What Is The Difference Between Translation And Localization?

Improving translation means adapting it to the region it will serve, and most translation services do that using something called localization. Everyone roughly knows what translation means: changing a text from one language word-for-word into another, with the meaning staying equivalent. But what is localization, and how is it different?

Localization is one step beyond translation – and if you’re introducing products to a wide variety of markets, it’s an incredibly important step!


How Localization Is Different From Translation

Localization considers non-textual, cultural, and linguistic components when translating a message for another country or locale. It addresses such factors as local vernacular, relevant cultural references, and unit measurements. Simply put, translation is about the language barrier, whereas localization is about the cultural barrier

Strict translation can be appropriate for texts that have specific terminologies, such as technical manuals or medical documents. But the word-for-word method is not enough for when you need to adapt a message for a mass audience in a target market. Localization is about considering how this communication will be read by the people who eat, sleep, and work in a certain region. It also determines effectiveness, governmental compliance, and graphic design logistics while translating. Even if your translated text comes back with perfect grammar, the culture and business requirements of a region can expose many flaws in the messaging!


Why Is Localization So Important?

Localization services can affect crucial details that can be missed in regular translation, making it essential for packaging compliance marketing materials. For instance, date formats vary from region to region, and it can impact the timing of a message: 06/05/2020 means June 5 in the U.S. and May 6 to most of us in Canada!

It also includes the format of the document, and local requirements could force your translator to rethink visual layout, presentation, and even the logic of certain messages to account for different ways of doing business. Take paper size as an example: a document might be written and laid out for printing on American letter-sized paper (8.5 x 11 inches), and localization would consider its needs for a market that uses European A4 paper (8.27 in × 11.7 inches).

Localization is practical for the audience, too, because people prefer reading content in the language they speak every day. While many speakers in Quebec can understand European French, they’d like to read their regional version of the language. Owing to the history and cultural context of Quebec, French in Canada has more Anglicanisms in its vocabulary than European French. One example: blueberry in France is “myrtille,” whereas in Quebec, it’s “bleuet.” Even in such a small example that’s a big difference!

The differences make localization on top of the translation necessary for marketing in the Canadian market. Your translation service needs an in-depth knowledge of the specific vocabulary and culture of the region into which you’re introducing your product, text, or document. WordFrog Inc.’s founder Mélanie Bernier has the training and lived experience to make localization a part of her services!


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