Localization vs. Translation

Translation, localization. What’s the difference, right?

While the two are often used interchangeably, these are quite different concepts. Each involves different sets of tools, approaches, and final output.

The terms and processes they encompass do share similarities. Both do involve transferring a message from one language to (an)other.

Knowing the difference is important. That knowledge can help companies reach their global presence more efficiently and more profitably.

So, what are those differences?

To fully understand these nuances, let’s review what each term/process entails.

Translation (web/app/other) involves changing an original (source) version (be it text, multimedia, etc.) into (an)other (target) language by substituting words from one to another (mind you, a good translator, will ensure that everything is in-context, grammatically correct, in keeping with an industry lingo, and sounding naturally in the target culture).

Localization is more specialized, as it involves adapting content, images, design, metrics, etc. to a particular region or locale, so that a product appears local to that target audience you are trying to reach. While relying on great translation talent, localization experts account for cultural and regional preferences of a particular market. It does go beyond language, crossing over into cultural expertise, branding, marketing, etc.

For localization to be successful, it is important to have your website/app/product plan for this step in advance, not as an after-thought. While translation can greatly enhance understanding of a message overall, it can still miss the mark if the original text is not written with subsequent translation and localization process in mind.

In short, translation is a part of localization, its very important (yet not the only) component.