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What is the difference between translate and localize?

Translation and localization

In the design of a web page and in all the content it contains, the protagonist is the user. When choosing colours, visual elements and tone of voice, you think about the brand's target audience and how they will be attracted to the information and the way in which they will process it.

Every country has a culture and each of these implies associations of ideas, values. In this way, what in Spain implies normality, in another country can cause a negative feeling. For a person who has been born and lived in London all his life, elements of our culture will seem foreign. Thus, you will feel out of place on a page designed for residents of Spain. In our country, for example, when meeting someone, two kisses are given, but this is inappropriate in another country.

Therefore, if you want to expand your market and proceed to international expansion, translation will not be enough. Translation is only a part of the internationalization of a product. It is a very important part the foundation on which understanding is held. However, for residents of other countries to understand the message the way you want them to, you need other elements. Basically, you need a location. If you don't know the difference between translate and localize, keep reading.

Difference between translate and localize

So what is localization? The location could be defined as the adaptation of a product or service to the culture of the country in which you want to offer. Not only texts are located, but all kinds of elements, from video games to web pages. As for translation, it is dedicated to passing the text from a source language to a target language. On the other hand, the localization also adjusts the typography, images and design so that users in the destination country understand the message as intended. That is precisely the difference between translating and localizing.

Advantages of location

If you want to focus your market on residents of Spain, whether they were born here or in another country, who have already assimilated the culture of the place, you will not have to localize your product. You can, yes, translate it, so that the 60-year-old Irish man who has been living in Madrid for 30 years can read the city's news in his own language. In the same way, if you want to address Spanish residents in London, you will not need to locate your website either.

On the other hand, if you want to open the doors of your market and welcome globalization, localization is a step that will save you a lot of trouble and will give you multiple benefits.


You do not want to enter the market of that country with a shoehorn, forcing it to make room for your company. Localization makes the internationalization of your brand result spontaneous and natural. Think about the translations that an automatic translator does. When reading the text you get in your language, it seems that the words have been forced in and you immediately realize that this text was not intended for you. The localization make the target of another country feel that your product or service is designed for him. It is naturalness that makes the difference between translating and localizing.


Thanks to the naturalness that you achieve with localization, the trust of your target audience in the brand will increase. Locating a product you will be thinking about all the elements susceptible to change, being aware of the culture of that country and knowing it thoroughly. This makes the user feel comfortable, relaxed and at home. Thus, they will accept the product more easily and trust your proposal.

Market Knowledge

If you want to expand your market, you should know that your target audience is no longer the same. As culture changes, so do customs. In this way, a 20-year-old woman in Spain does not have the same worries and the same lifestyle as a 20-year-old woman from an Arab country.

As we have said, to locate a product or service, You must know in depth the country in which you are going to introduce your brand. This will help you design your buyer persona and run successful campaigns.

Location and User Experience

User Experience refers to the way in which your audience relates to your product or service, making this experience optimal. The purpose of UX Design is that the user feels comfortable browsing your page and that it meets your needs and expectations in the best way. UX design achieves that your page or App is useful for the Internet user and make it easy to use. That is, it must meet their needs in the most comfortable way, without having to work for it. It is the one that achieves that when browsing a page you do not feel lost or out of place. That your experience is pleasant and that the content is of value to you is what makes you return to that website when you need something that it can offer you.

As you may have guessed, when it comes to making a good UX design, location is a fundamental part, if your market is present in other countries. This is what makes a brand page have different versions depending on the place in which it is to be consumed. Not only does the language vary, but the structure and design of the page.

What can be located?

  • Printed material: brochures, magazines, documents, posters or the packaging of a product. Whatever the communicative intention, whether to inform, entertain or recommend, the purpose of the product is that the message reaches the user completely, not partially. Thus, all printed material can be localized, changing the colors, the design or the images.
  • Audiovisual material: promotional videos, graphics, infographics, images, dubbing or subtitles. In this case, a translation of the script is made as dubbing or as a subtitle. In the audio you will also have to change metaphors or comparisons.
  • Web page: on a web page it is located from the URL, to the tags, the date format or the contact numbers. It consists of having to be attentive to all the details and have a comprehensive vision, putting yourself in the target of the user who is going to visit the page.
  • Software: Software localization does not only consist of the translation of texts, but in the graphic design elements set, in order to make the user feel familiar with the use of said software. For example, if you want to localize software from English to Arabic, you will need to change the location of the menu, buttons, or dialog boxes. In addition, the symbols will have to be modified, since they may make sense in the place of the original language, but may not make sense in the target language or may even be offensive.
translation department

How should product localization be done?

localization department

In the first place, a specific department must be formed to be in charge of localizing the company's products. This department will have to be made up of translators and market experts. The translators will take care of everything that has to do with the use of the language exclusively, looking for adaptations that reflect the idea that the company wants to convey and avoiding harmful literal translations. As for the experts in the market, these will be in charge of value the customs of a specific public, their tastes, preferences, needs and consumption habits.

Review of all elements of the product

Once the department is created, it will have to define a style guide that all the elements related to said product will follow and that it must be faithful to the brand. After this, it will be necessary to review the product to understand what elements need to be modified and that nothing is left in the air. Should you translate the text?; Are there images, graphics or other visual elements?; What is the name of the product?; Does the product include units of measurement, dates or times? What about the advertising posters, packaging or brochures?

It is very important to resolve all these issues before getting down to work. Here all the members of the team must collaborate, working side by side with translators and experts in the market. For example, there will be times when it will be necessary to modify the name of the product itself, since it may have a pejorative meaning at the destination.


Next, once all the work is done, it is important to perform a QA before launching the product on the market. Quality control consists of the public to which you are going to address evaluates your proposal. The professionals who are part of the department may have missed something. However, by doing a preliminary test you will achieve fix possible localization errors. It is not necessary that the quality control is carried out by a large number of people, with a few it is more than enough to check if the product fully conforms to that culture.

Customer Support

When locating a product, it is crucial to take into account the customer serviceand. This element forms an essential part of the customer's experience with the company. Good customer service increases customer loyalty and will make them prefer you over the competition. However, there are many firms that open their markets to other countries and do not take into account the time zone of these. It is important to take into account the time difference and the working day depending on the country. In this way, you will be able to stand out above the rest of the emails that saturate the inbox of your clients. For example, if you send a message from customer service at 9:00 in the morning, depending on the country, it will probably blend in with the rest of the messages and go unnoticed by the customer.

Payment method

As you may have understood throughout this article, a good location translates into take nothing for granted. Depending on the place, the most common payment methods will be one and the other. Generally, the most used are the credit and debit cards, bank transfers PayPal. However, the market experts in the location department will have to know what are the specifics of the place where you are looking to settle. For example, in India, prepaid cards are very common, in China it is Alipay the great king of payment methods and in Latin America the Bank Ticket. In addition to the payment method, you will also have to decide other issues, can you pay in installments? Will the installment payment have interest?

Price of the product

No, it is not enough to convert to the currency of the country in which you want to sell. In the event that they use the same currency, it is also not advisable to keep the price intact. When choosing the cost, you have to take into account the cost of living in the country. For example, within the European Union you can see how the value of a euro changes depending on the country. A euro is not the same in Spain as it is in Switzerland, so these issues must be taken into account when setting a price for the product.

With all this, you can see the big difference between translate and localize and how the former is only part of the process of the latter. Clearly, the language is a very important part, but there are many other factors that influence the understanding of the product by the customer.



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