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Translation and localization: What’s the difference?

Posted on : April 26th 2022

Author : Viswanathan Chandrasekharan

Globalization is here to stay. With rapid advances in transportation, digital communication, and other technologies creating an interconnected world, companies now have an unlimited, worldwide reach.

However, tapping into a worldwide audience means modifying content and other website elements, including images, colors, formatting and the overall design of the site, to appeal to customers’ cultural preferences in a language they understand. Once language isn’t a barrier, your products and services can travel the world, reaching prospective customers in places that once seemed a world away.

Companies looking to adapt their content into a new language can opt for either translation or localization. While both involve changing a company’s messaging into a new language to reach a new audience, translation and localization are two different processes.

Translation vs localization

What is translation?

Translation involves rendering text from one language into another, maintaining its meaning. It involves changing the source version of anything – a document, web or app content, training and e-learning materials, and even multimedia--into the target language in a way that makes sense to your readers, viewers, or learners.

What is localization?

Localization goes beyond just translating content into different languages; it’s about catering content to the unique regional needs, tastes, languages, cultures and values of the population you want to target.

Netflix did this perfectly through localization. It captured a massive global audience by allowing users across the world to view subtitles in their preferred language or choose a dubbed version of a particular show or movie. For instance, its viewing data indicates that nine out of every ten people who watched the German TV series Dark lived outside of Germany. Netflix even went a step ahead to localize the app navigation and User Interface for different countries. ¹

Translation does not take into account cultural differences; localization does

Translation is more focused on the language, including all cultures and races and not transcending cultural differences.

Localization is more wide-ranging, as it considers the cultural and visual aspects of changing a website, app, course or training material and video/audio for users in different languages. It can involve altering the format of dates, addresses, phone numbers; changing of units and values for currencies and measurements; amending content to appeal to the target audience; modifying graphics to suit the target market; adapting the layout; changing domain names, etc.

A great example of considering cultural differences was the “Share a Coke” campaign from Coca-Cola launched in 2011, where the logo was replaced by the phrase "Share a coke with...” followed by a popular name. According to the company, the name changed depending on the country it was targeting. In Australia, the top 150 most popular names were printed onto the bottles and the campaign was so well-received that other countries around the world adopted it with their own unique twists. In Ireland, it was Irish names such as Aoife and Oisín, while in China, where it is disrespectful to address a person by their first name, Coke used terms such as “close friend”, and “classmate”. ²

Translation focuses on language; localization is more about regional specificity

Translation focuses more on the language, as it conveys the exact possible meaning in the target language.

Localization adapts the online content and deliverables for regional specificity. It involves refining your message to meet cultural, functional, and linguistic requirements. Words, colors, clothing, cultural symbols, and other cultural elements play an important role in localization.

Take Slack for instance. Today, the communications app boasts of a user base of 500K companies and 8 million daily active users of which 3 million pay for more features and benefits. To increase their user base and build stronger connections with users in other countries, like Japan, Germany and France that communicate in their own national languages, Slack localized its app. ³

The company is also extra cautious about the witty remarks it makes, the anecdotes it employs and the references to familiar idioms to build trust with its global users and connect with them.

Why should your company consider localization?

  1. Easy expansion into new markets: Successfully localizing your content can help your company make inroads into international and other growing markets and gain access to more customers worldwide.

  2. Gain new customers and increase revenue: The FAMILO app reported noticing a 400% increase in new customers after scaling up its app for families globally and becoming an industry leader through localization. Localization is an excellent way to expose your brand to new customers and grow your revenue.

  3. Build closer relationships: If you’re speaking and liaising with your customers in a language they’re not comfortable in, there will always be barriers. On the other hand, localizing content, for instance a customer’s entire buying journey---user manuals, payment methods, and even customer support---can help your customers make purchase decisions easily and create brand loyalty.

  4. Secure an edge over your competitors: If your competitors don’t localize their product/website and you do, this automatically gives you an edge over them.

Are you looking for localization services?

At Straive, our team of experts ensures that your product and content sound authentic to the audience within the locales you’re targeting to give you a competitive edge and expand your market.

Reach out to us today at, or discover ( how our team of expert translators and localization professionals can make your content stand out in over 25 languages.





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