Localization vs Translation | A Complete Overview
When building a website, creating content, or running a marketing campaign, one thing that most creators have to deal with is choosing between localization vs translation. Although both these terms are usually used interchangeably, they represent unique concepts and have a lot of differences that you should know.
Knowing the difference between translation and localization services will help you use one of them or both more effectively when promoting your website or content. Both terms have become increasingly popular thanks to the growing interest in video content among companies seeking the opportunity to attract customers from all across the world.
What Is Translation?
Let's start with the translation definition. Simply put, it is the process of converting a text from one language to another depending on business needs. The key idea behind the process is to translate the text to another language while retaining the exact meaning of a text in the original language.
Companies use translation to attract more customers and get a broader audience reach. You can translate the entire website with image texts, infographics, blog articles, landing pages as well as video content. Marketers now prefer to translate captions and subtitles when running podcasts or fling videos on any preferred platform.
Once the content is translated, the content and context of the key message remain within the same context, following the cultural expectations of the target audience.
Translation tends to be literal in nature. It is a good option for companies that have different clients or want to reach new business heights. If you have multilingual websites for podcasts, translation is the way to go.
Alongside translating the entire website or content you offer, you can also use it to translate just small pieces like technical details and instructions, using a few graphics or photos. But if you really want to maximize your business profit, create personalization and enhance user experience, you should move beyond translation.
What Is Localization?
As we mentioned earlier, localization is used to cover much wider needs or the product of a business. Effective marketing covers a large number of country-specific details that solely translation can't address. The key idea behind localization is to enhance user experience regardless of where they live.
In addition, the translation process becomes different when combined with localization. Once translated into the chosen language, specific phrases, words, and expressions have to be adapted to the way they engage the target audience the best.
In some cases, businesses even have to change the entire section of the website so it best matches the latest trends and tastes of the market. Let's take any large global organization that provides different services in different regions. Their website shows only content that will be available in the chosen region during localization.
Localization and Translation Industry
The localization and translation industry relies heavily on effective communication. It includes understanding the subtleties of many languages and cultures and then applying that knowledge to effectively and forcefully express ideas. To compete in a global market, businesses must consider the larger implications of localization strategy in addition to pure translation. This requires adapting the information to the language as well as the cultural surroundings, including date formats, geographic allusions, and cultural references. While machine translation can be useful, it lacks the depth of knowledge that human translation of localized material provides.
Localization vs. Translation Benefits
English is spoken almost all around the world. Translating the app's interface, a podcast, a short video, or a website into other languages will make the text readable to users who speak other languages, but the app will still be developed specifically for users living in the United Kingdom or the USA. That is because translation solely covers the text on the screen, meaning it doesn't address the differing sociolinguistic expectations of global audiences. Localization is used to go deeper, choosing which locale you're targeting instead of what language you're translating to. Compared to translation, localized content allows businesses to significantly improve the entire user experience so it becomes more linguistically, culturally, and functionally relevant.
Keep Digital Functionality Intact
Businesses frequently encounter numerous challenges when trying to translate content, a website, or an app verbatim. For instance, the character length of English text translated into German can increase dramatically (up to 100%), which could have an effect on the website's or app's design, readability, and functionality. You will need to spend time and money making changes to your website so that it can be easily accessed in a right-to-left reading mode if you want to draw in Arabic-speaking consumers. Compared to ordinary translation, localization goes far deeper and is more sensitive to the digital functionality of the text you translate. Businesses can easily preserve the whole functionality of their assets — regardless of the country they are displayed in — thanks to complex file parsing and a thorough approach to all the parts of the translation.
Translation is a starting point
Simply put, translation converts written words from one language into another. Localization employs multiple techniques to adapt content’s full meaning for the new culture. When content gets translated literally, it may make sense in the target market or it may not. Take an ad reading, “Make us your top draft pick,” for example. Americans get that this refers to NFL and NBA drafts, where teams choose their favorite player first. But outside the US, there’s no such thing as the draft, unless you’re joining the military. So localization looks at content’s true message, then finds the best way to say, “Choose us.”
Localization Involves Images
Localization also involves image adaptation. Let’s go back to our example: Say the ad shows a goalpost over the company’s door with a customer running through. If the copy doesn’t refer to the draft anymore, the picture no longer makes sense. Plus, football’s a uniquely American sport, so even if the original language were more universal (like “Win with us!”), the picture itself would still need to change into something the new market understands.
Below we are going to explore the key differences between these terms, define translation and localization, explore their benefits, common uses, and some useful tips for you to know. Let's get to the point.
Who Needs Translation in 2023?
1. Legal Services Providers
Law firms usually need translation services for many reasons. For example, only in the USA, there are 45 million immigrants that aren't too fluent in English to know all the terms in documents. And half of these people require documents to be translated into their local languages in case of an international litigation situation.
2. Clinics and Healthcare Organisations
The same situation as with legal services - healthcare companies also operate with lots of documents, and medical terms are pretty tricky for those who don't know English as residents. That is why private clinics and healthcare companies alike prefer to translate their website and documents for those who may need another language, growing their client base and reducing costly mistakes.
3. Entertainment Industry
The entertainment industry is also growing like never before now. Music, TV shows, films, streaming platforms, podcasts, and so on. The industry churns out a massive amount of audio and visual content that needs translation (either for subtitles or dubbing), allowing a global audience to enjoy it.
4. E-commerce Business
Online purchasing has quickly increased all across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now outperforming traditional brick-and-mortar stores. E-commerce businesses are evolving and now offer mobile apps so they can attract more customers and twice higher sales compared to those who only have web platforms. And businesses that have both mobile apps and websites translated into different languages will become leading e-commerce stores in 2023.
5. Travel Industry and Tourism
The pandemic is over now, and people are traveling again, so there is a perfect time for all travel and tourism companies to start translating content into local languages. It is especially vital for package details, accommodation options, and descriptions.
Who Needs Global Localisation in 2023?
1. Entertainment & Film Industry
If you wonder why global localization (also known as internalization) is important to the entertainment and film industries, you just know that Hollywood movies were only able to achieve worldwide recognition by adapting the product to different markets.
The localizing film is a challenging process. It's not just about translating it into the desired language or adding subtitles. In addition to dubbing a video or adding subtitles, producers should also adapt systems and connotations, covering cultural references and sometimes dealing with potential censorship issues.
Based on a recent Statista report, over 180 billion apps have been downloaded from the Apple Store, where the most popular category of apps is games. With the growing popularity of mobile phones, apps, and game industry development, product owners should find new effective ways to stand out from the crowd.
And localizing games is one of the most popular ways to reach more audiences and make the app more attractive in 2023. This is because localized games have much higher chances of being downloaded because if your potential users can't understand what the game will be about, they will move to another game instead of trying to figure it out.
3. Tourism & Leisure
Just like with translation, the tourism industry also requires localization. The same applies to hospitality and leisure. Can you imagine at least one travel company that communicates using only one language? Here's the main thing: tourists prefer to contact their travel agencies, airlines, as well as booking platforms online. So make sure you offer various options and do not lose clients, ignoring the importance of localization.
4. Software & Mobile Apps
English is considered to be the leading language for most developers today. It isn't surprising since more than 20% of the world's population speaks this language. This can make you question why you would localize your app or software if customers speak English.
The answer is pretty simple - most markets and target audiences won't embrace your product if it doesn't embrace their local culture. That is why developers should now consider localizing the language, colors, images, and other elements of the software to ensure the product resonates with different target audiences.
Offering customers other languages and a tailored approach based on their cultural needs will help any e-commerce store to gain more attention and profit. In addition, localizing an e-shop allows customers to better trust your company and, therefore, allows for word of mouth. According to CSA Research, over 75% of people prefer to buy products in their native language and up to 92% - in their local currency.
Localization Process: How Does It Work?
You can hire localization specialists that will research content and develop the list of adaptations needed for your target market: changing elements, dimensions, currencies, keywords, and so on. You may also use Rask AI to smooth and speed up the process. Different styles will need different characters, symbols, and letters.
Once the first step is done, all the needed details are explained to you; the team starts to build an editorial plan. Here you and your team should set the following aspects:
- Start Dates
- Due Dates
- Name Responsible Person
- Assign the Writer
- Publication Dates
Once your team knows all the above-mentioned details and deadlines, the team starts translating the text. Now they are ready to adapt all the elements of content to the locals you choose while keeping the original sense of the text. The end result of translation is to edit and proofread a text to make it free from any kind of linguistic lapses.
The last and also essential step is to check the content that was translated. The team should verify that the content is free from plagiarism; it is validated and edited. This process ensures the high quality of the final content and is free from any cultural or linguistic mistakes.
Localization vs. Translation Benefits
Target Locales, Not Languages
English is spoken almost all around the world. Translating the app's interface, a podcast, a short video, or a website into other languages will make the text readable to users who speak other languages, but the app will still be developed specifically for users living in the United Kingdom or the USA. That is because translation solely covers the text on the screen, meaning it doesn't address the differing sociolinguistic expectations of global audiences.
Localization is used to go deeper, choosing which locale you're targeting instead of what language you're translating to. Compared to translation, localized content allows businesses to significantly improve the entire user experience so it becomes more linguistically, culturally, and functionally relevant.
Maintain Digital Functionality
When translating content, a website, or an app in a word-for-word way, businesses tend to meet lots of difficulties. For example, English text translated into German can expand significantly (up to 100% in character length), which may potentially impact the design, readability, and functionality of the website or app. When you want to attract Arabic-speaking audiences, you will need to invest money and time in transforming the website so it can be smoothly used in a right-to-left reading style.
Localization is far deeper and more sensitive to the digital functionality of content you translate compared to just simple translation. Thanks to complex file parsing as well as a comprehensive approach to all the elements of the translation, businesses can easily maintain the entire functionality of their assets—regardless of which country they're displaying in.
Transform Content Ecosystems
A large number of translation professionals work on projects on a quote-by-quote basis. You send a document or a file, so they can charge you an average per-word rate while you get the translated text for each target audience.
Then you either review the text or just send it to developers so they can implement new changes. While it can be a challenging process due to variables in digital functionality, translation consistency, and collaborators' schedules, businesses can always use Rask AI as a leading translation tool for various content so the process is as simple as possible.
Localization is full-scale in nature. That means you pay for the entire content (website, app, marketing materials, media, text) localized for every target audience on an ongoing basis, allowing the content to evolve continuously. You can also use Rask AI to speed up and ease the process, so it can be done automatically using machine learning and AI algorithms.
Great Localization Examples
The translation is something we all have seen in our lives - whether it will be a movie with subtitles or just a website allowing you to use another language. We all see a translation example, but what about examples of localization? Most people don't even know that they have already seen it. Let's explore two bright localization examples you can get inspiration from:
Spotify is currently one of the most well-known and used audio platforms. The team makes sure people get only what they want based on previous preferences and choices. Personalized content is what makes Spotify the leader. The first thing the team does to make the app as convenient and relevant as possible is translating the entire content into the required language.
Spotify also goes deep into cultural content. For example, they offer playlists based on holidays in specific countries or share the most popular songs in your location. This was done through a recommendation engine that now allows for localized music suggestions.
The company doesn't rely solely on translated content. The app also uses hyper-localized marketing designed to reach users' goals, where the ad speaks about experiences specific to some regions. This has been shown to make customers feel recognized and heard, promoting Spoorify's popularity.
Another great example of highly personalized content is Notion. It is an extremely popular app among companies and all sorts of makers. It allows users to organize and easily manage their documents, thoughts, and knowledge in an all-in-one workspace. The company's user base is huge - over 80% outside the U.S. across 28 countries.
According to the general manager at Notion, the team wanted to make Notion feel like it was developed in each country it is available. As the team decided to expand globally, they chose South Korea to be their first localized market thanks to the strong user base they already had there.
Today Notion is available in a vast range of countries and locals, where every target audience can feel the cultural aspects they have. Notion achieved this success by building a central hub for all the content assets that have to be translated — which is more than 251,000 words across their website, app, templates, guides, as well as case studies. To make this, Notion used AI-powered tools like Rask AI.
Translation vs Localization | Final Difference Overview
With all the words being said about localization and translation, let's move to the final overview of both terms and their differences:
Make the Switch to Localization | Final Word
You may already work with experts or use tools to translate your specific content. But if you work with more than three projects that require translation regularly, it is time to consider a more powered alternative that encompasses all elements of your content so you don't translate just words.
The quality, readability of the content, and user experience will be much higher if it's adapted through the lens of localization vs translation. It is true that these terms are usually used interchangeably by some, but translation is just a small part of a much wider term -localization. Move to localization with a team of experts or use AI tools for more locale-specific content and a far better user experience in 2023.