Localization and translation are aspects of interpretation. You can have translation without localization, but you can't have localization without translation. Sort of like how a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn't necessarily a square.
If you want to expand your business into the global market, it is essential to understand the differences and to know how localization can impact your international content.
What is the Difference Between Translation and Localization?
Language translation is just that, translating source content directly into another language. Localization goes a step further and focuses on the cultural translation of content.
Localization is the cultural translation of content, taking into consideration language subtleties, cultural expectations, and target-market distinctions to convey the meaning of the source communication in a more culturally cogent manner. It's that deeper connection that makes sure what you're trying to get across is not lost in translation. (Sorry for the pun, but we couldn't help ourselves.) Localization focuses on understanding your target market's unique interests, history, cultural norms, and even legal issues. Products and services are adapted to meet the needs of the local language and culture.
When Translation Is Needed
When considering translation vs. localization, not all content requires localization. Literal language translation can be an effective way to communicate your functional or directive content. It must be error-free and transmit the information clearly and concisely.
A few examples of translation include:
- A kitchen appliance instruction manual
- Transcription of a video (i.e., subtitles)
- Maps or map directions
- Certain types of legal documents such as birth and death certificates, patent applications, or wills.
When Localization Is Needed
When you want to make a deeper connection to a target market or demographic, the benefits of localization can be enormous. This is particularly true for customizing a product or service in such a way that no one would suspect it wasn't created in that locale. A great example of localization is Volvo's advertising feeling like a relevant car advertisement to American audiences even though the brand has been owned by Geely (a Chinese company) for the past ten years.
Mediums that benefit from localization more than literal translation:
Websites and Blogs
Whether you're selling a product or service, or simply educating your audience, your website (and blog) needs to connect with your audience. From fashion trends, to entertainment the inclusion of relevant cultural references is proven to increase engagement and conveys the connection necessary to build trust and followers.
When marketing and describing products in the international arena, you must consider the locale. For instance, when translating from American English to British English, there may be different spellings of the same words.
Gaming or Mobile Apps
In 1989 "Zero Wing" became infamous for its use of poor translations from Japanese to English. At first, the game was simply mocked by players for the comical phrases found throughout the game, but over time it went viral, becoming the butt of jokes throughout the gaming community. Formatting and layout issues –as well as aesthetic components– can have a huge impact on user experience for games, websites, and apps. Localization, in this case, focuses on taking both software and hardware and preparing it for other regions of the world.
Advertising campaigns are profoundly impacted by localization because slogans, taglines, and brand messages need to be conveyed with a specific context in mind. Also, advertisements often feature idioms, metaphors, and innuendo to persuade and inform the target market. When localization isn't taken into account, product marketing can go sideways quickly. Even logos may need to be altered if they do not fit in with the culture of the target market.
Legal or Health Sectors
Industries such as these have a high degree of specialization or specific terminology that may vary by locale (e.g., medical journal articles and legal documents).
These days, social media is fundamental to marketing and communication for organizations of all sizes. Effective and accurate communication is critical to social media sites. Failing to localize the target languages will negatively affect your business.
When You Need Professional Translation Services
Getting lost in translation can negatively impact your brand, so keep these factors in mind when communicating in the target language. A thorough market analysis should be done to determine the nuances of the target market and what type of translation you need.
At LinguaLinx, we've got you covered no matter what type of translation you require. Our team of native speakers and industry experts can provide the best quality translation and content localization for any project. Want to learn more? Check out this article on how to select a Language Service Provider for your business.