Key Differences Between Translation and localization

Differences Between Translation and localization

Translation and localization are closely related at first glance. However, it’s essential to know the key differences between both terms before starting your project.

But generally, to compete in an increasingly growing market, you will need to utilize both, translation and localization services, to present your content, products, or services to your target clients.

The Translation Process vs. Localization Process

while translation and localization are connected and offer bit similar functions, there are major differences between both them when it comes to processes:

Translation meaning and process

The term Translation refers to the process of turning a text in a source language (SL) into its equivalent meaning in the target language (TL) while maintaining the overall meaning of the source text. 

The translation process is not a matter of word-for-word translation. the translator is required to maintain the SL text meaning while applying the grammatical rules and syntax of the TL. 

The translation process has Four stages to ensure that the text is converted correctly; namely:

  • Pre-translation stage: Where the translator skims the text to get it ready for translation and makes sure that the text is ambiguity-free and prepares their tools for the translation phase.
  •  The translation stage: The actual work of rendering the SL to the TL, considering word choice, grammar rules, and syntax of the target language.
  • Editing stage: The work of reviewing and making sure that the translator converted the meaning faithfully and didn’t miss any idea. This work is done by a linguist known as an editor.
  • Proofreading Stage: In this final stage we make sure that the text is readable in the target language, to make sure that the text sounds native. this work is done by a linguist known as a proofreader.

localization meaning and process

Localization happens when you need to provide content that resonates with your target audience while translation can’t be enough. During the localization process, the language expert should pay more attention to the cultural aspects of the country in which the text or content will be distributed. The text should sound regionally reasonable and understood.

Localization involves cultural adaptation more than just the translation process. It requires consideration of the differences between cultures, their traditions, and their language.

How to Make a Choice Between Localization and Translation

Translation is meant to make communication easier and helps with addressing people who speak different languages and enable readers to grasp and understand the message you want them to receive.

On the other side, localization acknowledges that translation is not enough to connect with your audience in your target markets where you aim at establishing or growing your business.

The choice between Localization or translation requires first knowing your type of text. I will try to make a distinction between the texts that require translation and the ones that require localization.

Translation is often used with:

  • Medical documents
  • Training and user manuals
  • Scientific journals
  • Books
  • Technical publications

Localization is often used with:

  • entertaining content
  • Ad campaigns
  • Website and software
  • Media content
  • Video games

Translation and localization are two closely related processes that are often used together to make content accessible to a global audience.

  • Translation is the process of converting text from one language to another, while localization is the process of adapting content to a specific culture or market.

Translation is the first step in localization, but it is not the only step. Localization also involves adapting the content to the target audience’s cultural norms, linguistic preferences, and technical requirements. For example, a localized website might use different date formats, currency symbols, and measurement units in different countries.

The three types of localization:

  • Language localization: This is the most common type of localization, and it involves translating content into different languages. This can include website content, marketing materials, software, and more.
  • Cultural localization: This type of localization goes beyond translation to ensure that content is culturally appropriate for the target audience. This can involve things like changing references to local holidays, currency, and measurements.
  • Technical localization: This type of localization involves adapting software and hardware products for use in different regions. This can include things like changing the keyboard layout, date and time formats, and power plugs.

These are just the three main types of localization, but there are many other specialized types as well. For example, there is multimedia localization, which involves localizing video, audio, and other multimedia content. There is also marketing localization, which involves adapting marketing materials for different cultures.

Translation and localization are both important processes for businesses that want to expand into international markets. However, they are not the same thing.

  • Translation is the process of converting text from one language to another. It is a literal process that focuses on conveying the meaning of the original text in the target language.
  • Localization is the process of adapting a product or service to a specific culture or market. It goes beyond translation to consider cultural, linguistic, and technical factors. For example, a localized product might use different measurements, currency symbols, or date formats in different markets.


in conclusion, the difference between translation and localization lies in the amount of work involved and in-depth knowledge of the local market.

Translation maintains a part of the localization process, but the latter requires more cultural adaptation. In addition to translating the content into your native language, the content must adapt to the beliefs, customs, and traditions of your local target group.