Whenever your company seeks to expand into a territory, it needs to think about adapting its content into the language of the target market. So, what should you choose, localization or translation? The answer is, probably a bit of both. The secret to successfully adapt your content to the target market language is to fully understand when you need which.
And for that, it is critical to fully integrate the subtle difference between those two, similar but not interchangeable, terms.
Let’s begin by defining the term translation
A translation, basically, is the process of translating – surprise, surprise – a text from one language into another. Yet, narrowing it down to such a general definition is misleading. A translation is supposed to stick to the original as closely as possible, leaving no room for either creativity or any consideration for the cultural impact a literal translation might have on the target market.
As such, when expanding into a foreign market, it is best to limit the realm of translation to scientific, corporate and legal documents. This applies both for expanding into one single foreign country and whether you are opting for globalization or internationalization.
For all marketing relating support, though, you should definitely consider localization.
As opposed to translation, which is focused on translating words, localization considers the cultural context and “translates” the meaning and desired effect rather than the exact original wording. Furthermore, localization includes taking into account any visual support as well as choosing a voice which the appropriate cultural referent to best convey the desired message. This means it can include tasks as varied as adapting graphics to suit target consumers; modifying content to fit the tastes and consumption habits of the target consumer; converting content attributes to local requirements; adjusting design and layout to fit translated content; adapting local formats for addresses, measures, currency, phone numbers, dates and hours; substituting music tracks with ones more palatable to the local target market and so forth. Localization also includes modifications necessary to ensure that the localized material is fully compliant with local regulations.
So, now that the choice between localization and translation for one target market is clarified, let’s consider the concept of internationalization, where the target markets are a number of countries instead of a single one.
When talking about internationalization, it needs to be taken into account from the beginning. This means that it needs to be included from the beginning of the process of designing and developing a website, product, application or game so that they can easily be localized for targeted markets which may differ in terms of region, language or culture.
This preliminary step will greatly simplify the use of automated translation prior to localization.
It also ensures consistency in the translation where different translations for the same terms are possible. In case of medical, technical or scientific translation this is critical. It also plays a cardinal role when localizing games for the international market as consistency across all versions of the game are crucial to ensure continuity.
Globalization is not, as of today, a term used to define any kind of translation process, but refers to the trend of business to interconnect across borders, and to the same happening between individuals across the globe, regardless of distances, cultural barriers, creed difference etc.
In the case of individuals, the do indeed benefit greatly from the ease of access to online translating tools such as those available on Facebook or Google translate to name the main ones. Unfortunately for businesses, the quality of these translations is still limited at best, and it might be decades before it reaches a level matching the minimal request for international businesses.
So, if you were ever wondering what to choose from, localization or translation, globalization or internationalization, here is a short summary. Internationalization is a preliminary step taken by businesses from the very beginning, translations will have to be done in any case and localization is geared to all part of the material that will be in direct contact with the target market public.