Now’s your opportunity to know the difference between the two….
Glad you asked, because understanding what these terms mean can make a significant difference in the quality of your international content.
First, let’s start with some quick definitions:
“Translation” is the process of rendering text from one language into another so that the meaning is equivalent.
“Localization” is a more comprehensive process and addresses cultural and non-textual components as well as linguistic issues when adapting a product or service for another country or locale.
Sounds confusing? Then, consider the following:
Translation: Apples to Las Manzanas (“Apples” in Spanish)
English: What is your name?
Spanish: ¿Como se llama? (Literally: how are you called)
The final meaning is the same, but how it is expressed in each language, is different.
Localization: American Apple Pie to British Apple Crumble
Now, consider American English and British English: both are English so do we need to translate? No! But do we need to localize – or should I say localise? Yes!
The language is the same but if you localize from American English to British English:
- Spelling can be different: z’s become s’s (as in “localize” becomes “localise”), o’s become ou’s (as in “color” becomes “colour”).
- Certain words are used differently: elevator/lift, vacation/holiday.
- Of course, expressions and idioms are very different as well.
- And lastly, visuals need to be considered because after all, these are two different cultures.
The long and short of it is that language and culture are very intertwined.
Localization: It’s Not Just About Language
Localization involves more than just translation. It includes translation, and addresses other factors such as text length, local idioms, cultural references, measurement units, date formats, and page sizes.
- Imperial vs. metric measurements: If you have an American document that mentions imperial measurements such as feet, you’ll have to give metric equivalents in some cases (note that the UK has adopted metric but also clings to imperial).
- Currency units: These also require localization, such as changing from $100 to £100 pounds sterling. And, to show equivalent amounts, you would need to do a currency conversion, such as “$100 (£65)”.
- Paper size: A printed document might be designed for European A4 paper (210 by 297 mm, or 8.27 in × 11.7 inches) instead of American letter-size (8.5 x 11 inches). Those slight differences in size can impact formatting and page breaks.
- Date formats: You’ll need to know about the differences in date formats: does 4/5/15 mean April 5 (as in the U.S.) or May 4 (as in the UK)? Those differences can be crucial.
- Text length: In localization of documents and software, you’ll need to prepare for differences in text length resulting from translation, as in the Spanish example at the beginning of this blog post. Translation from English into other languages can result in the text expanding from 30% up to 100%. So, you’ll need to allow for flexible text length in your product or document.
Now, are you starting to get a feel for localization?
Locale: Language and Location
“Locale” is another term you’ll hear frequently when taking your company global. A locale is a combination of a language and the place where it is spoken. “Localize” means to adapt the product to the “locale” of your target market; it includes both the translation and the differences in culture, format, and usage.
Locale is important because some languages are spoken in several different regions. For example, Spanish is spoken in many places around the globe, so in order to reach your target audience effectively in each region, you must specify which locale (language and country) you’re targeting. Localized content for Mexico would be different than localizing content for Argentina or Spain. The same applies to French – after all, French in France is different from French in Canada. Brazilian Portuguese, for example, uses different wording and grammar from Portuguese spoken in Portugal, such as você or tu to mean “you.”
As with British and American English, native speakers of these languages can spot immediately which version of the language you are using. These language differences can make a big impact on the acceptance of your product or service.
When you localize your product, you are re-locating it to a new country or region. You want your audience to feel like your document or product is made for them. When the product is localized to meet their needs, they’ll have a positive experience with your product.
Translation and localization agencies use standard locale codes to indicate the language and country or region. A few examples:
en-US = American English
en-GB = British English
es-ES = Spanish (Spain)
es-419 = Spanish (Latin America)
es-MX = Spanish (Mexico)
Your translation and localization agency can give you more information and insight about translation, localization and locale while helping you through the process of taking your product or service to new global markets.