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“Localisation” is a broad term. Some might even consider it is GPS-related, something to do with the nice lady who talks to us when we are driving and need directions to a certain destination. At Alamma, we believe in instructions and guidelines and understand the importance of accurate translation.

However, sometimes our clients need more than a translation: they need to localise their product, their service, in other words, their message, for a given audience. This is called localisation: according to the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA)[1], it means adapting a product or service to a specific location and translation is only one of many elements in this process. The goal of localisation is to make a product or service look and feel as if it has been created specifically for the target market, regardless of its language, cultural preferences or location.

What is the difference between translation and localisation?

To understand localisation better, let us examine key differences from translation. In a nutshell, translation simply “converts” the text, while localisation transforms the entire content from one language to another.

A side-by-side comparison best illustrates the differences between the two services:

Benefits of localisation vs translation

Localisation has benefits compared to translation. Basic translation approaches can work for small companies that intend to grow very slowly and in very limited markets. However, for growing companies that manage extensive content operations in multiple languages, localisation is the only solution. Localisation goes further, deeper and wider than translation alone.

This is especially true for languages spoken in several different locales. French, for example, is spoken in several regions around the world. Translating the user interface of an application into French may make the text readable for users who speak that language, but the application will still be perceived differently by users in France, Canada or several African countries. This is because the translation is done into only one variant of that language (e.g. Canadian French or British English): one translation cannot consider the different sociolinguistic expectations of users around the world.

Localisation allows you to go further by specifying more than the language you want: you name the audience you are targeting. Localised content transforms the user experience to make it more linguistically, culturally and functionally relevant. The layout, currencies, imagery, and idioms can be modified to make your content look as if it was created from scratch in the target language, specifically for people in that region.

So… do I need translation or localisation? 🤔

If you are still confused about these two processes, here is a checklist of conditions/factors to help you decide how to promote your product or service:

  • Is your translated text intended for the general public?
  • Is your text used to market or sell a product/service?
  • Will the text be used in one specific region/location (e.g. France, not Canada)?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, choose localisation.

  • Is the translated text intended for comprehension only, or for internal company use?
  • Is it a very factual text, a report, which is not likely to be misunderstood by someone from a different cultural background?
  • Will the translation be revised (reviewed, modified according to the company’s requirements, etc.) in the language it is translated into?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, choose translation.

While translation will always be a crucial step in the process, localisation involves more work and greater depth of knowledge of local markets. It means adapting your message to the beliefs, practices and traditions of target locales. In different locations, clients react differently to a text, and even to font styles, colour schemes, layout and multimedia content. Localisation is not only about making a product easier to use for international consumers but also about ensuring that your potential future clients will want to use it.

The Alamma team is always happy to answer your questions and advise you on the best way to get your message across borders.