Skip to content

3 Differences between Translation and Localization You Must Know

The terms Translation and Localization are used interchangeably in the Training industry. Even global businesses assume they are the same with slight variations. Some still think why do we need to care about these two? Well, you’ve got to see this survey figures.

A European Commission Survey report shows that In Italy, the Czech Republic, Ireland and the UK, a majority (between 52% and 85%) of Internet users said that they only used their own language to read and watch content on the Internet.

If you want to expand your business and make it global, you have to add local color and flavor. Translation and localization do that effectively. But you must know there is a whole lot of difference between the two. Then only can you decide what to choose.

Definitions of Translation and Localization

Translation is the process of changing a source version of anything – a document, web content, course material, and multimedia into the target language with a proper syntax that makes clear sense to your readers, viewers, or learners.

Localization is the process of translating and adapting different forms of content or products to a specific locale and culture. Context plays a key role in localization. It also takes formal and informal settings into consideration. Making sense and conveying the right meaning with the intended emotion in that particular locale and cultural settings enhance the effectiveness of communication.

Here are three differences between translation and localization.

First Difference

Translation bridges language barriers: Translation conveys the meaning by changing the words in one language to another. It focuses more on the language and conveys the exact possible meaning in the target language.

Localization is for regional specificity:

Localization adapts the online content and deliverables for regional specificity. It’s about polishing your message and organizing it to meet the cultural, functional, and linguistic requirements. Words, colors, clothing, cultural symbols, and other cultural elements play an important role in localization.

For example, when you localize the online content design, you can’t use green in Indonesia, as it’s forbidden there. But it’s the national color of Mexico.

Let’s say you are localizing an online course for German, you can’t leave the term ‘Gift’ as it is as it means ‘poison’ in German.

In times past, men in western countries wore skirts, togas, or kilts for ceremonies. But now wearing skirts is confined to women. Women in Muslim societies need to wear hijabs or head scarves and burq as to cover their head and body.

You have to consider these issues while localizing your online training courses. Using images with proper attire is a must.

You must consider such differences while localizing the online training courses.

Second Difference

Translation is neutral to cultural differences: It takes a neutral stand toward various cultures and focuses on the language part. You can project your organization as global and neutral by including all cultures and races. Avoiding culture-specific jargon, using images of all ethnicities, and formal language – all these steps can help your business with just language translation.

Localization meets cultural and functional requirements

If your organization wants to compete, training content must be localized keeping in view the global multilingual workforce and diversity of customers and markets.

Requirements of employees and customers may vary depending on the industries and the regions they live in. All these differences fall into cultural or functional categories.

Cultural factors: Can be applicable to colors, shapes, visuals, icons, graphics, social codes – for example etiquette, humor, symbols, currencies etc; and social values such as relationships and faith.

Functional factors: Can be related to linguistic content, descriptions of any product or service, addresses, date and time formats, phone numbers, and more.

You need to consider the cultural and functional factors while localizing your online training materials, marketing, and web content.

Third Difference

Translation suits technical subjects: It works for subjects such as law, science, research, medicine, and finance. If the e-learning or online training is standardized, you can go for translation.

Localization is apt for highly emotive content: This includes marketing and website content. When you want to provide a higher level of customization according to the region and culture, you can always opt for localization. You can do that for either a training content or web content.

Differences between Translation and Localization
Translation Localization
Changes source content into the desired language with a proper syntax that makes clear sense Translation and adaptation of content to a specific locale and culture
Focuses more on the language Adapts to regional specificity
Is Neutral to cultural differences Considers cultural and functional requirements
Suits technical subjects Apt for highly emotive content

Though there are differences between translation and localization, they are mutually supportive. . If you localize all other elements without language, it’s a waste. So it’s better to choose as per the occasion and requirement.

Need further assistance with the translation and localization of your training content? The following e-book talks extensively about translating and localizing training, the process, and reducing the costs involved in e-learning translation.

The State of Learning: 2023 and Beyond