Whether it’s boosting website traffic, increasing engagement with your brand or reaching a specific sales target, every company is driven by their own distinctive goals.

As the world becomes increasingly digitised, there are now countless new marketing tools at our fingertips. Convenient as this may be, it can seem as though the route to realising your company’s objectives is more overwhelming than ever – especially since a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy is no longer enough to compete globally.

Here at Wolfestone, we’ve seen time and time again how our clients have achieved their goals by investing in translation and localisation services. Indeed, if you are launching a product abroad or have your eye on driving international sales, it’s essential that you are able to accurately convey your company’s message to your target markets.

Team discussing their business objectives and how to achieve them with the help of  translation and localisation services.

However, whether you’re a longstanding client or are just beginning to research your options, the world of professional language services can be a confusing place.

“Where do I start?” “How can translation work for me?” “Should I invest in localisation?” “What exactly is the difference between translation and localisation services?”

These are all common concerns for those looking to invest in professional language services, the latter of which stands out as a particularly baffling topic for many.

But it needn’t be! Allow us to break down once and for all the difference between translation and localisation services and suggest which service is best suited to your specific business needs.

What are translation services?: A brief overview

At its most basic level, translation is the process of communicating the meaning of text in one language (dubbed the ‘source language’ in the translation industry) into another language (the ‘target language’).

Translation has a long and colourful history, and was historically confined to the realm of scholars and philosophers. Nowadays, the global language services market is estimated to be worth 46.9 billion U.S. dollars.

Today’s translators are professionally-trained and tech-savvy linguistic experts. Alongside their native language (often called an ‘L1’ in language learning), they will have an in-depth knowledge of one or more other languages (a second or non-native language is ‘L2,’ a third is ‘L3’ and so on).

Professional translators will usually work by translating text from their L2/L3 into their L1. Their day-to-day work may involve translating documents with varying content depending on their specialised knowledge, such as legal, medical or marketing, or working directly on a Content Management System to translate the text of a website.

Reputable translation companies will only work with experienced, highly-knowledgeable translators who bring a deep cultural awareness of their L2/L3+ languages in their work, along with a perfect command of their L1.

Nevertheless, the main goal of professional translation today can be defined as producing an accurate translation that conveys an equivalent message to the source-text, as well as respecting grammar rules and syntax.

What is localisation? And how is it different to translation?

Localisation has the same fundamental aim as translation, but goes one step further. The difference is that localisation not only aims to convey the same message as the source-text, but that the content is totally adapted to suit the cultural context of the target market.

The process of localisation is focused on the consumer preferences and sensibilities of the target market at every step. It takes into account the idiosyncratic nature of culture, such as societal norms, values, traditions and superstitions, and ensures that content is perfectly suited for the target consumer.

Smartphone zooming in on diverse range of people.

Localisation can be language-based, such as adapting a web page from US English to GB English for a British consumer.

In this case, the most obvious change from US English to GB English would be spelling and vocabulary, but language localisation can also incorporate:

  • the adaptation of cultural references and humour to make them relevant to a British audience.
  • choosing words that have equivalent connotative meanings.
  • converting units of measurement or currencies.
  • using punctuation in line with the target language norms.

But one of the principal differences between translation and localisation is that localisation goes beyond language. It encompasses multimedia, design and content.

When creating marketing material for foreign markets, there are a multitude of factors to consider. Two of the most important cultural elements include:

  • Use of colour: It’s essential that you understand how customers in your target markets will perceive your brand’s use of colour.

    For example, the colour purple has long divided the global advertising industry. In Japan, purple may be associated with wealth. France could perceive it as signifying freedom or peace. The UK, China and the United States tend to understand purple as royalty. India, however, is most likely to identify this colour with sorrow and unhappiness. Sounds like a lot to navigate? With a localisation expert on board, you’ll can assured that you’re making the right choice of colour palette for your brand.
  • Use of images: Images are powerful. Choosing the right images for your website, marketing brochure or e-mail campaign can be a minefield of potential faux pas. Whether you’re planning to shoot a campaign from scratch or you simply want to ensure you’re using appropriate images on social media, it’s invaluable to have the feedback of a localisation expert at every step of the way.
Women taking a photo.

Localisation is not an easy process, and most localisation projects require a dedicated network of specialist translators who are natives of the target country and have plenty of experience in the localisation field.

So, which service is right for me?

It totally depends on your project’s purpose and your goals.

If you have highly-technical documents (legal, medical or science-based content), or you have large volumes of content that are required for understanding or information purposes only, translation may be best suited to your needs.

However, if you are planning on persuading, selling, changing minds or inspiring consumer loyally, the stats speak for themselves: 75% of consumers prefer to buy products in their native language and another 86% of localised marketing campaigns performed better than English-only versions.

Whilst translation is the bread and butter for any company aiming to successfully do business overseas, investing in localisation services can be the difference between unintentionally offending or misunderstanding consumers and pulling off an emotive and effective international marketing campaign.

Why not allow Wolfestone to support you in your translation and localisation journey? Get in touch today.

Sofia Lewis
by Sofia Ellen Lewis

Since graduating from University of Bristol in 2018 with a First in Italian and Spanish BA, Sofia has gone on to become a skilled translator, content writer and digital marketer. Sofia has a passion for storytelling and has also recently dipped her toe into journalism. A self-proclaimed language nerd, she is always looking for suggestions on which language to learn next.

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