What is the difference between translation and localisation?

What is the difference between translation and localisation?

What is the difference between translation and localisation?

Translation? Localisation? Is there even a connection between these? What does localisation mean?

Yes, we’ve heard this question many times before. Localisation might not be a word which is very self-explanatory. Or, maybe it’s so evident that it doesn’t even come to mind? Translation and localisation are two completely different approaches when it comes to converting text from one language to another. Localisation derives from the word “locale”, so it turns out that it is quite self-explanatory after all. Localisation involves adapting a text (or other desired material) to something local. The locale will be the target audience for the material you want to customise. This can be almost anything: a country; an area; an age group; a group with a certain income; a group with a certain level of education etc. Yes, the list is almost endless, and the importance of localisation is very often overlooked.

Why is localisation so important?

Localisation, or the lack of same, may be crucial for your business. It doesn’t matter how much money you put into a marketing campagin if it’s not adapted to the audience you want to reach. Put somewhat extremely, you will not be able to sell infant formula if the audience you reach out to are single and childless people over the age of 50. This sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? It actually is, but it’s so easy to forget.

A translator’s job is to translate. This means that if you translate for instance a contract from English to Norwegian, the end product ends up with the exact the same content and wording as the source product. This is definitely the way to go if this is a contract which relates to laws and regulations in one specific country. If you, however, would like to translate the contract so that it reflects the laws and regulations of the target country (eg. Norway), then the contract must be localised.

A contract is not the best example of a product that needs to be localised, though. If we take a marketing campaign as an example instead, it becomes a little easier to explain why it is so important. Let’s say you have a product that you have previously marketed in Hungary. Hungary is a country with a very different economy and culture than Norway, and what motivates a Hungarian is probably something quite different from what motivates a Norwegian. To avoid any extra work, you would naturally like to use already existing content. This is the most cost effective way of doing, and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel here. What is very important in this case, is that you don’t translate the material, but have it localised. You need to find a translator who has good knowledge of the target audience, who understands the product and who can edit the material in a way that makes it attractive for the new target audience.

Another good example would be the real estate. Let’s assume that you have x amount of beautiful apartments for sale in Malta. These cost from €200,000 upwards, and you previously marketed these to pensioners in Norway. You would now like to expand your market, and also promote these apartments to people who already live in Malta. In Malta it is very common that three generations live together under one roof, and approximately half of the “kids” live at home with the parents until they are about 40.  When it comes to Malta’s pensioners, the maximum pension you receive (regardless of previous income) is €14,500 per year (2015). As I’m sure you can agree we have a tiny challenge here! It goes without saying that a direct translation of marketing material aimed at the same audience in Malta could turn out to become an expensive and simply wasted affair. We are totally dependent on localisation and adaptation to an entirely different target audience.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you need localisation of your product/service, or if you would like to request a free and non-binding quote.

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