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Translation vs Localization - Explained

Translation and Localization are two sides of the same coin, so the confusion in understanding is understandable.

The translation process can assure a proper translation between two languages - source and target language. On the other hand, the localization process goes further and provides the adaptation between the source language and locale.

What is Translation?

Translation is the process of transferring text from one language into another one. The focus is to have the equivalent message in the target language as in the source one. The translation process juggles proper grammar and syntax rules for each language.

Often translation is looked at as a rewriting process. While this perspective might work for repetitive content, such as user manuals, medical or scientific literature etc. However, when it comes to more creative content, translation turns into more of a re-creation process. In cases such as that, translators have to move further to re-create a similar pace, writing style and vocabulary preferences as the original.

What is Localization?

Localization is the process of adapting a product for different markets, to different locale to a different cultural context. Localization is not a word-to-word translation of text, it is a process of forming authentic multilingual content based on source material. Localization goes beyond translating words and commits to translating the meaning.

The goal of localization is to create a faithful version of the product that can be enjoyed fully by customers in their native language and in accordance with their cultural background.

Localization includes adaptation of parameters such as number formatting settings, date and time settings, currency formats or even visual elements, paper sizes and measurement units.

Translation vs. Localization (l10n) - what’s the difference?

It’s quite hard to differentiate translation and localization, especially when done at the highest level of quality. However, some nuance does exist between the two.

Here is the difference:

  • Translation refers to a process in which text from the source language is produced in the target language, aiming to provide a faithful version of the content.

  • Localization, on the other hand, goes beyond the translation process and provides a multilingual, geographically and culturally adapted product.

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