Translation VS. Localization- what is the difference?

With the on-going process of globalization, the days when the translation industry’s practices were limited to only communicating a text’s meaning from a source to a target language are behind us. The new economic and business landscapes have demanded for new, more elaborate services to be incorporated into the practice of language service providers, to better accommodate their customers. As a result, localization has been developed on the foundations of translation, going one step further by adapting the message to fit a certain targeted locale. Indeed, translation and localization are two similar, intertwined practices, but there are some distinguishable differences which need to be considered when crafting the right business strategy for global expansion.

Factual vs. Original

Translation entails the communication of meaning of a text from a source-language to a target-language. In order to do so, translators must adhere to the facts of the source-text, ensuring that their meaning remains unchanged when converted to the target-language. That’s why human, and not machine translation remains most reliable when it comes to getting the grammar, syntax and context of the text right. Language service providers are therefore required to have a good understanding of both the source and target languages, to produce an accurate translation.

Localization, on the other hand, is focused on providing original, rather than factual content, which is relatable and can effectively engage the target audience. What localization focuses on is adapting the translated message for a specific local market, by keeping the same meaning but making it more comprehensible for the target audience. It requires sufficient knowledge of the stylistic and technical requirements of the target language and research of what the customers’ expectations and brand loyalties are.


Accurate vs. Authentic

Translation’s purpose is to produce content that is accurate and does not stray away from the original text. It is not concerned with any of the cultural differences between the two languages, nor with the expectations of the target customers, which is why the process requires less time and low level of engagement between translator and customer.

Localization is concerned with ensuring that the content is not only accurately translated, but also authentic and fitting for the market. It requires sufficient knowledge of the stylistic and technical requirements of the target language and research of what the customers’ expectations and brand loyalties are. Localization refers to content that is personalised and that can resonate with the customer. This process is beneficial for companies aiming to get integrated within a foreign market and stand out amongst their competitors.

When to use which?

Keeping in mind the main differences between the two services, whether you are going to benefit more from translation or localization depends on the type and purpose of your content, on your target audience and on the goals you have set for your business.

Translation is suitable for:

  • Technical content: user manuals, legal and factual documents
  • Translating email or chat correspondence

Localization is suitable for:

  • website content creation
  • product descriptions
  • social media and other marketing campaigns
  • blog posts

These are only a few examples where the two services can be employed, which emphasise the major differences between them. However, it can be challenging to set a concrete distinction between the two, as both services draw upon each other and are most effective when implemented together. While translation is the quicker and more inexpensive option, localization is the more comprehensive, in-depth service which could improve your brand’s chances for global success. Whether you choose to go for translation or localization, it is vital that you trust an experienced language service provider with sufficient knowledge in both the source- and target-languages.

At 1-StopAsia, our language experts are committed to providing these comprehensive services to customers from all industries and geographic locales, helping them achieve their goals, one word at a time.

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