localisation vs translation

Localisation vs Translation

What's the difference?

02 / 11 / 2021
Emirah Mohiudeen
Localisation Manager

Localisation vs translation – are they the same thing, similar, or completely different? In this post, we aim to clarify things.

The simplest way to put it is that language translation is one component of the localisation process. Localisation involves a number of elements, of which translation is just one, albeit rather an important one!

To illustrate this, let’s look at an example.

Let’s say an American advert for cake mix needs to be localised for an Afrikaans audience and let’s say the headline is “buy 2 bags of 20-ounce cake mix for the bargain price of only 14 dollars”. Translation is taking the text and translating it into Afrikaans, while the localisation process will also include changing ounces into grams, for instance, and dollars into the local rand equivalent. The background music may be changed to suit a local audience, and the testimonial might be changed to one from a local baker, rather than an American one.

In the case of a foreign language telenovela or sit-com, again, translation is just one of the elements involved in the localisation process. Rather than just being translated, the title might be changed altogether, to use a local idiom or expression that is more recognisable and more likely to engage viewers. Deur dik en dun for instance, was the title given to the localised version of a Turkish telenovela called Istanbullu Gelin, which means ‘evermore’. The Afrikaans name is relatable to a local audience, and still fits perfectly with the theme and tone of the programme.

At its core, translation changes words, while localisation transforms the entire piece of content, covering both the linguistic and cultural adaptation.

This could include changing units of measurement, currency, time formats and so on, as demonstrated in the cake mix example, or changing certain pieces of text to include local idioms or slang that the local audience will expect and resonate with. It also means being aware of the symbolic meanings of certain images or icons in different countries and changing them, or ensuring local legal requirements are in place, for instance adding the ‘Not for sale to persons under the age of 18” onto material that sells alcohol.

Translation is obviously vital, but there’s a lot more that goes into making sure that content comes across as authentic and is locally accepted. Localisation is a multi-faceted and exciting task!

Find out more about our language and localisation services and solutions or contact the Content Lab team to open a discussion.

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