Translation vs. localisation

Different cultures require different translations

Definition of localisation – it consists in adapting a product or a service to the cultural, linguistic and technical requirements of a specific country or culture during a translation project. For a more precise definition of “localisation”, visit our glossary.

A little bit of history about localisation

It started in the 1980s when computer companies such as Dell or Microsoft were developing software. They wanted to sell them internationally. They wanted to adapt them to a very specific audience and locale. As a result, they came up with that term originally and from then on, it grew. It became something much much bigger than translation.

What localisation entails

As a matter of fact, when you’re looking at software translation, you are looking at things like encoding for text and design. You’re looking at typesetting, photos, images, colours. Compliance requirements. Linguistic requirements. Cultural requirements. You’re looking at where your audience is. Are they speaking or are they writing from right to left, for example?

As you can see, there are many things that are involved in the localisation process. That is translators use that term – localisation – more than the term translation. Translation is indeed only one step of the process. All depends on the focus of the company and the different areas they are working in. Some people work in a legal area of expertise. Other people focus on learning or marketing. Some people will focus on software and user manual.

With localisation, the freelance translator helps companies take their content and their message and convey it in a different language according to the cultural requirements of the country to which it is sent.

On top of that, there are several elements and components to every translation project to take into account.

Every localisation/ translation project is different

Every client has his own specification requirements. If you work with a video game company, you are not doing the same thing that if you’re working, let’s say, with a business working in irrigation or a big construction company or a law firm. That is why every customer’s project is specific.

The English into French translator will try to embrace the message of the companies he/she serves and convey that message to that specific audience outside of the source country.

A localisation – translation project involves many steps

A typical localisation project involves many different steps. It obviously starts with the client requiring that specific content or product to go to a specific French-speaking country by a certain date, on a certain budget.

From that phase, it starts as the translation project, with the translator. The translator is your contact and the person responsible for communicating with you, for translating and for asking questions about the translation project if necessary. He is also responsible for quality assurance. QA consists in making sure, for example that the right terminology is used. That the language used is appropriate to the target audience.

As a result, the source text goes through different steps, from translation to editing to proofreading. The final translation product is then finished and ready to deliver to the client.