Localization (L10N) vs Translation (T9N)

What is localization? And how different is it from translation? Find out how different localization disciplines work together to deliver the best localized experience.

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What is localization? And how different is it from translation? Find out how different localization disciplines work together to deliver the best localized experience.


What is L10N, aka localization?

Localization, in many of the descriptions, or Google searches, what you get is that localization basically means adapting a product or service into another language, into another culture, into another local market.

So, let’s say that this actually is iPhone. And we’re turning it into a German version of iPhone. So it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be larger, it’s just my bad drawing. What this means is that when I’m a German customer, and when I go to the store, I feel like Apple created actually iPhone, for me. From the whole experience, just entering the shop, how I feel in the shop, how the package looks like. It’s in German, obviously, once I start iPhone, it will be talking to me in German, and I can do many German things with it. The important thing with localization is that, like I mentioned, I feel as a German customer, that Apple created iPhone, just for me. Straight from scratch, from nothing into German. So the good localization basically means I feel like there was no localization at all. Okay, I don’t feel that there’s anything for Americans in my German iPhone. And this, of course, it involves a lot of things that make localization what it is, and I’ll try to put it here in this box.

So what comprises localization? First of all, we always have to sort of include translation. And this is where I’m going to give you the difference between translation and localization. So translation, as you can see, is just a subset of localization. And what translation typically for me means is that you have text, written text, and you turn it into text in a different language. Let’s say this is our German and the meaning of the text is the same as it was previously. Okay, they’re just one thing. But if you are a fan of a series, you know that there are so many other roles that we already covered that help deliver the localized experience, the real authentic experience for the users around the world. So we talked about DTP, which deals with layout, and images. Let’s say when you’re in Africa, maybe you don’t want to put all people, all white people there. You want to localize the images. So this is the DTP. What else do we deal with when we talk about software localization? We can be dealing with a lot of variables that need to be I don’t know handled correctly during the translation, then we can have different currencies, we can have different date and time format, we can have different direction of the text. Sometimes maybe you can have even the different features for certain markets. And maybe what could be interesting is maybe localizing the colors. What is the meaning of the color for different markets? Okay, so these are all the things that you need to think about during localization.

Another thing that we already talked about is localization engineering. Again, that’s something that’s dealing with more technical aspects of the project. And it helps the translators to actually get the strings in a nice way. And so they let’s say, they extract the strings for translation from software, and then they put it back, they create localized builds. and so on.

Then we talked about internationalization, which is maybe, let’s say, closely related to localization engineering. Internationalization can be viewed as a blend between development and localization, right? Because in translation, it tries to make the development or creation of the original assets in a way that the localization can be done, more simpler, more efficient. And then we also have QA, which is the testers who are looking at the localized, I don’t know, images, localized text to look like software and so on from the user perspective. This is not something that translators would be doing. Okay, translators are there, mostly to translate and maybe look at these, these rules like adapting the variables and so on. And then the other people handle the rest. They handle the layout, the technical aspect, the internationalization and making sure that from the user’s perspective, it’s done correctly. So this would be all part of localization. So that’s why you have so many more disciplines within localization. And it’s not just about translation. That is my explanation of localization and see you in the next one. Bye bye!

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