Translation is to be understood in a foreign market, localisation is to belong

Translation or localisation? At a recent workshop organised by the Department of International Trade (DIT), we noticed a real shift from talking about ‘translation’ to talking about ‘localisation’ services. So what’s the difference?

Translation is actually just one part of localisation. While translation only deals with the language aspect, i.e. translating your website/app/marketing material etc, localisation deals with all of the aspects that ensure your brand/product/service is perceived as local in the target market. Beyond translation, localisation encompasses things like displaying the local currency on your website, swapping out images to ensure they are culturally appropriate and relevant, and adjusting your overall messaging so it resonates in the local market.

Think global, act local

We can all recognise international brands even though they don’t feel foreign. So what do brands from Germany, China, or the US do to appear and feel like a local brand in our own home market? How do they make their international customers feel comfortable enough to make purchases? It’s simple. First and foremost, they speak to us in our local language and they adapt to our local culture. And how do they do that? By partnering with translation and localisation service providers who are specialists in their target regions and markets, most likely multilingual vendors (MLV) or a network of regional language service providers (LSP).

Without this linguistic support, a national brand would never get traction in foreign markets and international growth wouldn’t be possible. And without localisation, they would never develop into a successful international or global brand.

Elements for localisation

Localisation should be seen as a process rather than a one-off translation project that ,once completed, can be ticked off and then forgotten about. Here at AJT, we help companies of all sizes with their localisation needs. We may start the process with a new client translating a 30,000 word website, and 50,000 words of marketing collateral. But then, we would generally see 1,000 words here or 600 words there, on a weekly basis, as products are updated, new marketing campaigns are launched, or legislation changes.

In a nutshell, localisation generally incorporates the following elements:

  • Adapting all graphics to the preferences of the target markets
  • Modifying all content to fit the consumer habits and tastes of the target markets
  • Transcreation of strap lines and key marketing messages to ensure they are not lost in translation
  • Adapting layout and design so translated text can be properly displayed
  • Converting units of measurements and currencies
  • Using the right local formats for phone numbers, addresses and dates, etc.
  • Addressing all legal requirements and local regulations

All of these elements are essential for a global brand to feel local, and for customers to feel like they know and trust it. A successful global brand feels local to everyone, wherever they are. And it’s localisation that makes it happen. So when you think international expansion, don’t treat localisation as a cost, but as an investment in a lucrative foreign market.