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Translation and Localization: Navigating the Global Language Landscape

Nov / 2023 / by wsadmin

In our connected society the words "translation" and "localization" are often used interchangeably. However, it is essential to understand the differences, between these two processes when it comes to communication. Let’s explore the distinctions that make these processes unique, along with some real-life examples that highlight their individual roles.

Scope of Adaptation:

Translation is the accurate transfer of words from one language to another, while retaining the original meaning. The expression "Tomar el pelo" in Spanish is commonly used to describe teasing behavior, but its literal English translation of "Take the hair" fails to capture its true meaning. Thus, one may “translate” Tomar el pelo as “take the hair”, one will localize it to convey “pulling one’s leg or tease someone”.

Localization goes beyond text to adapt content to cultural differences, preferences and regional characteristics. For example, adapting the software interface for Japanese users takes into account language, date format (dd-mm-yyyy or yyyy-mm-dd), and cultural references.

Cultural Sensitivity:

Translation mainly involves linguistic accuracy, such as translating a Spanish document into German while maintaining grammatical precision.

Localization incorporates cultural context, making content easy to understand and respect. One example is adapting a Lunar New Year marketing campaign to incorporate symbols and meaningful traditions to the target audience.

Currency and Measurement:

When it comes to currency and measurement, translation involves converting currencies and measurements. May not take into account conventions. For instance, converting product prices from Euros to Dollars is an example of this.

On the other hand, localization ensures that currencies, measurements and formats are adjusted to align with standards. For example, adapting a fitness app that displays distance in miles in US, in kilometers for an audience in India.

Humor and Idiomatic Expressions:

Humor and idiomatic expressions can also create challenges when translating and localizing. The purpose of translation is to preserve humor and idioms across languages, such as translating a stand-up comedy show based on language-specific puns.

Localization, on the other hand, rewrites jokes and expressions to resonate with local audiences. Let’s say the adaptation of a sitcom script for a Latin American audience, in which culturally specific references are replaced by relevant ones.


Basically, while translation is centered around conveying the words, localization takes it a step further by capturing the essence, guaranteeing a smooth integration into the cultural fabric. Both have roles in promoting effective communication across different countries, transforming language into more than just a connector but a genuine bridge.

All localization includes translation, but not all translation includes localization.