Choose between localization and translation when designing a high-converting multilingual site. Localization and translation are distinct yet sometimes mistaken.
Before starting either process, identify the main differences to improve performance. This is crucial for companies seeking worldwide audiences.
Website localization is a multi-step process. One is translation. Localization provides a complete, culturally appropriate experience, whereas translation adapts your site's message (mainly text) to a new market.
This article compares localization with translation. Learn how to utilize a WordPress multilingual plugin like TranslatePress for website translation and other localization.
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What Is Website Translation
In general, translation is the process of changing text from one language (the source language) to another language (the target language). The whole point of a good translation is to keep a text's exact meaning in the language it was originally written in.
This can include text, image text, and get text strings in a plugin or theme for a WordPress site. Using a plugin like TranslatePress is one of the easiest ways to do this. The tool lets you add and change translations on the front end of your site. This makes it easy for even beginners to translate a whole website in a short amount of time.
Once you've translated the text, the meaning and context of the message will be the same on the whole site, no matter what the target audience's cultural expectations are.
For example, "pie de Manzana" sounds about right when translated to "apple pie" in English. But it might take a while for the average Brit who shops at their local store to figure out that you mean "apple crumble." Even though this isn't a deal-breaker, most of your site's visitors will want to read and interact with your content in the language they know best.
Most of the time, the translation is literal. It's often a good place to start for websites with more than one language. It might work if all you want to do is give some technical details or instructions, use a few graphics or photos, and stay away from idioms and marketing content.
But if you want to make the most money in more than one market, you need to go beyond translation and into localization.
Why? Most linguists agree that sometimes things get "lost in translation." The goal of localization is to find and fix these communication gaps so that your business can connect better with the locals and become more popular.
What Is Website Localization
As was already said, localization is a much more complicated way to adapt a product or business to a whole market, region, or location. Marketing involves a lot of specifics to a certain area that can't be taken care of by translation alone. The main idea is to give your users the best experience you can, no matter where they are in the world.
Also, when localization is involved, translating text is done in a very different way. After translating into the target language, you may need to change some words, phrases, and expressions to make them more interesting to the audience.
In some cases, you might even have to change whole parts of the website to fit the tastes and trends of that market. A good example is a business that has locations all over the world and offers different services in each one. During localization, you'll need to show only content or services that are available in the chosen region.
Besides translating the context, there are a few other important things to think about when localizing a website. Let's look at some of the most important ones.
Why Is Localization Important?
No matter what kind of site you have, localizing it correctly will require several steps. As we said before, localization is about more than just text and content. The main idea is to meet all of the cultural expectations of the people you want to reach. This can affect every part of the website if it is done.
This may mean that you need to use different types of content or even different marketing campaigns on the different versions of your site that are localized. Anything to get the visitor's attention on a deeper, more subcultural level.
In general, though, localization should change these important parts of your website.
Cultural, Regional, and Language
The first goal of localizing a website is to give local customers a sense of what the site is about. And textual translation is often the first step. When localizing your site, it's very important to dig deeper and focus on translating your content to make it as culturally relevant as possible.
Usually, this means taking into account a lot of linguistic factors. For instance, some translations may be offensive or just don't sound natural to the people in the area. If you want to break into a new market, you need to put these culturally and regionally specific parts of your website at the top of your list.
Because of this, you can't just translate a text word for word when localizing site content. It would make sense to hire a native speaker who not only knows the main language but also knows what the audience expects in terms of culture. This has to do with the way people in the area talk, the terms they use, and the slang they use.
We've already talked about how localization adapts to different English dialects. Localized versions of your site for your American, Australian, or British audience should have different spelling, word usage, and other linguistic factors. The same is true for people who speak Spanish in Latin America and Mexico.
For proper localization, you may also need to change important parts of your brand, like your name. The localization work that Coca-Cola did in China is a great example of this. The brand name used in the area is pronounced: "Kekou kele," which means "Tasty fun" in English.
When Chinese customers visit the site, they will usually feel good about it. Since shopping is a sentimental activity, this can easily lead to more sales and site engagement. All of this is possible because of good brand name localization.
When you're done with the text, design is the next most important part of localizing a website. And this affects every part of the way your site is made. Every part of UI/UX design is important, from how the page is laid out to the choice of colors.
Here are some of the things you need to think about when designing for localization and why:
- Layout: Various alphabets and characters are used for different languages. Because of this, different translated texts will need more or less space. Even when the alphabets are the same, translating some words into another language makes them longer. Some languages, like Arabic, also use scripts that go from right to left (RTL). This means that you may need to change the layout of your pages or your whole site to account for these differences. Another big difference between translation and localization is this.
- Colors: Different people in different places can also have different ideas about what colors mean. You would have to do some research to find out how each of your target groups sees different colors. This makes sense so that people who visit your site don't feel the wrong way.
- Visuals and other graphics: Of course, you need to translate the text in your images to get started. Then there are times when it makes sense to completely change the images to get a stronger message across. For example, you can add pictures of Chinese models to the Chinese version of your site and Nigerian models to the Nigerian version. Shapes, sizes, icons, and styles of lettering are all just as important. Anything to fit in with the local culture better.
In general, design is also a cultural concept. This is why it should also be taken into account when localizing.
Currency, Calendar Systems, and Other Units of Measurements
This is a very important part of localization for online stores. Things like money, units of measurement, and data systems can be different from one country or region to the next. A US online shopper who wants to buy something would usually like to see prices in US dollars.
WooCommerce multicurrency plugins can save you a lot of time if you have a WordPress site and want to add this feature. With these plugins, you can choose to only show prices or to also take payments in different currencies. You can also add the most common ways to pay in each region.
For weight and length, US shoppers would also like to see units like pounds (lb.) and inches. A buyer from New Zealand, on the other hand, would understand kilograms and meters better. Even if a brand is known all over the world, localization should try to meet these important buyer expectations.
Even websites that don't sell things aren't left out. On each localized version of your site, the calendar and time system should be set up like it is in that area. Some countries use the format MM/DD/YYYY, and others use the format DD/MM/YYYY. You should also think about whether you want to use a 12-hour or 24-hour clock.
Privacy Laws and Legal Considerations
Media, SEO, Automatic Translations
Finally, localization efforts that focus on technical details, such as multilingual Search Engine Optimization (SEO), will pay huge dividends for your site's visitor count. In most cases, you'll need to change the slug in the URL for each translated page, enable multiple sitemaps, and translate your site's metadata.
It's a relief to know that TranslatePress makes it a breeze to manage all of these separate multilingual SEO components. The SEO pack expansion is compatible with other similar plugins.
Website visitors can have their language preferences recognized automatically so they can be sent to the appropriate localized version. The Automatic User Language Detection in TranslatePress plug-in performs a great job of re-directing users to the appropriate content.
Advantages Of Localization In Business
The advantages of localization are similar to those of multilingual SEO. The main distinction is that localization increases the ROI of developing a multilingual website. For this reason, localization is preferred over translation.
One of the benefits of localizing your website is that you can:
- Expansion into new areas is a great way to increase sales and build brand recognition. Exposing your goods and services to a larger audience is the simplest method to expand your market share as a business owner. This is supported by a mountain of research. Return on investment (ROI) for translation typically exceeds 2500%. The foregoing is a huge percentage that no company would knowingly pass up.
- Maximize your advantage over the opposition. A sizable fraction of international corporations now prioritizes spending on-site translation. However, only the best companies offer really professional localization services. The more you localize, the more markets you can potentially enter ahead of the competition.
- Gain consumer trust and loyalty by establishing a strong brand identity. When expanding their markets into uncharted territories, even the most well-established multinational corporations occasionally make embarrassing marketing blunders. Content localization efforts can help businesses maintain cultural awareness and prevent PR nightmares. Customers in the immediate area will be able to observe your efforts and hopefully be encouraged to continue using your products and services.
- Higher-quality visitors and participation. Aside from making your site accessible in a number of different tongues, localization also involves tailoring your message to the specific cultural backgrounds of your users. In most cases, this means a significant increase in visitors and interaction.
It makes sense to go through with the laborious process of website localization in light of the potential benefits to your online business.
Ready For An Ideal Multilingual Website?
Making and keeping the ideal website for a global audience is a time-consuming and costly task. You'll eventually have to decide whether to localize or translate. Considering your business's needs and those of your intended customers can help you zero in on the best option.
The overarching goal of translation is to communicate the same meaning in multiple languages. However, website localization goes even further in this regard by guaranteeing that you'll satisfy the cultural norms of your audience. This necessitates a wide range of activities, including translation, redesign, legal appropriation, and other technical considerations.