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  • Localization, translation and transcreation: what's the difference?

    Despite the fact that we sometimes use these terms interchangeably, there is a difference between localization, translation and transcreation. For your translation strategy and in your international marketing, it’s important to be able to distinguish the terms.

    Let's look at the concepts separately – localization vs. translation and localization vs. translation vs. transcreation. And of course, when you use what.


    Translation is the literal transfer of a written text from one language (source language) to another languastrge (target language) that results in a translation. This is generally the job of a professional translator who is often a native speaker of the target language. When translating, the translator sticks to the source text. There is a difference between localization and translation here.

    The goal of translation is to make content accessible to a wider audience, for example, a company's potential customers in a new country.


    The word transcreation is a contraction of translation and creation. It’s a combination of translation and copywriting and is performed by a professional translator or copywriter. You can translate a text freely and creatively, while maintaining the context, tone of voice, style and intention.

    The goal of transcreation is to evoke the same emotions in the target audience in every language.


    Localization is the complete adaptation of your content to the language and culture of a specific target group in a particular region or country. Not only do you translate the source text freely and creatively, but you also take into account cultural, functional and stylistic aspects. These include images, colours, fonts, measurements and numbers. So, here too is a difference between localization and translation.

    Localization can be applied to websites, apps, software, print and marketing campaigns and has strong marketing elements. It’s generally done by professional translators who specialize in marketing.

    The goal of localization is to make the customer's overall user experience as smooth as possible.

    Localisation e-book

    Localization, translation and the difference: how to choose the right translation strategy?

    As you can read, there is overlap between translation, transcreation and localization, and one does not exclude the other. This is determined by your translation strategy within your international marketing. Together with your professional translation agency, you decide which texts are suitable for translation, transcreation or localization.

    Combinations are also possible:

    Localization vs. translation

    On your website, you can distinguish between pages that you want to localize and pages that you want to translate. Pages with high visitor numbers and pages for customer questions and complaints can be localized to a high degree, while on less visited pages (machine) translation is more than sufficient.

    Localization vs. translation vs. transcreation

    Here too you can distinguish between content that you localize, translate or transcreate. Large chunks of informative text are fine to have translated, while transcreation is a better option for microcopy (headings and buttons) to attract and direct the reader's attention.

    If you decide to use transcreation or localization, cooperation between professional translators and people from other fields such as copywriters or marketing experts is highly recommended. What you use and when, and how far you want to go in personalization and segmentation within your translation strategy, depends largely on your organizational goals.

    Localization, translation and the difference: what to do and not to do when localizing

    To get you started with your localization strategy, we've put together a handy tip sheet on what to do and what not to do during localization.

    How do you find and retain customers by speaking their language?

    What Don't Do
    Localization as a communication strategy  Don't leave translation and localization until the end of the content creation process. Do incorporate localization directly as an important part of your translation strategy within your international marketing. This allows you to identify opportunities and bottlenecks in an early stage.
    Localization is about more than just language Don't focus only on linguistic differences. Do take into account all differences between the target groups. This includes not only language, but also all (other) cultural, factual and stylistic differences.
    Differentiated language approach Don't adopt a one-size-fits-all approach in your translation strategy. Do use a differentiated localization approach for all content channels. Consider elements like visibility, duration of use, degree of creativity, planning and budget to determine the best type of localization: machine translation, manual translation, transcreation or copywriting.
    Pseudo-translation Don't second guess character count in design elements. Do include a pseudo-translation in the design phase to check that the actual translation will fit. This will ensure that translations of longer languages will still look nice in the respective channel.
    Localized content and centralized content Don't underestimate the importance of combining localized and centralized content. Do consult closely with your translation agency. Professional translators can thus combine the best of your local and central expertise for the new target market.
    Web development and translation/localization Don't let web development and translation or localization overlap. Do link your translation agency to your web developers. Developers often use English as the source language for “label keys”. These label keys must also be localized in the new target language to get the right word and sentence structure.

    Want to know more about localization? Then request the e-book Localization The key to global marketing success now.