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Translation vs Localization: What's the Difference?

Matthew Patel
Matthew Patel
Posted in Zoom Nov 7 · 10 Nov, 2021
Translation vs Localization: What's the Difference?

Translating something is not the same as localizing. Whereas translation converts words from one language to another, localization keeps itself contained within a specific language while focusing on the nuances between certain regions.

These processes carry significance when dealing with international businesses and associations. Written and audio content that's designed for a specific audience could perhaps include both, as they're not independent of each other. It's important to note that translating a language for a particular market is sometimes only half the battle. Localizing speech and dialect also plays a huge part in currying favor with an audience. 

How Translation and Localization Differ

Though both translation and localization involve conversion, they have entirely different purposes independent of each other. To understand which route to take regarding content quality, it's best to first discern the key differences between localization vs translation. 

Translation Defined

Translation is changing words from one language to another. As a whole, it doesn't involve dramatically altering the meaning. Though translations often don't convert word-for-word, the goal is to have a reliable changeover that roughly means the same thing.

An example of this is "llamar por teléfono" in Spanish. Its literal translation to English is "to call by telephone." However, this phrasing in English is awkward. Therefore, the equivalent is: "to telephone", "to call", "to ring", or "to phone." 

Localization Defined

Localization is taking a certain language and tailoring it to a particular country, region, or dialect. Examples and their locale codes include British and American English (en-GB and en-US, respectively) or Spanish spoken in Mexico (es-MX) versus Spain (es-ES). Those who speak these languages can find key features indicating if something is geared toward their area or not. 

Localization: What it Entails and How it Works With Translation

Localizing different types of content is beneficial when you want to cater to a specific audience, online or otherwise. On the whole, people feel more comfortable when words are geared to them. This offers a sense of familiarity.

Relocating your product to a new area is a wise business decision to expand your clientele. Nevertheless, there are a number of features that require change in order to produce accurate results. Localization is somewhat of a translation at times, with the focus often on format versus specific words. 


Within language, spelling may differ from location to location. For example, localization of the word "localization" in American English becomes "localisation" in British English. 

Rules and Regulations

It's essential to pay attention to the culture and rules of other places. Advertisement laws vary from country to country. You may be able to make a claim in one area but not in another. 

Units of Measurement

Imperial versus metric measurements are critical when it comes to localization. You want to ensure you're using the proper measurements in a country. Whereas you'll use "1 kilogram" in France, you should convert it to "2.2 pounds" for American English localization. 

Date Formatting

Countries often have their default date formats, which mainly boil down to: 

  • Day/Month/Year
  • Month/Day/Year
  • Year/Month/Day 

Using the wrong format can cause confusion or misinterpretation. Therefore it's essential to follow the proper arrangement in your target area. 


Pricing is one of the most important aspects of online localization. If you don't provide the correct currency equivalents in the particular regions to which you're offering goods or services, your potential clientele will likely go elsewhere. 

Expressions, Idioms, and Colloquialisms

It's crucial to pay attention to certain phrases and terms. Cultural differences or a general unfamiliarity can make words seem awkward, foreign, confusing, or even offensive. Keep your focus on literal terms to avoid figures of speech unique to a concentrated area. 

Design and Layout Verbiage

After translation, sometimes results end up being dramatically different than the original format. This can be especially difficult when it comes to designs and graphics. At times, you'll have to seek a happy medium between a format change and general translation. Otherwise, it can affect the entire advertisement's premise. You need a balance between accuracy and the intended style impact. 

Other Facets

Other nuances also come into play when localizing. Some of the main factors include: 

  • Colors (or colours), which can assume entirely divergent meanings in different cultures
  • Paper size, as documents carry varying standards that can impact breaks and formatting
  • Text length, since it can increase or decrease after translation, requiring setup flexibility  

Help for Localization and Translation

There are quite a few factors that come into play when converting content. Website localization vs translation is equally important for gaining a customer's business. You want to ensure that you're presenting yourself in the best light possible to potential consumers.

The best action you can take to avoid an embarrassing subpar outcome is to go pro. Professional translation and localization companies like GoTranscript ensure accuracy with every job. GoTranscript is familiar with what's needed for precise results, and covering all nuance-related bases is second nature. Relying on experts for all your translation and localization needs is your best approach when you want to go global. 


Translation and localization are two entirely different concepts that still feed off each other when converting words and format from one language and region to another. Without the proper changeovers and modifications, a business risks presenting itself as distant, unreliable, and possibly even rude. The only way to build a professional and respectable image is by using a service you can rely on to get the job done correctly.