Translation VS Localization in Today’s Global Market

Content writing has become a pivotal factor in marketing new products and services on the global market. With so many brands and seemingly endless array of choices on the market, customers have a hard time choosing what’s best for them.

When it comes to the marketing side of things, companies usually have two choices at their disposal – translation and localization. Taking into consideration that 90% of Europeans rarely browse pages in languages other than their own (or even make purchases), it’s easy to see the appeal of pushing into a global market.

Choosing one or the other can cause an avalanche of new customers to flock around your brand or for you to lose tremendous amounts of resources and revenue. What exactly is the difference and importance of choice between translation and localization in today’s global and digital market?

What’s the difference?

  • Translation

We are all familiar with the term “translation” by now. In short, translation represents direct interpretation of information in one language and transforming it into another.

There is no room for improvisation, missed information or any additions in translation writing. The writers are not allowed to make any changes, cut any corners or basically “think” while they work on their projects.

This type of writing is viable for technical documentation, legal documents, medical files, engineering sheets, etc. Some niches have particular lingo, phrases and terminology that others don’t and have to be followed through to the letter.

  • Localization

On the other side of the spectrum we have localization – and this is where things get complicated (and interesting). Localization represents a type of interpretation of the original writing without having to translate text word for word.

This means that the writers are able to be more creative and take liberties with their writing (on the condition that they are familiar with the target language’s specific culture). Localization takes local culture, beliefs, moral code and civil history into consideration.

It is a very viable type of translation when it comes to blogs, non-scientific writing, film media subtitling and other non-academic writing forms. Choosing one or the other can have far-reaching consequences on the perception of your business in that specific language.

Which one do you need?

  • Type of content

Before anything else, make sure that you are clear on the type of content you are about to market internationally. If you are translating your company website into other languages, don’t localize anything. If you are pushing through to new markets with your products and expect sales and revenue streams – localize your content.

As you can see, the type of content you are about to push forward directly dictates the type of writing you will have to employ. Use logic and reason as well as the advice of your translation expert or marketing team before making the final call.

  • Specific international regions

No two regions are alike when it comes to the choice of translation VS localization. For example, China has a large demographic with very different set of content expectations in the North as opposed to the South. Japanese people have a very different culture and ideology as opposed to Vietnamese, Korean or Australian audiences.

Don’t generalize regions based on their continents and vicinity of each country to one another. Take cultural factors into consideration as it is often smarter to opt for localization in these circumstances. That way you will ensure that no party is offended or threatened by your product, service or web content due to cultural differences.

  • Target demographic

Translating or localizing your content for youth and millennials isn’t the same as creating content for industry professionals. As you can see, the factors that should be taken into consideration always come back to your own content and what it is you are actually translating or localizing.

Younger generations are far more lenient towards localization mistakes or translation misunderstandings than their older counterparts. If you mistranslate important web content which can cost you clients and support in a certain region, you will have effectively failed in that market.

The bottom line

The choice between translation and localization isn’t an easy one. This is mostly due to the fact that any mistakes usually end up going viral on the internet which can hurt your reputation and standing in the industry.

Pay close attention to your competitors’ choices in this matter and do proper research about the countries you are preparing content for. Rushing into a marketing campaign blindly will likely result in a negative outcome. Choose your content optimization option wisely.