Translation and localization – how to save 10 million dollars



We are frequently asked what the difference is between translation and localization. The word translation is familiar to most people and generally does not cause any difficulties, but the meaning of localization is not as clear.

In Swedish, the word localization ('lokalisering") brings to mind the idea of "locality" or a similar concept. The word has a different meaning in the language industry and in international trade. Here it means adapting a product or content to the conventions of a specific language and culture.

Even if the boundary between translation and localization is not firm, language companies make the following distinctions between the services.

Translation entails literally reproducing the source language's content in one or more target languages. The service is most suitable for legal texts, agreements and contracts, theses, some medical texts and instructions where it is important for the translated text basically to reproduce the content of the original text word for word.

Localization entails both translation and adjustment of the translated content. The aim is for the message to reach target groups in other markets or cultures as effectively as possible. In addition to solid understanding of the source and target languages and sound knowledge in the field, the localizer also has to have thorough knowledge of the local market and culture. Localization services are generally utilized for marketing material, web pages, software, apps, social media and other content that needs to reach consumers or large target groups. The following aspects are considered in conjunction with localization:

  • The material may not contain text, images or anything else that might come across as offensive, embarrassing or ridiculous in the local culture.
  • Symbols, colors, images and sound are interpreted in different ways in different parts of the world and have to be adjusted to ensure the right message is communicated.
  • Dates, time, units of measure, currencies and similar aspects need to be adapted to the conventions that apply in the local market.

The young computer and software developers – Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Oracle, HP and others – that had embarked upon a successful journey out into the world in the 1980's and 1990's emphasized that their products should have a local flavor. As a result of these companies’ unprecedented success, localization is often synonymous with software localization, which is characterized by advanced technical solutions and computer controlled processes.

There are many funny (and not so funny) examples of how a lack of knowledge on cultural and language differences can undermine the aim of what is otherwise interesting content. And mistakes can be costly. After its successful campaign with the slogan "Assume Nothing" in the U.S., the global bank decided to launch the campaign in other markets around the world. Due to an unfortunate translation mistake, however, the slogan became "Do Nothing" in several countries – hardly the message any company wants to convey to potential customers. The bank felt compelled to spend USD 10 million to repair the damage to the brand as a result of the mistake. Professional localization and translation services help you avoid pitfalls and mistakes, as well as communicate your message as effectively as possible – resulting in increased credibility and sales in local markets.

Localization is not limited to documents and other documentation. Videos have become the most widely used media online. They are suitable for brand building as well as company and product presentations. When it comes to video, localization is of great importance if you aim to reach large audiences. Read our expert tips for localization of videos.

Need help with localization of your product in a local language? Contact us and our experts will help you choose the most suitable solutions for your needs.

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