JBI Studios' Blog on Voice-Over, Dubbing, and Multimedia Localization.

The Difference Between Localization and Translation

As the world becomes more interconnected with advancements in technology and faster internet speeds, there has been a growing demand for multimedia localization. What is localization and how is it different from translation? In this article we will define and compare these key terms and discuss how they can help your content reach a global audience.

[Average read time: 4 minutes]


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The Art of Translation

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines translation as the act of turning into one's own or another language. A simple example of translation is that the word "good" translates into Chinese as "hao" 好 and "bueno" in Spanish. However, even in this simple example, the translation of the word good can change based on the context: when telling a child he or she is being good (well-behaved), in Chinese the word "guai" 乖 would be more appropriate. In Spanish, the last vowel in "bueno" would change to "a" when addressing a female or the vowel can be dropped altogether as in "a good boy": "un buen chico".

Now you can imagine that these details are compounded when doing a complex multimedia project like a video game. "Translation is not a science; it is an art" writes Jeremy Blaustein, translator for the widely popular action, stealth "Metal Gear Solid" video game. For instance, he translated the Japanese phrase for "acquire locally" (現地調達) to OSP or "on site procurement" in regards to getting weapons on location.

As you can see, it is important for a translation to convey not just the content of what is said, but also the feeling of those words . A term like OSP has a cold, professional feel to it much like the stealth soldier characters in the game. 

These nuances are key to language and are why human translation is still more accurate than machine translation. However, text translation is just one important aspect of many when making a multimedia project specific to a region. Which leads us to localization.


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Localization: Speaking to Your Audience

Did you know that Kitto Katsu (きっと勝つ) means "surely win" in Japanese? Nestle, the Swiss company that makes Kit Kat chocolate candy bars, was surprised to find that out too. It incorporated this linguistic coincidence into its marketing strategy and the sweet confectionery became a hit in Japan, particularly with students taking exams.

Localization, which literally means to make local, takes into account the specific cultural and local references of a region and adapts the content to reach that audience. One localization service we provide is called transcreation, in which we have native speakers and localization experts of a language re-write a script to make it specific to that area.

For example, the number four is considered unlucky in Chinese culture since it sounds like the word "death", whereas the number eight and the color red are associated with good luck and wealth. If you have a real estate video script for a Chinese audience and the number four appears, it would be better to rewrite that segment and use the number eight instead while trying to incorporate the color red.

Another major aspect of localization is voice-over and dubbing. Once you have a video/audio script that has been translated or rewritten for a specific language, there's a number of other localization considerations that you'd want to take into account: Has the script been timed correctly? What kind of voice do we use? Is there an accent desired? What variant of that language do you want to record? 

If you're localizing content for a Spanish-speaking audience, you want to check if it's for Latin America or Spain (Castilian) as the accents and word usage differ. If you want to get more specific, maybe you want a Mexican Spanish accent instead of an Argentinian accent or vice versa.

These considerations add up to make sure your content is received well by a local audience. 


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Main Differences Between Translation and Localization

As you can see from the examples above, translation and localization are related but different. Translation changes the original source language of content (commercial, corporate video, eLearning, film/TV, etc...) into a target language while maintaining the meaning and, hopefully, the feeling of the original.

Localization adapts the original source content for a target audience which encompasses translation as well incorporating cultural customs, local references, and region specific accents or dialects. 

Word to word translation is suited for procedural manuals, medical and scientific journals--generally content that is technical in nature. However, when it comes to multimedia projects like video games, film/TV/animation, and commercials, localization is needed to successfully reach your audience. Content that aims to get an emotional response from a viewer is a key candidate for localization.


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Now that you know the definitions of translation and localization, as well as the differences between the two, you'll be more aware of real life examples of them. In China, Coca-Cola  translates to "kekou kele" (可口可乐),which not only sounds similar but also means "delicious happiness". In 2011, Coke launched a campaign in Australia, printing 150 popular names on their bottles to much success.

However, in China, Chinese given names do not share the same commonality as in English and it's also considered improper for a consumable product to list a person's name. Instead, Coca-Cola printed social roles like "Close Friend" or "Classmate" on the bottles, thus maintaining Chinese social propriety.

See if you can spot examples of good or bad translations and localization in your day-to-day life. You may be surprised by what may translate well in one country can be embarrassing in another. Want to avoid your product or service being lost in translation? We have over 25 years of experience localizing content for a global audience. Click the link below for a free quote.


To request information or a free quote,  contact JBI Studios today.


Topics: Translation & Localization multimedia

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