Translation vs Localization

Imagine your manager tasked you to do a translation for particular content. In the course of your research, you stumbled across the word ‘localization.’

Now, you may be wondering, ‘what is the difference between translation and localization, aren’t they the same?’ Let’s discuss that.

The Meaning of Localization and Translation

Localization involves converting textual, non-textual, cultural, and linguistic elements from their original language to the language of a specific locale or country. It’s a comprehensive process that factors in all the elements relevant to the content you’re translating. It goes beyond the mere translation of text and its meaning. It extends to the translation of culture from one country to another.

On the other hand, translation is the conversion of text from its original language to a target language while retaining the message of the original language.

How do Localization and Translation Differ?

Let’s put it in layman’s terms.

Translation: The expression in the original content may slightly differ from the translated content, but the final meaning is identical.

Localization: The expression in the original content is translated to match the expression adopted in the target language. This way, the expression and meaning remain the same.

Spanish to English or vice versa is a good example of translation.

American English to British English or vice versa is an excellent example of localization.

In translation, grammar and sentence structures are modified. However, the translator shouldn’t deviate from the original text. This is to ensure accuracy and consistency. The best translators for the job are those who are experts in your industry because using the right word choice cannot be emphasized enough.

This applies especially to the translation of technical documents such as compliance documents, manuals, usage instructions for medications, etc.

On the flip side, localization starts with translation and digs deeper to incorporate cultural references, local idioms, and technical communication elements such as date format, measurement units, page sizes, text length, etc.

Localization is highly important because a specific language can have different dialects. A good example is Spanish. So if you’re translating your brand’s content for the Mexican market, you have to realize that localized content for Mexico will differ from localized content for Puerto Rico, Argentina, or Colombia.

We can also use French to illustrate this. French in France differs from Canadian French. Likewise, Portugal’s Portuguese differs from Portuguese spoken in Brazil.

Advantages of localization

1.    Efficiency

Natives can easily read and understand your content because it contains the right textual and non-textual elements. On the flip side, translation lacks the right nuances and expressions, so it will appear foreign to natives of the target language.

2.    Quality

Though well-translated content has good quality of its own, it doesn’t compare to localized content. Not so much because it is wrong, but because it doesn’t seem “as correct” from a native from a certain country or region.

3.    No Risk of Content Duplication

Localized content differs from the original text regarding the linguistic and cultural elements used. On the other hand, translated content may be flagged by a search engine as a content duplicate of the original text.

In summary, localization guarantees better results than translation.

Disadvantages of Localization

1.    Speed

Translation is a faster process than localization. After all, it’s not as comprehensive as localization. Moreover, depending on the type of translation service you request some translation services combine human and machine translation.

2.    Cost

Translation costs less than localization for the same reason it’s faster. According to this source, translation rates may range between 5 and 42 cents per word, depending on the desired translation service, desired language, and technicality of content.

True localization cannot be done by machine translation. This will always be a human process that ensures the best quality for that region, locale, or country.

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