Translation vs Localization

Translation vs Localization

The terms localization and translation are often used interchangeably. And yet, while the terms and processes share similarities and purpose, the outcome is quite different.? To understand the differences, let?s start with some simple definitions:

What is Translation?

Translation is the word-for-word rendering of source text from one language (i.e., English) into another (i.e., Spanish). Translation is fairly literal?the source and target-language text should employ the same words and terminology and essentially be mirror-images of each other. For medical translation of labelling and instructions, legal document translations, compliance documents, or other regulatory or legal documents, a precise translation is all that is needed and localization services are not applicable. At AML-Global translation is usually billed per word.

Challenges with Translation

The challenge with translation revolves around customization – rather its inability to adapt to unique differences in audience types or needs. Simply translating a document from English into French, for example, fails to account for the different forms of French that are spoken in different regions, including Quebec, New Brunswick, France and Africa among others. Throw in local variations in language use, grammar, dialect and tone and it quickly becomes apparent that a one-size-fits-all translation won’t cut it.

What is Localization?

Localization involves translation, plus adapting the target-language content to convey the same meaning and meet the cultural and functional expectation of the target language. It?s important to note that localized content will not be a literal, word-for-word translation. Words and phrases will be changed to best reflect how concepts and ideas are expressed in the target culture.

While localization is technically the more advanced of the two, bear in mind that localizing a message is a more resource-intensive process.

Expectations may vary by region and industry but they can typically be broken down into two categories: cultural and functional.

Some examples of cultural content include:

  • Colors, shapes, sizes, styles
  • Images, icons, graphics
  • Societal codes; i.e. humor, etiquette, rituals, myths, symbols
  • Societal values, power, relationships, beliefs

Some examples of functional content include:

  • Date and time formats, telephone numbers, contact information
  • Weights, measurements, geographical references
  • Language and linguistic content; product descriptions, reviews

Challenges with Localization

Let’s consider some of the issues that could crop up if you need Spanish localized.? Which Spanish would you need?? If you are preparing a presentation for Spanish speaking audiences native to Spain, you would need to present them with learning tools in their native Castilian Spanish dialect.? If you were entertaining Spanish speakers in Mexico, their Spanish would differ significantly from that of Spain, and accordingly, so would Latin American Spanish from either of the other Spanish dialects mentioned above.

Either way, knowing the difference between translation and localization can result in more effective communications, and to sum up depending on your content, it should be fairly easy to determine whether you need translation services or localization services.

American Language Services stands the test of time in providing translation, interpretation, transcription and media services (dubbing, voiceovers & subtitling) to private industry, government at all levels, and educational and non-profit organizations. Our thousands of linguists around the world and teams of dedicated professionals are ready to serve.

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