What’s Translation? What’s Localization? What’s Important?

Jul 27, 2023

What is Translation?

Translation refers to the process of changing content from one language to another with the goal of reaching a global audience. It communicates the meaning of a source language text by means of an equivalent target language text. Translation considers the context to communicate the accurate meaning of the original message in the target language. For example, a translation should consider each language’s grammar and syntax. It changes the existing content into a different language while maintaining the tone and style that mirror the source language. Translation converts written or spoken text. Translation as a service is best used for documents of a general, legal, technical, or financial nature. For example, the translation of user manuals, technical specifications, training manuals, reference manuals, legal documents, medical device manuals, and financial reports are some to mention. These categories need a certain level of expertise, and you should choose linguists based on their specialty who are knowledgeable and competent in the subject matter. Most experienced translators consider cultural differences but generally translation focuses on language translations. The main goal is to convey the meaning of the source language into the target language accurately.

What is Localization?

Localization is the process of adapting a translation to a specific country, culture, group, or region. It is the product of translation including cultural adaptation to account for differences in distinct markets. It involves a comprehensive study of the target culture to correctly adapt the product to local needs. It’s a more specialized process of adapting messages to specific audiences. For example, Spanish is the official language of many countries in South America, yet the local dialects and versions differ from region to region. Localization delves into these differences to develop content relatable to each group. For example, localization helps communicate this relatable content to create mobile apps, websites, video games, and content specific to each region. In general, localization involves a more detailed approach to adapting a product or content for a specific market. When it comes to localization, you’re more likely to use a service which provides nuance with an adaptive flair followed by strong technical savviness. The process of adapting a product or content to a specific language and cultural context involves not just translating the text. Adaptation includes layout, graphics, and cultural references to make the product or content suitable for the target audience. Standard translation may be appropriate for some content types in certain markets but in some cases, localization is required for adapting highly emotive creative content to clearly resonate across locales. For reasons of efficiency and cost though, it's wise to consider which types of content require localization and where you can ask for translation.

To reiterate translation is the process of translating text i.e., transforming a message from the source language to the target language(s). Translation is part of localization, considering other cultural and semantic aspects to make the content become authentic and locally savvy. Localization crystalizes translation to transform entire products and content to fit country specifics and regional needs. It extends beyond simple translation. Localization extends to every aspect to fit the target market’s preferences from units of measurement, currency conversion, date formats, imagery, legal regulations, to different technological standards. Great translations often entail adaptation of the content to the target audience. At times though translation may not be fully adequate. Think of translation and localization as complementary processes that work together to help clients communicate their message. From adapting marketing strategy to local trends to translating documentation, both localization and translation are essential. Translation covers linguistic aspects while localization also includes cultural, visual, and technical solutions making content fully functional in different languages, to ensure brand experiences resonate with global audiences. Overall, if something relates to work on the text it is still largely considered as translation. If something relates to the context and cultural specifics, this is usually considered to be localization.

What’s Important?

Localization is more specialized and complex than regular translation. Although translation is important in a global marketing strategy, sometimes you need more than translated content. In a nutshell you need to localize everything for local, foreign markets. For example, a website must appeal to the different audiences with content adhering to grammar and syntax rules of each target language of that location. Content localization focuses on every detail necessary for breaking cultural barriers and improving the website’s usability in different geographical locations. To begin with though a great translation is an essential element of your localization strategy. Then it requires a team of linguists, local marketers, and consultants to work together to ensure the content is culturally adapted for the target audience. Proper localization eliminates local predispositions by considering the beliefs, religion, dialects, idioms, and other cultural practices when generating content. It gives clients a way to speak to new markets, focusing on words, colors, cultural symbols, and anything else that makes brands fit in with the new customer base. Localization is about modifying the experience to what resonates best with target markets. From product descriptions and editorial content to brand messaging and images, localization is a multifaceted process as you’ll be adapting different content elements.

What are Some Examples for Localization?

Symbolic meanings of visuals such as images, videos, colors, emojis, icons, shapes, sizes, and graphics can mean different things depending on the audience. It is essential to do thorough research and ensure what you use are in sync with your message. Certain things can be loaded with cultural meanings that don’t necessarily translate well to other cultures. Some are highly culturally significant in one country while some are completely meaningless in another. Cultural specificities dictate what translates well and what does not. Anything sensitive to politics or religion should be avoided when localizing for certain countries.

Numeric differences such as currency, units of measurement, date, time, phone numbers, and contact information. When selling products or services, it is essential to state the prices in the local currencies. Consumers don’t want to deal with converting currencies to determine the exact price of an item. Foreign currencies could turn consumers away. Some regions use imperial units as the standard for length measurement while others use the metric system. Make sure to convert measurement units into local units for easy understanding. The same goes for date formats. Certain countries use MM/DD/YYYY while other countries use DD/MM/YYYY.

Language specifics such as dialects, idioms, slang, colloquialisms, and tone. Dialects, idioms, and slang can carry various meanings and concepts they describe. They can reveal the speaker’s social background, age, and personality. Simply using dictionary equivalents can sound unnatural and fail to deliver the message as intended. Linguists need to carefully research the local equivalents of such words and expressions to make sure the correct message is communicated. A slogan is a great example of how localization can go beyond translation. A slogan that works in the western market might sound odd in the eastern market. It could create confusion, offence, or become completely meaningless wasting valuable resources. Slogans are heavily culturally influenced with wordplay, puns, or other linguistic specificities that don’t translate well. These need to be translated by experienced linguists who can provide the cultural nuance using localized equivalents.

Text length and direction are examples to be taken into consideration. In certain translations, the length from the source language to target language can become twice as long. If there is limitation of space, different wording must be used creatively to communicate the same message while not compromising the original design of website or document. This goes the same with languages which read from right to left. Localization involves technical aspects of this issue. For example, if the approach is to cram text into every space of the UI, you will end up with a design that is not elegant. Internationalizing libraries, fonts, and tools that support languages should be considered when designing the UI. Customized layouts include the placement of the menus by adopting flexibility which accommodates different spacing, text size requirements, and direction as some languages require more space to express a similar concept. Linguists usually takes this into consideration if they are informed, but they are limited to what they can do. This becomes a job of the DTP department, web designers, and software developers working in coordination to find the right balance between design and communication of the message that clients want to convey.

Cultural preferences and differences such as etiquette, humor, myths, superstition, rituals, symbols, societal codes, societal values, history, and beliefs. There are many examples which can be derived from cultural preferences and differences. Many expressions accepted in a cultural could be taboo in others. Each message that is selected should be relevant and respectful to the local cultures. A joke maybe funny in the US but go over the heads of the Japanese. A symbol may have a negative meaning creating unintentional consequences. A myth or superstition may shy away consumers making them feel uncomfortable. If you are not aware of history consumers may take offence for inaccuracies causing controversy. Testimonials and product reviews from the local market is a great way to find out if your message is adequate but it is too late when your translation becomes a gif or a meme. Linguists should be aware making the responsible choices to communicate the client’s message properly in a culturally appropriate manner.

Legal requirements such as agreements and contracts. Doing business in foreign countries requires compliance with the local regulations and requirements. Contracts and agreements must comply with the set rules to avoid litigation leading to costly lawyer fees and even banning of your products and services. Requirements differ from country to country which you need to consider during localization. For example, different laws and regulations exist in different countries regarding terms and conditions, privacy policies, and cookies. Linguists need to be able to adapt while localizing. A common matter is compliance with GDPR in Europe. In the EU the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires companies to get explicit consent from users before collecting, using, or sharing their personal data. This means that if you’re planning to expand your business to the EU, you need to make sure your product or service complies with GDPR. For example, Yahoo! JAPAN had cancelled their services in the EU due to not being able to comply with GDPR. Companies who have fail to deliver adequate localization strategies suffer the consequences.

Why You Need Both Translation and Localization

Translation is the pillar of localization; both are crucial in fostering quality customer experiences in different regions. Brands adapt their content to meet the different language, cultural and functional expectations of the various foreign markets. Customized client experience is the primary difference between translation and localization. Your global success relies on your ability to authentically reach a wider audience of multilingual consumers. If your company is expanding into new markets, it’s mission-critical to have your content available for potential new customers’ preferred languages. Translation will undoubtedly generate interest among consumers but to create genuine connections that lead to sales, you’ll need localization. If you successfully localize your content, it’s the best way to connect with international audiences and meet their expectations. Consumer expectations vary by industry and region, but modifying the content to conform to the target market’s habits and preference with help you compete in today’s international economy in an effective way.

Language and regionalism allow content to speak closely to the target audience. For example, suppose certain phrases or concepts are specific to the country or region in which you’re looking to do business. In that case, it’s important to show customers you understand who they are and why they should engage in your business. Ease of navigation means users can immediately find the content in their language and begin interacting seamlessly. Cultural elements enhance the user experience and create a feeling of closeness with the target audience. Transactional elements include functional content that customers rely on. To figure out the best fit, clients must consider their audience and the content's nature and intent. Various parameters such as volume, update cadence, lifespan, and budget should be taken into consideration when planning your localization project.

At idioma® we advise clients on what requires translation and localization, while also employing a wide range of services and technologies to ensure that content is fully operational, understandable, comforting, and relatable in multiple languages.

Need a translation or localization estimate? Please contact us at info@idioma.com