Distinction Between Translation and Localization: What You Need to Know

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Alexander A.

Alexander A.

Understanding the Contrast Between Translation and Localization and Why They're Inseparable

When it comes to translating websites, is finding the equivalent words in another language all you need? Not quite. Along the way, you may have come across terms like translation, localization (abbreviated as l10n), internationalization (i18n), and transcreation. They may seem interchangeable, but there are important distinctions to consider.

Translation and localization share the goal of adapting content for global markets by targeting different languages, but their approaches differ and impact the translation process. So, what sets them apart? Can you have one without the other? And how can they drive results for your global marketing strategy?

Translation vs. Localization

Let’s start with translation. Its focus is on conveying your message by bridging the language barrier and enabling readers to understand your content. However, translation overlooks cultural differences, which are vital for successful marketing in a new country.

On the other hand, localization goes beyond translation. It encompasses words, colors, clothing, and cultural symbols to make your brand resonate with diverse customers. In essence, localization modifies the experience to align with the preferences of your target market.

Translation falls under the umbrella of localization because adapting your website to different countries inherently involves considering the local language. Here’s an example:

Original sentence in American English: 2 yards of fabric costs $12. Order today, and we’ll deliver it to you before 08/18/2023.

Translation into French without localization: 2 verge de tissu coûte 12 $. Commandez aujourd’hui, et nous vous le livrerons avant le 08/18/2023.

The French metric system doesn’t immediately comprehend the term “yard” (“verge” in French). They also use the Euro currency and follow the day-month-year format for dates. Accounting for necessary localization changes, the sentence would appear as:

1,8 mètres de tissu coûte 11,30€. Commandez aujourd’hui, et nous vous le livrerons avant le 18/08/2023.

Note that this translation wouldn’t work for French speakers in Canada, as they use the Canadian dollar.

Despite these challenges, global brands successfully localize their marketing efforts while maintaining a consistent image worldwide. How do they achieve this?

Translation vs. Localization
From Globalization to "Glocalization"

From Globalization to "Glocalization"

The answer lies in globalization, which encompasses the increased connectivity and exchanges between geographically distant people. This includes goods, cultures, languages, and even memes. Localization, on the other hand, focuses on connecting with local communities.

To illustrate, imagine Amazon as a prime example of “globalized” commerce, while your local independent bookstore represents a “localized” equivalent. Amazon sells books in multiple languages worldwide, while the local bookstore primarily offers books in the local language(s) of the region.

Enter “glocalization”—a compromise between globalization and localization. Consider how Amazon tailors its site for each country. They provide country-specific content, offers, and adapt their international sites to the official language of each country.

This online glocalization is complemented by offline efforts such as faster delivery within a customer’s own country.

Key Differences Between Translation and Localization

Now that we understand the importance of translation and localization, let’s further analyze their distinctions:

Localization-specific considerations include adhering to local legal requirements like GDPR compliance, adjusting website formatting for right-to-left languages (e.g., Arabic), incorporating social proof from locals, and assessing subtext and symbolism in visuals.

Both translation and localization involve addressing language characteristics such as slang, dialects, idioms, and cultural preferences like pricing conventions and customizing user data fields based on location.

Key Differences Between Translation and Localization

Successful Localization and Translation of Your Website

To effectively localize and translate your website, consider the following steps:

  1. Translate your website for your target audience: Localizing content for different locales goes beyond mere translation. Fine-tuning translations to address language nuances specific to a target market will enhance audience engagement. Professional translators can collaborate with machine translation to achieve optimal results.

  2. Localize your SEO: Developing a robust multilingual SEO strategy is crucial to improve your brand’s visibility and market share in global search engines. Adapt your keywords and metadata to suit each translated version of your website.

  3. Localize your images: Localization extends beyond textual content. Adapt your visuals, including images and videos, to resonate with different target markets. Consider cultural appropriateness and seasonal variations to ensure a meaningful connection with your audience.

  4. Utilize machine translation: Leverage machine translation in specific parts of your translation project to increase speed and accuracy. Ensure you select the correct language variant, such as French Canadian instead of French, to accurately target your audience.

  5. Handle currency conversion and payments: Currency conversion is crucial for ecommerce sites. Clear pricing in customers’ local currencies increases their confidence in making purchases. Various third-party apps and plugins simplify the process of currency conversion based on a user’s location.

  6. Design for multilingual experiences: Design your website with consideration for different languages and cultural nuances. Account for right-to-left languages like Arabic, adjust date formats to align with local conventions (e.g., month-day-year vs. day-month-year), and accommodate diverse units of measurement.

Quick Recap​

Quick Recap

Translation and localization are inseparable when it comes to personalizing the customer experience across markets. By implementing the recommended steps, you can ensure a foolproof localization project that enhances user experiences in your new target markets.

  • Professional translators enhance automated translations by addressing cultural nuances.
  • Multilingual SEO is essential for effective localization.
  • Image localization improves audience connection.
  • Machine translation is useful when targeting specific language variants.
  • Displaying the correct currency per country boosts conversion rates.
  • Designing for multilingual experiences ensures user understanding.

Ready to get started?

Translation, far more than just knowing languages, is a complex process.

By following our tips and using ConveyThis, your translated pages will resonate with your audience, feeling native to the target language.

While it demands effort, the result is rewarding. If you’re translating a website, ConveyThis can save you hours with automated machine translation.

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