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Localization vs Translation! Is there a difference?

Terms such as French translation, German localization, Software localization etc are used very commonly when people are actually referring to ‘language conversion’. Many of us might feel that the terms ‘translation’ and ‘localization’ have the same meaning  or are almost ‘synonyms’. However, there is quite a lot of difference between the two.

The term translation normally refers to the conversion of text from one language to another – keeping the meaning and the context of the source intact. Thus, if a professional translator is doing English to Hindi translation, then his idea must be to prepare a Hindi version of the source English, in such a way, that the translated Hindi file conveys the same meaning as English and provides (almost) the same information.

On the other hand, when we talk of localization, we are, of course referring to converting text / website / software from one language to another, but as the term ‘localization’ indicates, the localization process has a lot to do with the location or the target locale. Localization is most commonly associated with software and websites. Thus, when we are talking of software localization services, we are actually referring to the translation of the software content (mostly the user interface) into the target language, considering the culture and slang of the target geography. Thus, knowing the location is very important for doing localization, as the culture, common terms, phrases etc have to be kept in mind while doing localization.

Thus, though both the terms – translation and localization are used in the same context, there is definitely a line of difference between the two. With more and more emphasis on context based translation, ‘translation’ is getting more and more close to ‘localization’.


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