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Translation vs Localization Services: How Do They Differ?

Verity Hartley at LanguageWire

Verity Hartley
Marketing Specialist, LanguageWire

A market showing different prices for apples in various currencies

When brands begin their journey into translating their content for new language markets, they face a choice: translation vs localization. At first glance, they may seem like very similar processes as there is an element of crossover. But choosing the right one for your business could make the difference between success or failure in a new global market.

Let's dive a little deeper into localization vs translation to see why website localization services are essential tools in your global marketing strategy.

Translation vs Localization: What's the Difference?

Translation is a part of localization, just as keyword research is the starting point of Search Engine Optimization. Both can stand alone as processes, but the first phase of a localization project includes a translation project.

Translation projects take the words you have written in your source language and convert them into your target language. This can be done by machine translation or through a language expert, depending on your specifications for the project. Once the message is converted, this is where the translation of the project ends.

Translation converts the message of your communications, whereas localization adapts them for the right global audience. Translation speaks to your customer's minds, but localization speaks to their hearts.

How To Localize Your Content

Imagine you had an advertising campaign where you needed to translate your content into French, for example. You could hire a good French translator to translate all the text in your English language campaign and call it a day.

But what if you were launching that campaign into both French and Canadian markets? Would a straight translation be what you would need here? Not really. There are a lot of differences between Canada and France, and you would need to localize for each market.

Firstly, mainland French and Canadian French use different words and phrases that would need to be reviewed by a local language expert. In another blog, we talked about the power of transcreation and transforming content for a local audience. This is the minimal level of translation you would need when converting your content for a new global market.

Additionally, if you translate your original content from British English, will a translator also account for the changes in currency in all your pricing? France uses the Euro, Canada uses the Canadian Dollar, and you may have written your original content for a British audience that uses the Pounds Sterling.

Straight translation will not adapt to these changes and will use the original currency. During the localization process, these changes would be considered to ensure that they are correct for the region they are targeting.

What about data and time conventions? Canada uses a combination of French, American and their own formats. Localization projects seek out these differences and adjust your translations accordingly.

Visual Imagery in Localization

Visual designs that work well for one global market may not always be a good fit for another. Localization considers cultural differences between countries and regional languages and finds the best way to tell a visual story. A translation project will only look at the words on the page but localizing means looking at every aspect of your content.

In France, you may want to use an image of the Eiffel Tower as a symbol of the country, but this will mean little to a Canadian as a national image. Likewise, if you are using a footballer in your imagery in France, where football is a very popular sport, you would want to change this for a sport that resonates much more with a Canadian customer.

Colours are critical, too, especially when moving into global markets. Green, for example, can have many meanings and invoke a variety of emotions around the world.

For the Irish, the colour green is considered lucky, while it evokes a feeling of vitality and long life in Japan. In Mexico, green is the colour of freedom and independence, but in China, it could signify infidelity if applied to the colour of a hat. To Muslims, green is a sacred colour symbolizing Mohammed, whereas to many others, it can mean jealousy, except for Germany, which believes jealousy is yellow.

Even when choosing a colour palette, there are many things you could get wrong, and that would change the meaning of your whole campaign.

There have been disastrous examples of poor global communications where marketers did not consider local cultures and expectations. In the best case, your customers might find it amusing or pay no attention, but you could cause a significant offence in the worst cases.

Start with Translation and Evolve into Localization

Hopefully, we have shown you that there is much to consider when you want to move into global markets successfully. Translation is the starting point of any localization campaign. But it is only really that, a beginning.

LanguageWire can help with your marketing campaigns, whether you need a simple translation or a large localization project. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us to find out how our mixture of cutting-edge translation technology and human expertise can help you communicate with your global customers in the right way.

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