Translation, Localization, and the Global Market
Updated: May 1, 2019
Key Terms for Understanding the Process (2nd of 4 articles)
[5 minute read]
In the last article we looked at why website translation is essential; exploring the most up-to-date research showing that there is a mother-tongue bias when exploring the web and making purchases, where most people will view – or only make a purchase from – websites in their own language. There are several translation services from which you can choose, however, which one is right for your website or project? In this article, we will go over some of the terms and concepts which you should familiarize yourself with while considering what website translation can do for you.
The three most important words for today’s article are Translation, Localization, and Transcreation. Refer to the following for an explanation of each:
This is the process of faithfully transferring the original meaning of words or phrases from the source language into the target language, but without taking into consideration cultural differences. Translation can be suitable for documents like internal emails, technical documents, or manual for a product for a new market that does not have to take into account sayings, slang, innuendo, or humor.
This is the adaptation of a product or service to meet the needs of a particular language, culture, or specific populations’ “look-and-feel”. The goal with localized content is for the reader not to realize it was originally conceived for a different language market. Localization can help keep you from accidentally offending others from a different cultural or social environment, but it can also allow your content to remain within advertising laws and censorship guidelines. An example of the successful localization of content is the Coca Cola “Share a Coke” campaign, where Coca Cola bottles were decorated with “Share a Coke with Joe”, or “Share a Coke with Jane”. This campaign was localized to China – where the use of first names in this context could be inappropriate – having instead “Share a Coke with a good friend” or “Share a Coke with a classmate”. Through effective localization, Coca Cola was able to navigate differing cultural norms while preserving the spirit of the marketing campaign.
This is the process of adapting a message from one language to another while preserving its intent, style, tone, and context. The aim of transcreation is to evoke the same reaction of the original text yet within a different cultural context. Imagine translating something like: “Birds of a feather, flock together.” This may have a very specific meaning in English, but a literal translation into another language may leave readers confused, while they may have an equivalent saying which uses very different imagery. Transcreation is essential for slogans or marketing campaigns as well; a website selling discounted premium clothing brands might have a slogan like “Premium style: keep the arm and leg” (referencing the saying that something really expensive costs “an arm and a leg”). This wouldn’t translate into Italian, for example, where it would literally be said that an expensive item cost “an eye from the head”. Transcreation is the practice of finding the heart of the message within these slogans, marketing campaigns, sayings, or wordplay and utilizing different idiomatic words or expressions from the target language.
Stay tuned for articles 3-4 in this series all about website translation. For a free consultation about translation, localization, or any other language needs, please explore my website or send me an email: