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Localisation as a product

What is the difference between translation and localisation?

Man reaching for both ends of a bridge in an attempt to 'bridge' gaps between cultures.

In this article, we will explain how localisation and transcreation services differ from so-called traditional translation.  Localisation, transcreation and translation are all different services with a different range of applications. You can determine which one is the right fit for your project by looking at who the text is aimed at and where you wish to publish it. At times, translation is simply not enough to tell the whole story in a way that would speak to your target group. In these cases, it is especially important to enlist the support of an experienced language professional with in-depth knowledge of the target culture.

In so-called traditional translation, the translator strives to keep the contents of the resulting translation as close to those of the original text as possible. However, sometimes simply aiming to replicate the contents in another language is not enough. In these cases, the text needs to be localised instead. Even though all of our translation services are suitable for a variety of different use cases, their suitability is also determined by the complexity and style of the text. However, it is important to note that translation should not be considered a lower-grade service than localisation, but instead a simply a different service provided for different purposes. If the project is especially demanding, such as in a case where the original text must be transformed into a form that speaks to an audience in another language group, traditional translation is sometimes not enough. The localisation product scope also includes more meticulous adjustments to the source text, which have not been accounted for in the pricing of our translation services.


A good example is the Spanish language with its various internationally spoken variants. Even though those who speak different variants of Spanish may be able to understand each other in a real-life situation, they may struggle to understand a written text of another language variant, since the cultures and therefore also the lexicons of different countries and continents have developed into such different directions along the centuries. This goes to show that even within a single language, cultural differences may be so significant that the same text takes on a whole different meaning when transferred from one culture to the next. A text always reflects its author’s background and expertise. A text written by Finnish person with no understanding of the different variants of Spanish used in the Americas may include expressions, for example, that do not function in some of these variants. In these cases, the help of a localisation expert is needed in order to adapt the contents of the source text to the target culture. Certain words or expressions may have very different meanings and associations in different cultures. A perfectly innocent source language phrasing may include inadvertent references to politics, religion, familial structures, historical events, or a public scandal in the past. Even mentioning a certain colour may be interpreted as a reference to a tragic revolution, which in turn would contradict the desired brand message. Simply changing the colour mentioned the text is usually not enough, since idioms are often hard to translate. Instead, the whole sentence must be rewritten. Certain expressions relating to time may even be interpreted as indications that the company cannot deliver the service they promised in their advertising copy.


The further removed the translation’s target audience is from the language family and culture of the original target audience, the more important localisation is to ensure that the message is conveyed correctly and the tone of the text is preserved. Use the table below to choose the right translation service based on the source text, target audience and your own expectations.

If you choose transcreation, you are essentially asking the translator to move even further away from the source text than in localisation, allowing the greater leeway to edit the text as they see fit. When a text is transcreated, it may be even completely rewritten if necessary. This is all done to ensure that the style of the target text reflects that of the source text and conveys the desired message. Transcreation requires more editing hours, which is why it is also priced at a higher rate than localisation. Transcreation can also be used to refashion a source text to befit a different purpose than that of the original text. The same text may therefore be suitable for either translation or transcreation (see table). Despite this, some texts must be transcreated in order to achieve the desired quality and make them understandable for the target audience, as their contents may need to be copyedited during the translation process. This can be true for texts such as blog entries, for example.


Investing time and money into localising your content tells your audience that the company cares about its customers and wishes to offer them a smooth, enjoyable digital user experience. In the long term, this will also attract new customers and increase brand loyalty.

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