What’s the Difference Between Translation and Localisation?

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what translation is. It’s the conversion of text from one language to another. The emphasis of translation isn’t on the cultural or other aspects of the language. It’s often a verbatim conversion from one language to another so that an audience who reads a different language can understand the text.

Localisation, on the other hand, is a broader term. It involves more than just textual but also cultural aspects of the language so that the localised content connects with the target audience in a voice that feels familiar.

For example, both Americans and the British speak English. Practically, there is no need for international brands to translate their marketing brochures or ad copies. But to maximise success in both markets, they will need to localise these texts. The first reason is that American and British spellings are different; for example, the American spelling of ‘theatre’ is ‘theater’. Secondly, words like ‘lift’ and ‘holiday’ are used in British English, but Americans use words like ‘elevator’ and ‘vacation’. Moreover, idioms and slangs are different in each country. So, even if they seemingly read and write the same language, there are cultural differences that brands have to be aware of.

Another example is the French language. French is an official language in Canada and France; however, the grammar and vocabulary used in Canadian French are different from the French used in France. So, if you translate a document into Canadian French, you won't be able to use it for an audience based in France. That's where you need to localise the content. Here, it means adapting the text to fit the tastes, cultural aspects, and consumption habits of your audience in France.

Is localisation Important?

Localisation is a comprehensive process. There is more to it than just a word-for-word translation, which often won’t result in content that feels familiar to the local audience. You need to localise your content to address not only any linguistic or textual issues, but also adapt any details like date formats, currency units, metrics and measurements to fit the audience’s local context.

If you are looking to translate or localise any content, feel free to contact us at info@contextual.asia.

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