Website Translation vs Website Localization

Web & Digital
Posted by Athena Parthenos
Is there any difference between website translation and website localization? When approaching a new foreign market, you must know not only the language of the country you are targeting, but also its culture. The latter is fundamental in order to avoid offending your potential audience and requires an intervention of website localization by a professional translator. But, what is a website localization?  

Translation vs Localization

Translation means providing the source content into another language called target language. Localization lies within the translation, but instead of concerning only text translation, it takes into account the right style, design, and imagery to reach your target abroad. This is because localization means translating your website for a different culture and a different society.  

Do I need to localize?

First impressions are crucial; it is the root of your credibility. To get an incredible first impression, you must start from language – after all, how can your future customers rely on you if you cannot even speak their language? But things are a bit more complicated than that. In fact, you must go far beyond language and plain translation. You need to localize your product through localization and transcreation — that is marketing translation. Let's look at an example of bad marketing translation. When trying to reach the Chinese market, Mercedes-Benz translated its brand name to Bensi because it sounded similar to the original German name. No one realized that the characters for Bensi meant "run to die." Not exactly the best marketing for a car. Instead, a brilliant example of localization is Coca Cola's “Share a Coke” campaign that printed a popular first name on each of the cans. Of course, this has to be adjusted to all the countries where they feature their campaign. For instance, in China where first names have an important meaning, Coca Cola used phrases such as "close friends" instead of first names. If you want to conquer the market behind that culture, you must have cultural awareness.  

What does website localization imply?

Localizing your website implies making some adjustments that include:
  • Colors, shapes, styles
  • Images, icons, graphics
  • Time, date, currency format
  • Page layouts, i.e., right-to-left reading for languages such as Arabic


What languages should I translate into?

Of course, this depends on the country you want to enter. However, translating your website into English might not be enough. According to the website Statista, as of June 2017, 25.3 percent of all internet users use English for their online researches. Chinese ranks second with 19.8 percent (China has the most users worldwide) and third is Spanish, followed by Arabic and Portuguese. When you decide to localize your website, use reasoning by country, not by language. Portuguese is not the same in Portugal and in Brazil, like how Spanish is different in Spain and Argentina. Or, in the U.S., there are big communities who speak languages other than English.  

How long does website localization take?

It depends on your website and on the availability of people who provide your translation services. However, doing things in a rush is not usually a great idea, as localization requires the research of an expert translator in transcreation and localization. They may work alongside your marketing department and must know the language and the culture behind the foreign market you want to reach.   Language service providers have become very important partners for businesses who decide to expand abroad so they can offer complete language and cultural support. Given the particularity of this task, Athena Parthenos assigns these jobs only to a very specific group of language specialists with a translation background and a strong cultural, behavioral, and literary knowledge of each source and target country.   For our business services, including translation, localization, transcreation and multi-cultural management, please check out the page here.  

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