Is There any Difference Between the Terms ‘Translation’ and ‘Localisation’?

Last Updated On: August 22, 2016


Translation and Localisation’The pace of globalisation shows no sign of slowing, and the need for marketing products and services in the language of a new overseas market is growing with this trend. Many companies are becoming aware of making sure that they remain understood when they start to expand into overseas markets. Two terms that are often used, sometimes interchangeably, when preparing a product for sale overseas are ‘translation’ and ‘localisation’.

Most people understand what translation involves. It simply means changing text from one language into another. However, if a label, an instruction or description is translated word for word into another language it might still not make sense or even cause derision or contempt because the meaning of the translation has changed. This is because language must be modified to take into account the culture and habits of the community in which the products are intended to be marketed. The adaptation of the information in whatever intended form into something suitable for the new culture is termed ‘localisation’.


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In fact, translation and localisation are usually performed by the same translation service. If this service is going to be any good, it must use translators who are fully conversant in not just the language to be translated into, but the customs, culture and sensitivities of that community as well. Localisation is more than just translation, or to restate this phrase, translation is one part, albeit an important one, of localisation. Literal translations, when viewed in the marketplace, can be downright funny, just plain odd, or even offensive. We have all seen examples of signs and notices which have been translated into English when visiting another country as a tourist which appear ‘odd’. It is because they have been simply translated without any idea of the linguistic peculiarities of English. Effective localization is necessary if there is any serious intention of successfully marketing products overseas.

Localisation is not an easy task, and it is not always a cheap option, either, but it is certainly important if the language used is custom designed for the target community without having any real change in the meaning of the text. Document translation services that are worthwhile don’t just check language for cultural implications. They carefully screen things like currency, telephone and fax numbers, time and date specifications as well as icons and graphics for suitability. In a nutshell, the localisation process makes sure that the translation from English into another language is going to ‘work’ effectively.

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