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Translation or localisation?

by Cam's Writing

Should you translate or localise your content?

Whether you’re launching your brand in a new market or working on a global campaign, your marketing content needs to be spot on in every language. Therefore, you have to choose carefully if you want it to be translated or localised.

But what exactly is localisation? And how is it different from translation?
In this article, we’re giving you the answer and much more.

Translation or localisation: what’s the difference?

A good translation is true to the source material. The goal is not only to convey the message but also the tone of voice and the writing style.

Ideally, you should hire qualified translators to translate your marketing content. Some companies choose to use machine translation to reduce the cost. However, they often need the help of professional proofreaders to review and edit these automated translations.

Translation is about the language. For example, you can translate a text from English to French or vice versa.

On the other hand, localisation is about markets. Your copy isn’t just in English, it can be in British English (en-GB), American English (en-US), Canadian English (en-CA), etc. It’s the same with French: French from France (fr-FR), Belgian French (fr-BE), Canadian French (fr-CA), etc.

The goal of localisation – which would be spelled “localization” if we were localising this article for the American market – is to adapt the content for a different audience, taking cultural differences into consideration.

The benefits of localisation

Translation might be the obvious choice for literature or legal documents. But when it comes to content marketing, localisation usually makes more sense. That’s because, as marketers, you want your copy to resonate with your local audience, even if you have to change the message a little or adapt your tone of voice.

When you choose to localise your content, you don’t just work with linguists. You need to collaborate with localisation experts, people who not only know the language but also the culture and habits of your target audience. It’s even better if they’re good copywriters with a strong knowledge of marketing techniques.

Localisation is also crucial for your web content. You can’t just translate it. Why? Because of SEO. Translated keywords rarely work. They need to be localised to make sure they fit perfectly in the text and match your users’ search intent. And if you want to use keywords with an interesting search volume, you have to do a proper keyword search for your target market, not just translate the keywords from your source material.

Finally, another benefit of localisation is that it makes it way easier to work with character limitations and lay-out requirements. Having the ability to rephrase and adapt the message is extremely important when a literal translation is impossible – or wouldn’t fit in the space given for the text.

How to make the most of localisation

Before you start localising your content, you need to prepare new versions of your brand guidelines and tone of voice. You can’t just translate them, you have to adapt them so they’ll work for your target audience.

Get some localisation experts on board at the early stages of the project to avoid clichés and prejudices in your creative brief. It’s better to get it right the first time rather than having to make changes along the way when realising your initial plan won’t work.

Keep an open mind and trust your localisation experts. Some creative concepts might seem brilliant to you, but it doesn’t mean you should use them for every market, especially if they involve humour or cultural references. Don’t try to force some concepts that wouldn’t work for your target audience.

Localisation isn’t just about written content. If you can, you should consider localising everything: copy, design, structure of the page or text… You might not have to change much, but it’s great to have the option of changing an image or a colour if you have to.

At Cam’s Writing, we aren’t certified translators, we’re bilingual copywriters and content marketing specialists. Our strong knowledge of the French and the British markets, as well as many years of experience, make us localisation experts.
Whether you need to adapt your marketing content for fr-FR, en-GB or both, give us a call.