Translation, Localization, Transcreation, Internationalization, and Globalization explained
You know what translation is: converting a text from one language into another. But what is localization? Internationalization? Globalization? No, they are not just more impressive terms for the same task, although sometimes it seems that translators and translation agencies like to use these terms to sound cool... There is more to it, of course. And although the differences between all these processes are often vague, they are helpful to help you determine which service you need.
Translation is the common term and some people describe it as the process in which a text is rendered into a different language “word for word”. However, translation is almost never done “word for word”. Each language has its own conventions, its own grammar, style, expressions. Translation is the process of converting a text into a different language so that it sounds as if it was written in the target language. (If it does not, it is not an acceptable translation.) We translators use cool acronyms for translation: XL8 (trans-L-8) and T9N (the word starts with a T, ends with an N and there are 9 letters in between these two).
Localization goes a step further. Localization means adapting the content to a specific locale. In the context of translation this can entail things like converting currencies and units of measures, adapting phone numbers by adding country codes, using the existing translations of software strings when referring to commonly used third party software (Microsoft, Apple, Android…), adding short explanations when the target audience will not be familiar with certain references etc. Localization is not limited to the work of the translator, it also applies to other types of work. For instance, designers might replace photos that appeal to the target audience, change the colour scheme or layout in accordance with local preferences etc. Our cool acronym for Localization is L10N.
Internationalization is related to translation and localization, but it is a task software engineers and designers need to carry out in preparation of translation and localization. In the course of their programming or design work they should take into account that the text will be translated/localized. This includes allowing room for longer strings, making sure other foreign character sets can be used, allowing flexibility for the placement of variables in sentences etc. It goes without saying that internationalization is becoming increasingly important as more and more software, websites and other materials will at some point be used for other languages as well. When done right, internationalization makes translation and localization easier, fast and cheaper. Our cool acronym for Internationalization is, you guessed it, I18N.
Sometimes even more changes are needed, for instance in the creative field. That process is called Transcreation. Marketing campaigns, for instance, will be adapted even further to different cultures. Translators will use the appropriate tone for their market and target audience, adapt the wordplay to puns in their local language and point out any references that are not suitable or not acceptable in their culture. They will prepare and adapt the campaign in consultation with the client while respecting the international brand image and adhering to the guidelines. Cool acronym: T11N. What else.
Globalization encompasses various processes that are necessary to make sure products, software, websites, brochures and other materials can be used all over the world. Translators take care of one of the communication aspects of globalization, namely localization. Other people take care of many other aspects, such as researching legislation. G11N is the corresponding acronym. (Because we translators love consistency.)
Want to know more? I can recommend the GALA website for more details.