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Translation vs. Localization: What’s the Difference?

The translation industry likes making things complex. Just what is “translation?” What is “localization?” Are they the same? Which solution does my business need? Adding to the confusion, these principles are commonly abbreviated into acronyms or called something completely different from provider to provider. So what is the difference?

Translation (sometimes abbreviated t8n) is the process of expressing a message in a different language. Text is translated word for word, with attention to grammar as well as syntax. Relying on the service/technology you decide to make use of, localization might or may not take into account social nuances and idioms in messages.

Localization (aka l10n) involves translation, but is more comprehensive. In most uses of the word, the intent is for web content to feel as though it were developed especially for a particular target audience.

For example, you could localize a website’s material from Japanese into English, but there are various other factors to consider that won’t constantly be included in the localization process, like converting money from Yen right into the local money, formatting dates as well as addresses, and also readjusting the layout, images, and styles in accordance with social and technical choices, word/character count changes, and other details.

Now that you know these terms, you’re ready to go international!

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