Translation vs Localization: What’s the Main Difference?

Guildhawk | Jun 11, 2024 4:30:48 PM

Imagine a small tech start-up in the heart of London. They have developed a revolutionary app that promises to change the way people manage their daily tasks. After achieving considerable success in the UK, they decide it’s time to expand globally.

The team is excited, but their enthusiasm quickly turns to confusion.

Translating the app into other languages doesn’t seem to be enough. Users in Japan find the interface clunky and unintuitive, while those in Germany cannot relate to the content.

The company soon realises that simple translation isn't enough; what they need is localization.

This scenario highlights the main difference between translation and localization:

  • translation conveys a message
  • localization tailors to the users’ experience.

Understanding translation

Translation is the process of changing text from one language into another, while keeping the original meaning intact. The goal of translation is to achieve linguistic accuracy and clarity, which are essential to ensure that content is understood.

Translation deals primarily with words and syntax. The primary function of the translation process is to ensure that information remains accurate and comprehensible in the target language.

Translation typically serves as the starting point of the localization process.

Understanding localization

Localization, on the other hand, goes beyond mere translation. It involves adapting the content to fit the cultural, social, and contextual nuances of the target audience.

This includes:

  • date formats
  • idiomatic expressions
  • symbolic meaning of visuals (like images and videos)
  • cultural references, and
  • even colour palettes and aesthetics

Unlock content to reach global markets: The power of localization

Localization aims to make the product or content feel as though it was created especially for the target audience.

Key differences between translation and localization





Converting text from one language to another.

Adapting content to fit the cultural and linguistic nuances of a specific target market.


Focuses on language accuracy.

Involves translation plus adopting to culture.

Cultural Adaptation

Minimal, mainly linguistic.

Extensive. Takes into account local customs, traditions, and preferences.

User Experience

Ensures correct language usage.

Ensures content is culturally relevant and user-friendly.

Technical Aspects

Usually deals with text and simple formatting.

May involve modifying images, graphics, date formats, and other elements.


To convey the same message in a different language.

To make the content feel like it was created for the target audience.

Quality Assurance

Focus on linguistic accuracy.

Focus on linguistic accuracy and cultural appropriateness.

See also 12 Differences between transcreation and translation (When to use them)

The impact of localization

Localization can dramatically improve user engagement and satisfaction. A survey conducted by Nimdzi Insights found that apps localized for the Japanese market saw a 22% increase in downloads compared to those that were simply translated.

This boost in engagement translates directly to higher user retention and satisfaction rates.

Localization and translation are both essential for reaching global audiences, but while translation ensures that the message is understood, localization hits the main goal of multilingual communication by ensuring that the message resonates culturally.

Companies looking to expand globally must invest in complete two-stage process to achieve success.

Ultimately, understanding and implementing localization strategies can be the key to unlocking new markets with a competitive advantage and increase in revenue.

Contact Guildhawk today for accurate localization services tailored to your needs. 

Examples of successful localization projects

Guildhawk: Brand localization

Guildhawk understands the importance getting localization right when expanding into new markets. In fact, brand and website localization were key components of its own market entry strategy for Asia.

Before announcing Evernoon as the name of the new Hong Kong entity, the team consulted widely to make a well-informed decision. This included surveying Guildhawk’s network of Chinese linguists for their views on the Chinese translation of Evernoon.

Several other aspects of localization were also taken account as part of the process:

  • Cultural nuances: In Chinese culture certain words or concepts carry different meanings or connotations. Therefore it was essential to avoid unintended negative associations or cultural taboos.

    • These include words related to death, illness and unlucky numbers
    • Four 四 (sì) = death 死 (sǐ)
  • Linguistic aspects: There are different structures and pronunciation systems in Chinese language(s) compared to Western languages.

    • The brand name needed to have positive connotations and good resonance with the company’s profile
    • The assistance of native speakers and professional linguists was crucial
  • Brand positioning: A business’s name is what people directly associate with the brand in China’s commercial landscape. This meant that consideration needed to be given to:

    • How we wanted the brand to be perceived in the Chinese market
    • The key attributes of the brand (such as: innovation, quality, reliability, or affordability)
    • How our values could be communicated effectively through Chinese words/characters
    • Making sure our logo and website correspond well with our desired business message

Guildhawk brand localizationUnlocking Global Markets: A Guide to Localization Strategy

MrBeast: YouTube localization

Jimmy Donaldson aka MrBeast significantly expanded his international audience and improved engagement by investing in professional dubbing, subtitling and cultural localization of his YouTube content.

This strategic approach led to exponential growth in viewership and brand expansion in markets such as Spain and Brazil. It also fostered a global community of fans, driving revenue growth.

  • At the start of his localization project MrBeast had 130 million YouTube subscribers; he now has over 272 million subscribers worldwide, making him the most subscribed channel on YouTube.

MrBeast video uploads

Spotify: Image localization

Spotify understands the importance of cultural relevance and personalisation. It strives to ensure users around the world feel represented on the platform.

Spotify achieves this by featuring region-specific music genres, translating playlist titles, and adapting playlist images and designs to resonate with local cultures. For example, displaying traditional Thai music in Thailand and recognising cultural celebrations like South Africa's Freedom Day and Diwali in India.

By collaborating with local influencers and gathering feedback, Spotify refines its approach to tailor the user experience to each individual market.

Spotify localisationSource: Spotify

Key factors for Spotify's success in image localization include:

  • Translating words and adapting visual content to local languages and cultural contexts.
  • Collaborating with music editors and cultural experts worldwide to ensure authenticity.
  • Localising images to create connections and foster a sense of belonging among users.
  • Addressing cultural sensitivities and adapting imagery to comply with social norms, such as modifying the portrayal of love or seduction for Middle Eastern markets.

Key Differences Between Translation and Localization_GuildhawkDownload infographic