Localization VS Translation: 5 Key Differences You Should be Aware Of

In today’s globalized world, businesses need to communicate with customers and partners in various parts of the world, and this often requires translating and localizing their content. 

However, translation and localization are often confused and used interchangeably, even though they are not the same thing.

While both processes involve adapting content from one language to another, they differ in their scope, approach, and the end result they achieve. 

In this article, we will dive into the key differences between translation and localization, helping you understand when and how to use each approach to communicate effectively with your target audience.

By the end of this post, you will have a clear understanding of which approach is right for your business and how to effectively communicate with your international customers and partners. 

First off, let’s take a closer look at what localization and translation actually are.

What is Localization?

Localization is the process of adapting content from one language to another, while also taking into account the cultural, regional, and linguistic differences of the target audience. 

Localization goes beyond simply translating the words in a text to another language, it also involves adapting the content to fit the cultural norms, preferences, and expectations of the target audience. This can include changes to the text itself, as well as to images, colors, and other elements that are culturally specific. 

Localization ensures that the content is not only accurately translated but is also culturally appropriate and relevant to the target audience, ultimately helping businesses effectively communicate and connect with customers and partners in different parts of the world. 

What is Translation?

Translation is the process of converting written or spoken content from one language to another. It involves accurately conveying the meaning of the source text in the target language while maintaining the original intent and style of the content. Translation can involve the conversion of documents, websites, software, books, and other materials from one language to another.

It is an important tool for businesses and individuals who need to communicate with people who speak different languages. Translation can help break down language barriers and facilitate communication, making it possible for people from different cultures and regions to understand and connect with one another.

You may also want to know: What are the differences from Transcription and Translation?

Localization vs Translation – 5 Differences You Should know 

Below, we want to get deeper into these differences, enabling you to better understand which approach is right for your business.

differences between translation and localization
  1. Audience

The first difference between localization and translation is that translation focuses on the language only, whereas localization takes into account the cultural and regional differences of the target audience. This means that localization is not just about translating words, but also about ensuring that the content is culturally relevant and appropriate for the intended audience. 

  1. Content

Translation typically involves only the conversion of written content from one language to another, whereas localization can involve multiple elements such as images, graphics, and colors. This means that localization considers the entire user experience, not just the language. This is especially important for businesses that want to create a seamless and culturally relevant experience for their international customers.

  1. Context

Context is also crucial in translation and localization. Translation often only translates the words themselves without taking into account the context in which they are used. Localization, on the other hand, considers not only the words, but also the context in which they appear, ensuring that the meaning is not lost in translation.

For example, a piece of content that is meant for a business audience in one country may need to be adapted for a consumer audience in another country. This could involve changing the language used, updating cultural references, or adjusting the visual elements to reflect local customs and practices.

  1. Tone & Style

Tone and style are also key elements in localization. Different cultures have different expectations when it comes to the tone and style of written and spoken communication. A message that is written in a formal and authoritative tone in one language may need to be adapted to a more conversational or friendly tone in another language.

The use of idioms and slang can also vary greatly from one culture to another, and it is essential to ensure that the message is conveyed in a way that is easily understood and culturally appropriate for the target audience. 

For example, imagine a business that wants to advertise its new line of running shoes in both the United States and Japan.

In the United States, the ad might feature a well-known athlete endorsing the shoes and using high-energy language to encourage viewers to try them out. In Japan, the same message might need to be adapted to a more modest and respectful tone, with a focus on the shoes’ durability and comfort. The visuals used in the ad may also need to be updated to reflect local customs and preferences. 

  1. Time and cost

Finally, time and cost are important considerations when deciding between translation and localization. Localization is typically a more time-consuming and expensive process than translation due to the additional work involved in adapting the content to the local culture. Translation, on the other hand, is often a faster and cheaper process.

When Should I Need Localization or Translation?

At the end, we want to give you some pointers for when to focus on localization vs translation.

We recommend you use translation mainly to inform your target audience of new changes or updates. This can be done via 

  • text, 
  • emails, 
  • chat apps, 
  • forums, 
  • technical content, etc.


Conversely, you should be using localization when you want to connect with your audience at a deeper level. You should use it in 

  • whitepapers, 
  • case studies, 
  • blog posts, 
  • website pages, 
  • newsletters, 
  • customer stories, etc.


For example, if you’re a large B2B corporation selling in different markets, localization is a must for you. If you are a B2C sellers who want to engage clients in a new area, an eShop with translated products would do the trick.

Check out below video, you will get a more clear picture of differences between translation and localization.

Wordspath can help

Wordspath provides highly reliable human translation and state-of-the-art machine translation services for content related to diverse subject matters with accuracy and consistency. 

We take pride in our quality-driven workflow that combines the excellent work of our linguists, desktop publishers, project managers, customer service, and technical team. Their endless support allows Wordspath to provide first-rate language solutions in 150+ languages for thousands of customers who need to connect with the world.

Wordspath also offers machine translation post-editing services translating the content with our proprietary MT engine and having our in-house/contracted linguists review,  edit, polish, and proofread the results.

Meanwhile, we are highly experienced in delivering tailor-made localization-related solutions such as desktop publishing, transcription, subtitling, and voiceover. Our ability to quickly handle a wide range of content types between nearly all language combinations sets us apart from our competitors. 

Should you need to consult on your best-fit language solution, you can contact us through live chat or email to info@wordspath.com. Or simply request a free quote.

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