Written by Sarp Tetikel, digital marketer at AccessEast
In this post, we will be looking at what separates localisation from translation, and why understanding this distinction is crucial to be successful in international business.
It is common to come across the terms "translation" and "localisation" when it comes to choosing the right language service. It is important not to confuse one with the other, as not knowing the differences between these terms can lead to making a seemingly simple mistake when expanding your business to a new country. Choosing the right service can have a significant influence on the success of your business in a new market, especially in culturally sensitive markets such as Eastern European and Central Asian countries. Read carefully to learn why this matters to your business or organisation.
While some suggest they are interchangeable terms, translation and localisation are in reality very different. It is true however, that localisation is part of a bigger process and it may include translation in itself, but it has a different purpose. Let’s take a closer look as to why.
Translation and localisation: what is their purpose?
Translation means to convert a given word, phrase or text from one language to another in a manner that it makes sense in the target language. This process still includes changes to the choice of words and the text in order to allow the translated text to be understood as intended. In some cases, two sentences with the same meaning may sometimes be expressed differently in different languages. A simple example of this is when we ask people for their names. While it is quite straightforward in English, in Italian, the phrase "Come ti chiami?" literally translates to "How do you call yourself?". In other examples, it may be necessary to modify the sentence further in order to obtain the same meaning.
Localisation on the other hand, is the process of adapting a product or service to be more suitable for a particular audience or market. This involves changes in elements of humor, names, date and time formats, symbols and/or colors, and the overall representation of the product.
While translation carries the purpose of simply delivering a message into another language, localisation aims to connect with the audience in a manner that feels natural and familiar to their culture. It makes you blend in with your audience as if your message was written specifically for them. It makes you, well, speak their language, figuratively. AccessEast also provides localisation services, go to our localisation page to read more about how it can help your business.
Localisation is not limited to text, as opposed to translation.
Content that can be localised includes ads, images, video games, and even entire marketing strategies. Great examples of this can be found executed by sportswear brands advertising in accordance with the most popular sports in the region, such as football in Brazil contrary to ice hockey in Canada.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that localisation does not always involve translation. As the name indicates, it adapts and reconfigures a product with a specific locale in mind, and this is not always one that speaks a different language. Localisation is also common in countries speaking different dialects of the same language. Spanish for example, has 10 different major dialects spoken around the world, with distinct differences between each of them.
What are the challenges of localising content?
Adjusting your product to the needs and expectations of a specific region requires a profound understanding of your audience's culture, lifestyle, ideals, and characteristics. Having this understanding is crucial in achieving perfection in your localisation, especially considering that any native speaker can instantly recognize when they are looking at a dialect of their language.
Something as simple as a correct yet inaccurate spelling of a word such as "flavor" as opposed to "flavour" or using a word from a different dialect and advertising a brand of "chips" instead of "crisps" in Britain can result in the alienation and indifference of your potential customers towards your product. The safest way to avoid this seemingly small yet destructive mistake is by working with a professional native translator of your target audience. This should ensure not only the accuracy and clarity of your localisation but also the correct portrayal of the image of your brand.
Localisation is especially critical for companies operating with B2C models, as the language needs to be more personalised, as opposed to the form of communication in a B2B environment.