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When it comes to language services, there are two areas that clients often get confused between: Translation and Localization. So, what exactly is the difference?

In this opportunity, Espresso Translations, one of our translation partners, is proud to explain and illustrate these terms and help you decide which one is the best for your WordPress site.

First off, we should note that there are some elements of familiarity between the two and they do have a lot in common. They are sometimes used interchangeably but there are differences between the two that determine how businesses communicate with their target audiences.

What is translation?

Most people have an idea of what translating is and essentially, it involves taking content that has been created in one language and converting it into another language. In the majority of instances where a business will require the use of a translation service, it will involve taking a document or other forms of media and changing it from the original language into the target language. This will involve adopting the correct vocabulary and grammar of the target audience in order to convey the original message.

What is localization?

It has already been identified that translation and localization share some characteristics, but localization does go one step further. It is a process that involves translating text but then adapting that text during the process so that it is targeted to a specific audience and culture.

Let’s see an example of the two…

Say you have a website, and you want to translate it into Spanish so that you can target Spanish speaking audiences around the world. In this case, a translation would enable Spanish speakers to read and understand your web content.

If, however, you want to target a specific Spanish-speaking country, localization would involve adapting the translated content to the local culture, taking into consideration aspects such as quirks of the local language, currencies, religious elements and even time-zones.

Localization or translation – Which is right for you?

In some ways, translation could be seen to be a part of the localization process, but translation is still very effective when used correctly and in the right context. When businesses need to effectively convey a message or literal meaning of the original content, translation is the best choice. This could include translations of instruction manuals or official documents. It ensures that the content is accurate and is a like-for-like copy of the original.

In instances where a business wants to adapt a message or reach out to a particular audience, localization is often the perfect choice.

As mentioned, translation is generic in many ways but localization enables businesses to drive engagement. It can create content that resonates with specific markets, giving content more weight and meaning than translated content.

Translations that are region-neutral are effective but localization is a more customised approach that can prove to be persuasive. Many different countries use different words to describe the same product or service yet choosing the correct wording will ensure that businesses capture the attention of the target market. Using unique phrasing or words will make the content relevant and will increase the chance of brands becoming recognised and accepted.

In terms of website localization, it can involve altering text to including special holidays, celebrations or any customs they embrace. This level of fluency is what sets localization apart from translation.

Localization is often used for websites, software, video games and mobile apps, where a deeper connection with the user is required and thus, the content should resonate on a personal level.

How do they work together?

Opting to translate text directly will ensure that the outcome is technically competent but the content will lack any personalised character that is perceived by the audience in a particular way.

Translation is undoubtedly protagonist in instances that are less specific, whereas, it is common to see localization used where businesses want to adapt their marketing campaigns in a way that enables them to connect with a specific market in a particular part of the world.

Websites and other forms of online media rely heavily on both translation and localization in order to reach out to wider audiences where they can balance the requirements for a broader appeal using content that enables specific groups to respond in a positive way.

Localization for WordPress websites

When you’re using a content management system, such as WordPress, a lot of the localization work is already done for you. The site’s theme and plugins holds most of the texts that require localization. If you’re using one of the multilingual ready themes and multilingual ready plugins, all strings are already localized. If you’re building a theme from scratch, we recommend that you follow our guide for achieving WPML compatibility with themes and plugin.

To conclude

Any business that is attempting to reach out to a new market will benefit from translation and localization. Both methods are proven to work but in order to utilise them correctly, it is important that the differences are fully understood. Effectively, translation is the perfect option for conveying meaning in an accurate way, while localization is a more personalised approach that is customised to the needs of a particular audience.

The scope of any project can vary and the complexity can require different levels of translation or localization. Therefore, choosing an established translation service such as Espresso Translations will make it possible to identify the right course of action for translating or localising your specific content. It is clear to see that there are differences between the two but the two also cross over, highlighting the importance of identifying which one fits your specific needs.

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