Basics: Translation vs. Localization

The language services industry loves making things complicated.

What’s transcreation? What about localization? Are they the same, and which service do I need for my business? To add to the confusion, these concepts are often abbreviated into "numeronyms" or called something different by each provider. What fun.

Here are five of the industry’s most common concepts, explained:

(You will encounter some Numeronyms. How are they built? Easy: from the subject's name we take the first and the last letters, and the number of characters in between)

1. Translation (or t8n)

Translation is the process of expressing text in another language. Text is expressed word for word, with attention to grammar and syntax. Depending upon the service/technology you choose to use, translation may or may not take into account cultural nuances and idioms in texts. “Easy as pie” in English, for example, could be translated literally and badly, as in “as straightforward as a baked dessert” or idiomatically and correctly, as in “it’s very simple”.

2. Localization (or L10n)

Localization involves translation, but its broader goal is to make content (or a product) feel as though it were created specifically for a specific target market.

For example, you can translate a website’s content from Japanese into English, but there are other considerations that won’t always be included in the translation process, like converting currency from Yen into the local currency, formatting addresses and dates, and adjusting the website’s layout itself according to cultural and technological preferences, changes in word/character counts and more.

3. Transcreation (no one actually calls this t11n. Yet. Phew!)

Transcreation, also known as “creative translation,” is a form of copywriting where the original content may be changed completely to align with the desired message. Relative to translation, it is far more expensive, but is one good way of preserving and perfecting messaging across different markets.

4. Globalization (or g11n)

When it comes to products and services, globalization is a broad, strategic process of which translation and localization are small parts. Globalization involves addressing all challenges a company encounters when expanding into new markets—from researching and selecting target markets to meeting local business requirements abroad.

5. Internationalization (or i18n)

Internationalization is the technical process of planning and preparing products and services for easy localization into target languages and markets. It should take place before translation and often involves updating existing infrastructure to adhere to international standards, support multiple scripts and more.

Once you get to know these terms, you’ll be ready to go global in no time!

in Gengo blog    


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