One of the most significant challenges when planning a global expansion for your business is successfully breaking down the language barrier in the new markets. For that reason, businesses that strive for global expansion are putting localization and translation at top of their agendas.
However, failing to understand the difference between localization and translation can impede their efforts to expand internationally. In that regard, localization and translation are two unique concepts with a substantial number of differences, even though they might appear similar.
While translation is extremely important, launching a product globally requires more than just switching the text on a website or marketing content from one language to another. Quite the contrary, making a product accessible to consumers of different cultural backgrounds in various markets requires tailoring that product to their cultural differences, purchasing behaviors, linguistic specificities, and much more.
In this brief article, we will break down localization vs translation to give you a better sense of their differences, helping you drive better results in your future international efforts.
What’s the difference between the two?
As mentioned previously, the major difference between localization and translation is that while translation only covers language transfer, localization also involves adapting everything from content to visuals, user experience, layout, and much more to the target market.
Put differently, you can think of translation as a type of localization, just like basketball is a type of sport. But, just like sports, localization is a large, broad category filled with multiple ways to make the content work well for the new international audience.
Product localization goes way beyond a simple word-for-word translation experience. Instead, it incorporates refining the content through language, culture, and flow to provide the target audience with the product’s most relevant and valuable experience.
That is to say, among other things, localization considers the language dialects used in the target region. Furthermore, it adapts all product content elements for regional and local consumption so that the product can appeal to the cultural and linguistic preferences of international customers.
Which one should you choose?
Now that you have a better understanding of the difference when it comes to localization and translation, you might be wondering: which one should I go with for my next international project?
The truthful answer to this question is—it truly depends on your business’s needs. If you’re just looking to transfer the meaning of your content from let’s say English to Italian, then, in all likelihood, translation is what you need. However, if you want to adapt your content to the Italian market, then localization would be the way to go.
When translation makes more sense than localization?
The types of text where translation usually makes more sense than undertaking a comprehensive localization effort include most user manuals, technical specifications, training manuals, scientific journals, medical documents, and other formal text types.
This type of content usually includes universally valid information and doesn’t demand any additional cultural adaptation.
When localization makes more sense than translation?
On the other hand, if you want to translate a website, or application, launch a marketing campaign in a foreign market, or translate your brand name and slogan or your packaging and labels, you’ll be better off with localization.
Generally speaking, localization is always the better way to go for any type of content that’s at least slightly related to marketing a product or service in an international market.
Nevertheless, it’s also worth pointing out that managing a comprehensive localization project is not just a side task for your marketing team, as it’s an intricate and complicated process that demands a great deal of coordination, careful planning, and execution.
Localization and translation go hand in hand
In the end, even though translation and localization are two different things, they are certainly not mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite, the best translations involve at least some adaptation of the content to the target audience, and localization is practically impossible without proper translation.
In other words, translation and localization are two complementary processes that best work together to help companies effectively reach their international audience. From translating user manuals and technical specifications to international languages to adapting your latest digital marketing campaign to local trends, both translation and localization are crucial to your company’s international success.