What is the difference between translating and localizing?

Traducción y localización

In the design of a website and all the content it contains, the protagonist is the user. When choosing colors, visual elements and tone of voice, think about the brand’s target audience and how they will be attracted to the information and how they will process it.

Each country has its own culture, and each one of these implies certain associations of ideas and values. Thus, what in Spain implies normality, in another country may provoke a negative feeling. For a person who has been born and lived in London all his or her life, elements of our culture will seem strange to him or her. Thus, he or she will feel out of place on a page designed for Spanish residents. In our country, for example, when meeting someone you kiss twice, but this is inappropriate in another country.

So if you want to expand your market and expand internationally, translation alone is not enough. Translation is only one part of internationalizing a product. It is a very important part, the foundation on which understanding is built. However, in order for people in other countries to understand the message as you want them to, you need other elements. Basically, you need localization. If you don’t know the difference between translating and localizing, read on.

Difference between translating and localizing

So, what is localization? Localization could be defined as the adaptation of a product or service to the culture of the country in which it is to be offered. Not only texts are localized, but all kinds of elements, from video games to web pages. Translation is dedicated to transferring the text from a source language to a target language. Localization, on the other hand, also adjusts typography, images, and design so that users in the target country understand the message as intended. This is precisely the difference between translating and localizing.

Advantages of localization

If you want to focus your market on residents in 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, however, translate it, so that the 60-year-old Irishman who has been living in Madrid for 30 years can read the city’s news in his own language. Likewise, if you want to target Spaniards living in London, you don’t need to localize your website.

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 bring you multiple benefits.

Spontaneity

You don’t want to shoehorn yourself into that country’s market, forcing it to make room for your company. Localization makes the internationalization of your brand spontaneous and natural. Think of the translations done by an automatic translator. When you read the text you get in your language, it seems that the words have been forced in, and you immediately realize that the text was not intended for you. Localization makes the target in another country feel that your product or service is designed for them. It is naturalness that makes the difference between translating and localizing.

Trust

Thanks to the naturalness you achieve with localization, you will increase your target audience’s trust in the brand. By localizing a product, you will be thinking about all the elements susceptible to change, being aware of the culture of that country and knowing it in depth. 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 must know that your target audience is no longer the same. As the culture changes, so do the customs. Thus, a 20-year-old woman in Spain does not have the same concerns and lifestyle as a 20-year-old woman in an Arab country.

As we have said, to localize a product or service, you must have thorough knowledge of the country where you are going to introduce your brand. This will help you design your buyer persona and run successful campaigns.

Localization 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 their needs and expectations in the best way. The UX design makes your page or App useful for the user and easy to use. That is, it should meet their needs in the most comfortable way, without them having to make an effort to achieve it. It is the one that ensures 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.

As you may have guessed, when it comes to making a good UX design, localization 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 where it will be consumed. Not only the language varies, but also the structure and design of the page.

What can be located?

  • Printed material: brochures, magazines, documents, posters, or product packaging. Whatever the communicative intent, whether to inform, entertain or recommend, the purpose of the product is that the message reaches the user in full, not in part. Thus, all printed material can be localized, changing colors, design, or images.
  • Audiovisual material: promotional videos, graphics, infographics, images, dubbing, or subtitles. In this case, a translation of the script is done as dubbing or subtitling. In the audio, metaphors or comparisons will also have to be changed.
  • Web page: in a web page it is localized from the URL, to the tags, the date format or the contact numbers. It consists of being attentive to all the details and having an integral vision, putting yourself in the mind of the user who is going to visit the page.
  • Software: software localization is not only about translating texts, but also about adjusting the graphic design elements to make the user feel familiar with the software. For example, if you want to localize software from English into Arabic, you will have to change the location of the menu, buttons, or dialog boxes. Symbols may make sense in the original language locale, but may not make sense in the target language, or may even be offensive.

Departamento de traducción

How should product localization be performed?

Localization Department

First of all, a specific department must be created 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 be in charge 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 transmit and avoiding the so harmful literal translations. As for the market experts, they will be in charge of highlighting the customs of a specific audience, their tastes, preferences, needs, and consumption habits.

Review of all product elements

Once the department has been created, it will have to define a style guide that all the elements related to the product will follow and that will have to be faithful to the brand. After this, a review of the product will have to be done to understand what elements need to be modified so that nothing is left in the air: should the text be translated; 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 signs, packaging, or brochures?

It is very important to resolve all these issues before getting down to work. This is where all members of the team will need to collaborate, with translators and market experts working closely together. For example, there will be times when it will be necessary to modify the product name itself, as it may have a pejorative meaning in the target market.

Quality control

Then, once all the work has been done, it is important to carry out a quality control before launching the product to the market. Quality control consists of having your target audience evaluate your proposal. The professionals in the department may have missed something. However, by testing beforehand, you will be able to repair any possible errors in the localization. It is not necessary for the quality control to be carried out by a large number of people; a few people is more than enough to check if the product is completely adjusted to that culture.

Customer service

When localizing a product, it is crucial to consider customer service. 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 your competitors. However, there are many firms that open their market to other countries and do not take into account their time zone. 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 from the rest of the emails that saturate your customers’ inboxes. For example, if you send a customer service message at 9:00 a.m., depending on the country, it will probably be camouflaged among the other messages and go unnoticed by the customer.

Method of payment

As you may have understood throughout this article, a good location means not taking anything for granted. Depending on the location, the most common payment methods will be one or the other. Generally, the most commonly used are credit and debit cards, bank transfers and PayPal. However, the market experts in the localization department will have to know which are specific to the place where you are looking to settle. For example, in India prepaid cards are very common, in China Alipay is the king of payment methods and in Latin America Boleto Bancario. In addition to the method of payment, you will also have to decide on other issues, will it be possible to pay in installments; will the payment in installments have interest?

Product price

No, it is not enough to make a conversion to the currency of the country where you want to sell. In case they use the same currency, it is also not advisable to keep the price intact. When choosing the cost, the cost of living in the country must be taken into account. 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.

All in all, you can see the big difference between translating and localizing, and how the former is only one part of the process of the latter. Clearly, language is a very important part, but there are many other factors that influence the customer’s understanding of the product.