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December 19, 2017 |

What’s The Difference Between Localization & Translation?

When your website attracts viewers from all over the world, you need to start giving your public more to grow your retention rate. The localization and translation of your website seem like a natural step forward to provide a better user experience to foreign visitors.

Yet, will it be enough to satisfy potential clients who don’t speak English? What’s the difference between localization and translation anyway?

Localization Goes Beyond Translation

Translation means converting your content from the source language into the target language, respecting grammar rules and syntax. It’s not a word to word translation, but a complex process that takes into account each language’s standards and guidelines.

You need translation to rewrite user manuals, medical documents, technical publications, manuals, scientific journals and literature, among other things. Translators must produce accurate work to make sure the message in the target language keeps the original meaning of the source text.

Localization, in contrast, is about more than rewriting the text into a different language. It adapts your message to local audiences. Localization is widely used for websites, mobile apps, software, video games, multimedia content and voiceovers.

Localization means you’ll need to provide different content for Argentina, Mexico and Spain, even though these countries have Spanish as their official language. Just as English varies from the US, to Australia and Canada, most languages have local versions and dialects that you need to consider when building your marketing strategy.

In this context, translation is just a small step in the localization process. It’s essential to have a good team of translators to localize efficiently, but you’ll also have to work with local marketers and consultants, to make sure you respect cultural aspects and local laws for each market you’re localizing in.

Regular translation probably isn’t enough for your business to be successful in local markets. You need to localize your content to gain the trust of local public. Because selling in a foreign country means more than overcoming language barriers. It means coming up with a customized message, specially made for each local audience.

You need to go beyond translation, as cultural barriers can make understanding the original message difficult. KitKat, for example, didn’t just translate their famous slogan into Japanese when they launched their product in Japan. The company changed ‘Have a beak, have a KitKat’ with ‘Kitto Katsu’, which means ‘surely win’. They also launched a series of exotic chocolate bars to meet the local taste.

This strategy made the KitKat Japanese campaign a localization success, clearly demonstrating how to use the same words that your clients do to express themselves.

Localization Helps You Meet Cultural Expectations

To globalize your business, you need to localize for each country in line with local culture. At the same time, you must keep a unique voice to help the public identify your brand everywhere in the world.

Coca-Cola maintains a singular message worldwide, while adapting their campaigns to local markets. Everybody knows the company’s colors, whether they live in Barcelona or Beijing. But their marketing strategy varies from country to country, to meet the public’s expectations.

In China, for example, the company had to change the product’s name to be able to maintain the brand’s voice. Coca-Cola became ‘kekou kele’, which translates to delicious happiness. This way, the drink everybody loves managed to conquer the market.

It wasn’t just about translating the content and changing labels. The brand approached local experts and, together with a team of specialists, they came up with a new name and a local marketing strategy. They sold the brand’s image, while respecting the local culture, which is vastly different from the Western world.   

Localization involves a cultural approach. You don’t simply translate your website or app, but reshape it so that the local public feels as if you’ve built the content especially for them.

You Need to Localize Everything

The localization process is complex. Translation plays an important role, but you need more than rewritten content to become an important player in local markets.

You need to prepare your website, to make it appealing for various audiences. Grammar and syntax are important, but so are a wide series of details that can help you break cultural barriers and improve the usability of your website.

Besides translation, you’ll have to perform many additional changes to provide a better user experience:

  • Colors – They have various meanings, depending on the target audience. In some countries, red speaks danger, white means death and orange expresses mourning and loss. Do your homework before launching your website, especially when you’re targeting new audiences.
  • Layout – Some languages need more space than others to express the same concepts. You need to come up with a flexible layout, where text in varying lengths fits in.
  • Visuals – You must adapt photos to local cultures. Blond moms hugging their kids don’t impress a Chinese audience and may even offend customers in the Middle East.
  • Units of Measurement – Most countries use the metric system. You need to convert units of measurements to make content easy to follow and understand.
  • Currencies – Price is important when making buying decisions. If your clients have to deal with numbers to be able to find the real price, they’ll leave your website and look for a local provider.
  • Contracts and Agreements – When doing business in foreign countries, you need to comply to local regulations. Make sure you respect the rules, to avoid getting your business into difficult legal situations that can lead to penalties or even have your website banned.

Localization and Translation Are Different

Translation alone may not be enough to reach your target market in today’s globalized world. You’ll need to localize to fit in with local beliefs and traditions. People need to understand and identify themselves with your message before they buy.

To increase engagement, you need to tailor your marketing to meet local expectations. This way you’ll make the most of your investment and improve your chances of increasing sales and growing your business around the world.

If you’d like to know more, we’re always interested in hearing from you. As experts in localization for software, websites and video games, we can help you win over local audiences around the world.

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