Translation VS Localization – Break Cultural Barriers and Improve the Usability of Your Website

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From then on, both disciplines – translation and localization – have existed in parallel. BUT, localization goes beyond translation. In this post, I’ll clarify what you need to consider to customize your text to globalize your business and meet cultural expectations. 

Exploring the Differences (and Similarities) Between Translation and Localization

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the terms “website localization” or “mobile app localization”?

A professional translator or language service provider (LSP) considers many things. For instance, the context, the local specifics, and generally adapting the text to match the expectations of a certain area.

The world of localization prefers to consider translation as one component of the localization process. As for the translation world, localization might just seem like a fancy word for another type of translation.

The translation is part of localization, but local specifics are also part of the translation process

Most professionals would immediately pick up on the complexity of the processes involved. Considerations include translating the content, adapting the translations and the visuals to suit a certain locale and all the other technical aspects of the process. On the other hand, what do the phrases “website translation” or “mobile app translation” mean in this case?

Is it just changing the words of one language into those of another language? Surely it’s not so simple.

Though there are differences between translation and localization, they are mutually supportive.  If you localize all other elements without language, it’s a waste. So it’s better to choose as per the occasion and requirement.


Localization Goes Beyond Translation

Translation means converting your content from the source language into the target language, respecting grammar rules and syntax. It’s not a word to word translation, but a complex process that takes into account each language’s standards and guidelines.

You need translation to rewrite user manuals, medical documents, technical publications, manuals, scientific journals and literature, among other things. Translators must produce accurate work to make sure the message in the target language keeps the original meaning of the source text.

Localization, in contrast, is about more than rewriting the text into a different language. It adapts your message to local audiences. Localization is widely used for websites, mobile apps, software, video games, multimedia content and voiceovers.

Most languages have local versions and dialects that you need to consider when building your marketing strategy. Just as English varies from the US to Australia and Canada, you’ll need to provide different content for Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, even though these countries have similar language as their official language.

The translation is just a small step in the localization process.

It’s essential to have a good team of translators to localize efficiently, but you’ll also have to work with local marketers and consultants, to make sure you respect cultural aspects and local laws for each market you’re localizing in.

Regular translation probably isn’t enough for your business to be successful in local markets. You need to localize your content to gain the trust of the local public. Because selling in a foreign country means more than overcoming language barriers. It means coming up with a customized message, specially made for each local audience.


You need to go beyond translation, as cultural barriers can make understanding the original message difficult. KitKat, for example, didn’t just translate their famous slogan into Japanese when they launched their product in Japan. The company changed ‘Have a break, have a KitKat’ with ‘Kitto Katsu’, which means ‘surely win’. They also launched a series of exotic chocolate bars to meet the local taste.

This strategy made the KitKat Japanese campaign a localization success, clearly demonstrating how to use the same words that your clients do to express themselves.

You must keep a unique voice to help the public identify your brand everywhere in the world.

Localization helps you meet cultural expectations. To globalize your business, you need to localize for each country in line with the local culture.

Coca-Cola maintains a singular message worldwide while adapting their campaigns to local markets. Everybody knows the company’s colours, whether they live in Barcelona or Beijing. But their marketing strategy varies from country to country, to meet the public’s expectations.

In China, for example, the company had to change the product’s name to be able to maintain the brand’s voice. Coca-Cola became ‘kekou kele’, which translates to delicious happiness. This way, the drink everybody loves managed to conquer the market.

It wasn’t just about translating the content and changing labels. The brand approached local experts and, together with a team of specialists, they came up with a new name and a local marketing strategy. They sold the brand’s image while respecting the local culture, which is vastly different from the Western world.

Localization involves a cultural approach. You don’t simply translate your website or app, but reshape it so that the local public feels as if you’ve built the content especially for them.

The localization process is complex.

You need to localize everything. Translation plays an important role, but you need more than rewritten content to become an important player in local markets.

Grammar and syntax are important, but so are a wide series of details that can help you break cultural barriers and improve the usability of your website.

Besides translation, you’ll have to perform many additional changes to provide a better user experience:

  • Colours – They have various meanings, depending on the target audience. In some countries, red speaks danger, white means death and orange expresses mourning and loss. Do your homework before launching your website, especially when you’re targeting new audiences.
  • Layout – Some languages need more space than others to express the same concepts. You need to come up with a flexible layout, where text in varying lengths fits in.
  • Visuals – You must adapt photos to local cultures. Blond moms hugging their kids don’t impress a Chinese audience and may even offend customers in the Middle East.
  • Units of Measurement – Most countries use the metric system. You need to convert units of measurements to make content easy to follow and understand.
  • Currencies – Price is important when making buying decisions. If your clients have to deal with numbers to be able to find the real price, they’ll leave your website and look for a local provider.
  • Contracts and Agreements – When doing business in foreign countries, you need to comply with local regulations. Make sure you respect the rules, to avoid getting your business into difficult legal situations that can lead to penalties or even have your website banned.

Translation alone may not be enough to reach your target market in today’s globalized world

Localization and translation are different. You’ll need to localize to fit in with local beliefs and traditions.

People need to understand and identify themselves with your message before they buy.

To increase engagement, you need to tailor your marketing to meet local expectations. This way you’ll make the most of your investment and improve your chances of increasing sales and growing your business around the world.

I am here to help you in this process for that Balkan region. Contact me 🙂

source: Rubric, Clear words translation, Localize

Aida Behmen Milicevic
Content Developer & Translator, Passionate about Writing, Hiking, Delicious bites, Yoga and Biking.
Already Credited with +100 Published Articles.

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