Translation Vs. Localization: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”

When thinking about international markets the first that comes to mind is language barriers. With the growth and improvement of automatic translators, we may think that we have no reason to worry, however it is not as simple as it may seem. Often literal translation is not enough. Words and expressions that we use in our language do not always have the same impact when simply translated to another idiom.


Localization Goes Beyond Translation

Translation: the process of converting a text from one language to another while keeping the meaning

Localization: a process of adapting our content so that locals feel that we are “speaking the same language”.

Localization means creating different content for different markets.  For instance, despite the USA, UK, and Australia having English as the official language, the way we communicate needs to be adapted, not only because many expressions and terms are different between those countries, but also due to the varying cultural aspects of each nation.


Localize Everything

When adapting our content to another country, we must pay attention to some of the following aspects:

The words: perhaps the most important aspect and the most likely to fail too. The translation must be done by someone with experience in the country we wish to enter, preferably a native. A non-adapted translation can lead to serious consequences such as offended consumers, low sales, or even complete failure.

Colors: in China, red represents the highest standard of excellence, while in the West the spectrum is laid in the opposite direction: from green (best rating) to red (worst rating).

Units of measurement: if the USA is the target market, we should be aware that the units of measurement for weight, distance, and temperature are different from those used in most countries of the world.

Currency units: the price is one of the key factors influencing the buyer’s decision. For that reason, it must be displayed most simply and understandably to be immediately grasped. To accomplish this, we must keep the price updated and expressed in the local currency at the most recent exchange rate.

Layout: some languages need more space than others. Languages like Arabic are written from right to left. We should consider this and make sure our content is structured to be adjusted to these variants.

Visuals: visual content like images or videos must be adapted to the culture of each country to avoid cultural conflicts while attracting a broader audience.

Date formats: it is important to be aware of the different formats to avoid misinterpretations.


Start Now!

Localization could be more challenging, however, that extra effort will bring you closer to your customer and make it easier for you to grow your business across borders.


Final Tip:

When the process of translating and localizing your offer is complete, whether done by yourself or by a specialized company, ask a native to analyze the result!







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Muriel Silva

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