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Thin line separating Translation and Localization

How many of you are aware about the difference between Translation and Localization?

Translation and localization have a lot in common as well as a lot of differences between them. So, do you know what’s common and different between translation and localization? Let us open this article with the basics about differences in these two terminologies.

Translation and Localization

Translation is defined as the process of converting text into a different language. Translation requires an expert to translate, convert or express the text with specific attention to grammar and syntax. The process of translation may or may not consider the significance of culture of a specific location and language during the process. The text, graphics, images, gestures, phrases etc may or may not hold any value as the motive behind the task is straightforward translation in its literal form.

On the other hand, localization as a process inevitably involves translation but considers local factors like sentiments, culture, language, phrases and gestures etc as an important component. Translation under the umbrella of localization is specific about the flavors of the local geographical location and intends at converting the text and other graphical content without hurting anyone. Let’s consider if an American company has to advertise for a brand of casual clothing in Saudi Arabia, it will consider the local culture and will not publish anything that will pose a threat to its goodwill and market penetration in the conservative Arab country.

Have you ever wondered why is it important to consider local culture in localization? Well, let’s not forget the fact that when an organization decides to expand into an international market or even a previously untouched local destination, it has to first be sure about a wide range of factors including the laws of the land, demographic status, religious affiliations and culture etc. After all, expansion means penetration deeper into a specific geographic territories and hence it is mandatory to know what the people of a new territory feel. You can’t go about advertising about pork in an Islamic country? Can you? Of course not! That is where the consideration of local culture comes into picture.

So, is there any difference between translation and localization? Indeed. The answer is that there is a thin line separating the two terminologies. While the entire focus on translation revolves around word-to-word conversions, localization involves a holistic view of the local culture, tradition, laws and language etc that can have significant impact on their very existence in the new territory. Localization primarily considers local factors that have the potentiality to hamper company’s foray into the new land and if their policies are against the local flavor, the risk of failure is undoubtedly high.

Having said that, the need is to understand the nuances of translation and localization and use both these terminologies judiciously in the future. Though the two may sound similar as far as work is concerned yet there is a striking difference that sets them apart from one another!