Localization and Translation

Subject: Psychology
Type: Informative Essay
Pages: 14
Word count: 3581
Topics: Communication, Community, Linguistics

Difference between Localization and Translation

Translation refers to the process of changing the words of a given language to their equivalent in another language while at the same time preserving meaning. The process of translation takes place either in written or spoken words. On the other hand, language localization refers to the process whereby, previously translated product or content is modified or adapted to fit the traditions of a given country or region. Rantala (2012) describes the concept of language localization as the process of adapting a product to fit the local consumer’s needs and preferences. Further, the language syntax and semantic rules are important for both processes. While language translation is important, the aspect of word choice, phrasing and use of synonyms differ from one locale to another. As such, localization aids with the blending of the translated content to the local context. It is not only useful for written text, but also the translation of software, video games, websites, audio and voiceovers and video content. Translation and localization, have been used interchangeably for a long time. However, a deeper look into the two reveals vast differences


The first major translation on record was done many centuries ago, precisely between the third and first centuries BC (Cohen, 1986). It took place when the dispersed Jews needed a translation of their scriptures from their ancestral language into Greek. However, minor translations began long before this period. Conversely, the concept of extensive language localization began during the second half of the 20th century (Zimmerman, 2010). In the 1970s, the professional translators and interested scholars began offering services for translation of languages (Zimmermann, 2010). 

Following the demanding nature of the variations in the various cultures, professional language service providers developed an area of specialization that primarily focused on localization, as opposed to a simple translation. These professionals focused entirely on understanding the traditions that made up specific cultures and their preferences, both in spoken and written languages (Zimmerman, 2010). Consequently, these professionals completed major projects of localization. Some of these projects included translation of comic books and novels among others.

Later on during the late 1990s, with increased accessibility to personal computers and a range of application software, a global need for these products in different languages arose. Some of the languages needed include Spanish, Russian and Italian. For this reason, the demand grew considerably. In its initial stages, the process of translations was conducted in its most basic and rigid form. However, with the increasing demand for an improved user experience, there arose the need for professional translators to customize these translations to fit the demands of different locales. Currently, businesses face need to make decisions on whether to make use of the activity of translation or localization. In most cases, the choice depends on the nature and target of the content in question.


Fundamentally, translation refers to the process of converting content from one language to its exact form in another language (Apter, 2011; Cohen, 1986). Primarily, the goal of translation is to maintain meaning and convey a message to an audience that speaks a different language. Ass compared to localization, the process of translation is relatively simpler and takes a shorter time. This is true because the process avoids the need to understand the technicalities surrounding the traditions and the culturally accepted uses. Some of the areas where translation is applicable include signs, posters, and technical documentation. Secondly, translation may also be applicable for specific information concerning a given domain of knowledge, whose target audience is similar for both languages (Apter, 2011). This way, the target audience can understand the content from a technical perspective.

Predominantly, the differences in the needs and preferences of the target audience pose a significant challenge to the process of translation. For, instance the translation of a comic book originally written in French to Spanish with intentions of targeting a child in Mexico. Indeed, there exist fundamental differences between the French and Mexican culture. These differences influence the manner in which parents from these countries bring up the children. Consequently, some of the situations depicted in the comic book are relatable to the originally intended audience and not the Mexican child. For this reason, translation is not as effective for the situations that require the audience to perceive the depictions of the content and relate to it. A simple translation of a given document from French to Spanish in the most case may fail to give account to the local slang, dialect or even tone commonly and therefore easily understood by Mexican children. Therefore, a simple translation may not cater for all these needs.

Translation, in its simplest definition, may refer to the conversion of a source text to a target language without losing meaning. However, it is noteworthy that this process is not purely mechanical (Nikcevic-Batricevic & Knezevic, 2010). It requires a comprehensive understanding of both the original and target languages. The activity of translation aims at not only conveying the intended message but also maintaining the tone and the artistic style intended by the original author. As such, the translator needs to have a deep understanding of the stylistic devices used by the original author. 

The most common perception about translation is that bilingual people can indeed translate text from their first language to the second language. While the statement is somewhat true, it is worth noting that translation requires much more than simply having the ability to speak the languages. Proficiency in written language, correct grammar and punctuation are all required for a person to become an effective translator. For instance, the English language is one of the most popular languages used for business in the world. As such, the language has played a key role in globalization. Language service providers such as translators and interpreters have had a significant rise in their demand across the world. One of the most common uses for these service providers is the translation of web content and applications. Due to the invention of the internet, businesses are able to reach potential customers based in any region in the world. In addition, following language differences, these businesses require translation to convey the desired messages to their customers in their own language.

The issue of accuracy is an important requirement in translation, especially when dealing with highly sensitive information such as technical reports as well and manual guides. In line with accuracy, another process often associated with translation is back-translation. It involves the use of a different professional translator to translate an already translated piece of text to its original language without reference to the original document (Ozolins, 2009). Afterwards, the comparison between the back-translated text and the original text is done to check for inconsistencies in order to estimate the accuracy of the first translation. Indeed, similar to a mathematical function, the accuracy of a translated document can be determined by reversing the process. 

However, unlike mathematical symbols which are usually explicit in their meaning, words have a high level of ambiguity. Therefore, while the process of back translation is useful for approximating translation accuracy, it is not entirely reliable because of the variations in the meaning of the linguistic symbols. Nevertheless, international organizations such as the World Health Organization approved the use back translation for the verification of vital text especially in the field of international medicine and psychosocial health (Ozolins, 2009). Additionally, over the past few decades, the demand and availability of translators have increased significantly. The production of documents such as books, journal articles, and international license agreements target the global market. This is because translation has overcome the language barriers that used to limit the market scope.

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Unlike translation, localization refers to the act of modifying content to fit the needs of a given locale. This includes modifying aspects such as the spelling variations, date format among other key features pertinent to a given region or country. The cultural identity of a given locale is also highly considered when localizing given content that was originally meant for a specific region. Localization tries to meet the needs of specific people or any given market. As opposed to translation that focuses on conveying messages, localization puts more emphasis on giving content a sense of identity. This identity means that the intended audience can relate to the content in terms of the cultural values, traditions, and preferences. In other words, localization focuses on ensuring that the target audience sees the message as being specific to all of them and therefore reduces ideas and potential for all the audience to reject the content on the basis of unfamiliarity (Deng, 2012). Projects have optimality through localization where the focus is on the needs of the message to be precise in cases such as marketing campaigns or when in the process of constructing slogans and logos.

Notably, the activity of localization takes more time to be completed as compared to translation due to the magnitude of its needs. It is also imperative to note that where there exists a message that focuses on resource-intensive process, localization is more advanced as compared to translation. In any given situation, if the given the word is high level in regard to its sufficiencies such as an internal process document or a simple label, its investment may not be worth it. For example, issues may come up in the localization of the Spanish language. For instance, if a person intends to provide a presentation for a Spanish speaking audience who are natives of Spain, there is the need to introduce learning tools in the Castilian Spanish dialect. The same applies to Spanish speakers in Mexico or South American countries.

Localization makes use of modification and tailors them to suit the needs of a certain locale. For instance, Windows Operating System gives options for a person to choose their language preferences, keyboard layout among many options. For the case of language preferences, the operating system has various English dialects that suit the needs of the users from different regions. In localization, therefore, each of the products and service has a program to serve a given community by their culture, resources, and language. The process of localization requires the significant effort of research to understand the particular language use among other preferences and customs pertinent to a given region. In most cases, professionals collaborate with the natives of a particular area of interest to gain the required information regarding these aspects of the locale (Tsvetkov & Tsvetkov, 2011). In any case, localization is a given adoption of an object to fit a given locality. One example is the localization of software where the messages of the same tool have its translation to various languages. The aspect of knowing the difference between localization and translation can affect effective communication and therefore promote better use of the limited resources.

In some of the search engines, although Google has the advantage of dominating the market, there are countries where its products are second or third on the list. For example, in China, Baidu is number one while in Japan it is Yahoo. In Russia, Yandex is the top search engine while in South Korea Naver dominates the market. In the news-broadcasting segment CNN, while using the knowledge of 55 million Latinos in the USA, decided to focus on an approach that gives the group content in their language. One practical goal of localization is to focus on providing services and products with the local audience being in mind so as to focus on minimizing the effect of local disposition.  The ideas on localization involve a clear process since it has a specific requirement of the issue of cultural adaptation (Ling & Chen, 2013). Here, it has to focus as earlier stated on the local beliefs, practices, dialects, idioms, and culture. 

With localization, there may be a requirement where there is the adaptation of graphics to target the audience effectively. Another idea is that its content has to focus on the modification to conform to the consumption habits and tastes of the consumers. The other approach is that it has to convert the elements of the content to the needs of the local user unit of measures and currencies. Additionally, the process has to focus on the local formats regarding the phone numbers, hours, dates, and addresses. Lastly, its elements have to have a confirmation to the legal regulation and requirements of the local people.

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Difference between Localization and Translation

Many fundamental differences exist between localization and translation. The most obvious difference is the translation focuses on the preservation of meaning and style of expression. However, localization focuses on the audience experience when using a foreign product (Dunne, 2014) However, in the translation of text such as books or magazines, there should be some extent of localization. This will ensure that the target customers acquire the intended information in a manner to which they can relate

Another difference between localization and translation is the need to change a certain product name or brand to fit the needs of the intended audience in a specific locale. This is true even for advertisement of globally known products (Dunne, 2014). For instance, Coca-Cola commercials in most cases focus on the needs of the target country. It is noteworthy that while all of these advertisements aim at enticing customers to buy their product, they do so by taking into consideration the characteristics common to a certain locale. Subsequently, these advertisements are more successful than if they were translated into the local language of the target audience but maintained a uniform scene and format of the advertisement. 

Further, translation involves the conversion of the words into a different language without taking into consideration the implication of these words on the audience provided they provide an accurate meaning as the intended one. Localization, on the other hand, involves careful evaluation of these words and the possible effects they could have on the intended audience. This is done by comparing the originally intended meaning and the meaning that can be inferred from the content. Therefore, localization may involve the substitution of some words with the ones commonly used in the intended locale in order to appeal to that audience. For instance, a joke that is funny in America may not be funny in Italy if it is translated directly into Italian. However, a little tweaking and substitution of words would make the joke to be understood in the Italian context.

Additionally, in a localized content, for instance, the website takes into consideration the varying use of words and phrases. In comparison, some websites that offer automatic translation can be perceived as providing unfamiliar content to the users. Consequently, the intended users may not find the content as interesting as it was intended in its original content. Therefore, localization of content is important for the globalization of products and services because it involves understanding and appreciating global diversity by the companies offering these products. 

According to Parra (2011), localization of websites, web contents or applications should cater for adapting to both local and regional use. The users should have an option to choose between the versions with which they are familiar and comfortable. Here, the method focuses on involving not only translation but also the aspect of modification of some of the source language and the elements of the site to tailor into the preferences of the culture of the language of the targeted group. In translation, however, even the most experienced linguist may miss the technical and cultural norms associated with the local usage because their major intention is to give an exact translation of the original content. An active global site needs more than just the ideas on translation since there is the need for a practical customer experience that is of high quality. 

Therefore, most organizations face the decisions on whether to translate or globalize their content. Essentially, the decision should lie on the type of content and the target audience. For such simple content as a warning sign on the packages of products, the translation would be the most efficient and cost-effective option. However, for complex content such as an application program or commercial website, localization is the best option because it offers an adaptation of content to the locally acceptable and relatable context. This is conformity with Schäler’s (2010) opinion that the critical issue that causes the differences between the translation and localization is the adaptation of content to a distinct locale. 

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Consequences of Translation and Localization

Most companies have realized the growing need to expand into global markets translation and localization. The increased need for localization and translation primarily in computing has led to the growth of internationalization. Its primary function is to focus on ensuring that the content is ready for use across different regions because the language barrier does not pose a serious challenge. Therefore, the customers get to experience globalization, which includes the exchange of cultural values, business ideas, and products. In other subject areas such as software development, the translation and localization have catered for such problems that revolve around customer care as a result of differences in language. Commercial websites and software programs have improved their user experience, thus avoiding unnecessary mistakes that may result from language barriers. Multilingual versions of software, on the other hand, have eliminated the problems associated with language barriers because of localization (Sharifi, 2016).

Some of the benefits of internationalization include the ability to use a one source code primarily for all the versions. Another benefit is that there is a more straightforward application of the software and its adaptation to the different locales. One other advantage in the technology world is the easy and straightforward process of maintenance while reducing the time and cost of localization. It also has the effect of improving the quality of the code architecture while lowering the overall cost of ownership of the different types or versions of a given product. Lastly, it has the benefit of conforming to the international standards.

Further, the concept of internationalization has helped in the removal of some of the problems concerning the multilingual services and products such as freedom and efficiency of a particular language or character. Additionally, it helps in the process of eliminating hard-coded text and focus on minimizing its presence. The given product may be compatible while using different tools from third-parties. Additionally, internationalization complies with the global display standards of text and therefore allows provided software to be in use in different countries and languages.


The process of translation dates back to many centuries before civilization. This is because of the socializing nature of humans. While localization emerged during the 1980s, the two concepts have played a significant role in the shaping the world as it is. This is because political alliances were formed because of translation. Even in the contemporary society, business people with different cultural and lingual backgrounds have made business treaties with the aid of translators. 

Today, communication has become a key factor to the success of any business, especially in the marketing aspect. For global firms, the marketing approach has to be adapted to be inclusive of the cultures in the target markets. As such, the concept of translation and localization has a number of advantages. First, it provides the potential customer with vital information regarding a certain business or product. Second, translation aids in cultural exchange, either in the business or entertainment world, which in turn works to promote globalization. Third, localization aids a specific group of people in relating with foreign content by applying it to their personal or cultural context. Fourth, localization helps maintain the desirable human relationship between cultures because localizing content from one context to another shows respect and appreciation for different cultures. For these reasons, many individuals and companies with intentions of reaching global markets invest many resources to tend to the lingual needs of their target customers many of the global multinationals hold the belief that the achievement of universal operations is imperative to any given business. In cases involving acquisitions and mergers, the ability of a person to communicate in a precise and accurate manner is critical in sealing any favorable deal.

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The issues on translation will remain as a big part of the effect of localization process although the problem of translation requires more involvement primarily from the translators. The idea has its basis on the issue that it is no longer just translation of the content into the local language, but all the content must fit the traditions, customs, practices, and beliefs of the domestic targets. The regional culture and destination make them behave in a certain way that is different primarily when it comes to responding multimedia, page layout, color scheme, and font styles of the content. The focus on localization not only focuses on making a given product or service more comfortable to use by the consumers in the international market but to assure that they will use the same product. Additionally, the differences between globalization and translation are based on the amount of research required to operate both activities. Translation is relatively cheaper in comparison to localization in terms of time and resources used. The type of content greatly influences the decision on whether the company should invest in translation or globalization of content. Localization requires an in-depth understanding of the cultural practices and the norms of the target community while translation requires an in-depth knowledge of the various aspects of two languages for an accurate translation.

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