localization have quite a few differences and are completely separate services. What are those differences and why should you even bother with translating your content? That’s what we’ll discuss below.

Why translating your content?

The answer is rather simple – vast majority of consumers prefer products and services presented in their own native language, especially if their understanding of the source content language is limited. This means that sticking to just one language, even one as popular as English, can greatly limit your audience and be a major obstacle in going global with your business, especially if you operate in a heavily regulated or jargon-rich industry. Language and cultural barriers can and will cut you off from new, previously untapped markets, leaving you far behind your competition. Therefore, investing effort, time and money in localization and translation services will be a great boon for your business and is a must in the modern dynamic global market, allowing your product or service to reach a larger audience. The best thing about this is that you don’t have to choose a very common language – finding a more niche one might give you an edge or even monopoly for a time.

Would you like to know what language your company’s website should be translated into? Check this post: Most spoken languages in Europe – In what direction to plan the expansion of your business?

Definition of translation and localization

As we already mentioned, both terms are rather commonly mistakenly interchanged, which leads to their misuses regarding the translation of content. Despite sharing the same general purpose, their core meaning and course are different. Here are some short definitions to clear things up:

  • Translation – most commonly defined as a literal word-for-word transformation of a source text into the target language.
  • Localization – refers to a complete linguistic adaptation of content for a given region, its cultural particularities and languages making it comfortable to use and easily understandable for the local target audience.

In conclusion, the main difference between translation and localization is that translation only covers written texts, while localization means fully adapting products or services to the local market, in addition to texts, it includes video and multimedia content, websites, audio and voice-overs, software or even video games.

Applications of translation and localization

Translation is widely considered as a first step towards reaching new audiences, as it enables them to understand your written content. Translation services are most commonly applied, when there’s the need for exact translation of a given text. This includes user manuals, medical and technical documents, terms of services or legal documents, which focus on the specific terminology that must be converted word-for-word from source language into target language.

translation of the application

On the other hand, localization services focus on delivering the message rather than just terms translation from one language to another. This means that localizations require not only in-depth knowledge of terminology, but also of the specifics of target region and culture – a good localization would be perceived by locals as content made locally. Therefore, a proper localization involves a lot of research to avoid sending the wrong message – a fitting example would be Ford’s failed attempt to introduce its car Pinto into Brazilian market. Due to lack of proper research, they failed to notice that ‘pinto’ means ‘a male with tiny genitalia’ in Brazilian Portuguese slang. All localizations must be culturally appropriate – this goes beyond simple word-to-word transitions and the content must undergo various modifications, like changing interface layouts, graphics, colours (yes, those can be offensive too), units of measure, time and date preferences or art style. Almost all of those varieties can be found on websites, which are one of the most common localization materials. Website localization can be extra tricky, especially if it wasn’t made with local markets in mind, so check out how to prepare a webpage for translation. Examples of localization done right can be also found in the film industry, where mediocre pictures can be transformed into cult classics thanks to witty dialogue fitted for the local audience.

Start translating your content today!

Reaching your target market might be hard, especially if it operates in another language. Translation is the process that will allow your texts to reach new potential clients, while localization will enable your content, product and services to be perceived not as simple transitions to target language, but things made for the local market. This will build familiarity that can help your brand be more recognizable and preferred over others.

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You may also be interested in how to translate a webpage.

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