To “Translate” or to “Localise”?

If you’ve ever had to get some translation work done, you might have done a quick search for translators and come across the term “Localisation” scattered amongst the results. They might even seem somewhat interchangeable, so which one do you need? What’s the difference between “translation” and “localisation”?

Well, let’s start with a couple of basic definitions:

“Translation” is the process of rendering text from one language into another so that the meaning is equivalent.

“Localisation” is a more comprehensive umbrella term which addresses cultural and non-textual components as well as linguistic issues when adapting a product or service for another country or locale.

When we speak of translation, this refers to the basic transfer of text from language X to language Y. This basic transfer of a sentence or phrase from one language into another can be simply illustrated with the following example:

In an English manual it might say:

“Press the red button”

This is translated into Dutch as:

U drukt op de rode knop”.

Of course, there is a nuance here because language is sensitive. The readers are not all the same and this difference can also affect the precise message that needs to be relayed.

Localisation refers to the conversion of a message from one language into another while taking culture, background, and the location of the reader/user into account. A website and e-Learning programs for multinational companies may need to be localised. In other words, it is not just about the message but it is also about the way in which the recipient perceives it.

Consider the example of British English and American English; we can watch an episode of the American produced “Stranger Things”, followed by an episode of the (very) British “Downton Abbey” without the need for translation, right? Right! Both are in “English” so do we need to translate? No! But we do need to localise from British English to American English or vice versa. Or perhaps I should say “localize”?

Generally speaking the language in the 2 countries is the same, but there are a number of very important instances where it will be necessary to localise a British English text for the American English market.

  1. Spelling is the first obvious difference: s’s become z’s (localise becomes localize), ou’s become o’s (as in colour and color).
  2. Certain things have different words in each country: footpath/sidewalk, lift/elevator,  autumn/fall.
  3. Specific expressions and idioms are very different as well.

Localisation 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.


What can we do for you?

We translate and localise in approximately 40 language combinations. This is always carried out by a translator and a proofreader (someone who checks the translated text for consistency and errors) who are assigned to work on your text. Just to give you an impression: a translator translates (on average) between 2500 and 3000 words per day, and a proofreader reviews about 1500 words per hour. Our project managers coordinate your project carefully and ensure that it is delivered to you on time. Our project managers also conduct a final quality review of your project before delivery, just to make sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. Literally…

The project manager is your personal point of contact. You can discuss the appropriate “tone of voice” with them and you can also discuss a list of preferential terms (which we call a term base).

Using the most up-to-date software we build a translation memory, which allows you to maintain consistency, across all future translations and assignments. This has the added benefit of reducing your costs over time. Once a text has been translated, it doesn’t have to be translated again. It only needs to be checked to make sure it is being used correctly in the sentence.

For a translation or localisation quotation, click on the “Get A Quote” link! 



This is a slightly different ball-game and is related quite closely to our Copywriting department. Transcreation, is also about “getting a message across in another language” but is generally used where mere translation won’t do the trick.

Transcreation is all about sales, marketing, and brand protection. We focus on creating content that attracts attention and eventually leads to a sale of a product or service. It focuses on such areas as:

  • what is being sold
  • to whom
  • how it is viewed by customers in the market place
  • the local competitive landscape, and
  • global brand considerations.

We consider all angles during the creation and adaptation phase, including literal, conceptual, creative, and cultural aspects in order to produce a transcreation that benefits your brand.

With the specific choice of media channels (written/audio/animated/graphic/visual) increasingly becoming a local choice and with different regulations applying in different markets, global brands need to adopt innovative approaches in response to the ever-changing media landscape. We know what works where and we will make it work for you. With our team of trusted copywriters, translators, and access to Ludejo Studios we have every channel covered for you!

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