Translation vs Localization
What's the Difference?
This is a question that our clients ask us from time to time. There is remarkably little public consensus on the distinction between these terms, partly because the practical details of localization workflows differ by client industry and source content, and partly because many clients will always refer to localization services as ‘translation,’ and correcting clients can be a tricky and unrewarding business. Nonetheless, Glyph has found that understanding the difference clarifies what a localization provider can do for your business. Having clarity about what goes into the localization process accelerates our clients’ forays into new markets by letting them plan, budget and scope their localization projects more precisely.
Translation is the specific process of converting information, usually text, from a source language into a target language. Localization is a broader process that includes all of the individual steps necessary to adapt a product or service for a different locale. This almost always includes a translation component, but inherently carries a wider scope and calls for different sets of expertise.
The distinction between translation and localization is one of the two most important reasons why it is advisable to work with a localization partner and not source linguists directly for translation work.1 Multilingual layouts, project management over multiple languages, multimedia adaptation, and most importantly, the process of scoping and planning a localization project are all outside the purview of translators, and are the parameters that make or break the adaptation of a product or service to a new market.
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