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The Main Differences Between Document Translation and Localization Services

The mark of a professional and experienced translation company is whether or not its employees know the difference between document translation and document localization services. A reliable company whose people understand this distinction is East African Language Solutions (EALS). As a business or individual, when you prepare your content or product for the global market, sometimes direct document related services are not enough. For many types of content to be truly understandable by people who speak different languages and come from different cultures, localization is key.

What’s the difference between translation and localization?

Put very simply, translators are decoders of language. Literal translation involves taking words in one language and transforming them into their counterparts in another one. For example, the Kiswahili word for the English “dog” is “mbwa.” However, other words have multiple variations on translation. Standard document translation services are sufficient for some industries, such as IT/tech translations in which manuals simply need transposition from one context to another.

Localization, on the other hand, involves taking a form of communication – whether written or spoken – and making it both culturally and linguistically acceptable to a target audience (e.g. country, cultural group). To obtain successful results, service providers must have a deep understanding of not only the language, but also the local culture and context. This ensures that the feel and tone of the original document is preserved. For example, your original message may communicate a firm warning, but when translated literally, the feeling of firmness and urgency may not exist in the new language. This is where localization services come in. Localization confirms that the same feelings are conveyed in the translated product as they are expressed in the original document.

Book translation services and any other poetic or literature-related translations that involve expressing ideas and communicating stories always require localization. Therefore, for this specialized operation, companies often hire authors, professors, and creative writing specialists. Other projects that require document localization services include: product reviews, promotional and marketing materials, magazine articles, and help guides/frequently asked question documents. Examples of the Importance of Localization

Direct translations of many idioms, or sayings, from different countries make no sense in other languages. Here are some fun examples:

  • Russian idiom: Хоть кол на голове теши

Literal translation: “You can sharpen with an ax on top of his head.”

Localized translation: “He’s a very stubborn person.”

  • German idiom: Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof.

Literal translation: “I only understand the train station.”

Localized translation: “I do not understand a thing about what the person is/you are saying.”

  • Polish idiom: Z choinki się urwałaś?

Literal translation: “Did you fall from a Christmas tree?”

Localized translation: “It’s evident that you are not well informed.”

Our experienced translators only translate within their native languages. If you submit a document to us that needs localization as well as translation, you can rest assured that a professional individual will have a firm grasp of both your document’s original culture and your target audience’s culture. Your translated document will always maintain the same feel and tone as the original. We know that oftentimes, it’s not enough to build a direct translation glossary and rely solely on literal translation. In order to ensure that you are able to communicate most effectively, at EALS, our document localization services are included with our rates for document translation services.