Same Banana? Understanding the Differences Between Translation and Localization

Language, LSP, Translation Procurement

It only takes 50 milliseconds for viewers to form an opinion about a website. 

Businesses need a strategy for creating content their audience can read and enjoy. It’s especially important when selling to global customers with different demographic details. That’s where translation and localization come in.

The two processes are often confused, but it’s important to understand the differences between them. They both help you reach a multicultural audience in different ways.

Read our localization vs. translation guide to learn what they cover, when you need each service, and where to find professionals to help.


Translation makes sure that customers who speak another language can read your content. It’s a critical first step because 72.1% of customers prefer to read content in their native language.

The type of content also matters. Translating is taking written content from one language to another. Interpreting is changing the language of spoken words.

Another important consideration is the type of translation you need.

There are major differences between machine translation and human translation. Electronic programs are faster but can’t understand context, cultural nuances, or dialects as well.

Technology can help in a pinch, but highly accurate translations require a more personal touch. It’s also possible to use the two together. Many companies use the computer to make an initial translation that’s checked by a human translator.

You may also need back translation and reconciliation. Legal and regulatory boards often require them because they help ensure accuracy.

Back translation helps check translations for accuracy. It involves putting an already translated document back into its original language. 

Reconciliation uses error reports and compares the back translated document to the original. This way, you can make sure you have an accurate translation.

For more information, find out what translators do here.


Localization is the process of adapting products and content for a specific audience. It may include translation, but this would be only the first step.

Localization also involves customizing all parts of products and content. This includes customizing its look, tone, and all other components that might affect how your target audience receives it.

You may not think you need a plan for each market you sell to, but there are several reasons you do. Two of the most important are message regulation and improved sales.

There are several infamous stories of companies that didn’t localize properly. They sent the wrong message and offended potential customers in another country. Localization helps you avoid this by letting you know how your content will be received.

Localization does more than help you avoid offending people. Data shows that the benefits to your bottom line make the complex process worth your time.

78% of online shoppers are more likely to buy from localized websites. Surveys also showed that marketers in the US, UK, and Germany enjoyed a 71% increase in sales after adopting a localization strategy.

Comparing Translation and Localization

Translation and localization share a lot of similarities. They’re both customizable, come in plenty of different flavors, and can be an important part of marketing. Despite everything they have in common, it’s still important to understand the differences to know when to use each one.

What They’re Used For

Translation ensures that your potential customers get to read your content in their preferred language. Localization takes it a step further by making sure that the message is presented in an appealing and culturally appropriate way.

The two processes can and should work together to create the proper message. If it’s in the customer’s preferred language and customized to their needs, they’re more likely to respond.

Factors Considered

Localization has to consider factors that translation doesn’t. The most notable of these are demographic factors like age and gender.

Localized content uses all these to customize content for each individual market. It needs to be

Translation is focused on making sure users can read it in their preferred language. It can consider other factors like dialects but isn’t as concerned with who’s receiving the message as localization.


Translations should be customized to the specific language and dialect of the area you hope to reach whenever possible. 

Almost everything can and should be customized as part of a localization strategy. Even the slightest change can affect how a customer receives a message.


Choosing the right service and checking their results is still important when translating. It’s wrong to say there’s no planning involved, but there’s a much more complex process for developing a localization strategy.

Using localization for the first time is like making a new marketing campaign for a product. You have to choose the best way to deliver your message to potential customers in a way they’ll gravitate to.

How to Use Them Both

Comparing translation vs. localization lets you decide which service you need. If your sole purpose is translating documents for others, this may be all you need. Most companies need to go deeper to attract customers.

It’s always best to start by translating your content. Then, create a localization strategy to customize it for the cultural preferences of all potential markets.

    Where to Find Translation and Localization Services

    Being able to compare translation vs. localization helps you know when you need each one and how to use it effectively. Both help you reach a multicultural audience but do so in different ways.

    Types of translation include machine, human, back translation, and reconciliation. They all help ensure your content is available in your customers’ preferred language. The downside is that they can’t do much to help you customize it to their cultural preferences.

    Localization fills in the gaps by developing a full strategy for each market. Everything needs to be customized from names to colors to avoid sending the wrong message.

    It’s possible to translate or localize yourself, but the accuracy and power of your message may suffer. Hiring a professional helps you communicate with global customers.

    We’ve provided translation and localization services to satisfied customers for years. Check out our rates and contact us today for more information.

    10 Tips For Your Next Translation Project (Video)

    10 Tips For Your Next Translation Project (Video)

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