28 September 2021

Localisation, translation and transcreation: what is the difference?

Categoria: Linguistic Services

Localisation, translation and transcreation are the terms used to refer to three different translation services, but how do they differ?

The most well-known of these terms is undoubtedly translation and so translations are what companies often request when they need to communicate with foreign countries.

However, there are situations in which a straightforward translation is not enough and more specific services such as localisation or transcreation may be required.

It is not easy to delineate precise boundaries between these types of services because they are closely interconnected. For example, one cannot localise a text without first translating it.

So what are the differences between translation, localisation and transcreation?

To get a better idea, let’s take a closer look.


Translation is certainly the best known of these services, familiar to those even from outside the industry. It is the process of transposing content from one language to another.

Its fundamental characteristic is therefore its faithfulness to the source text. Clients who request this service assume that the translated version will correspond perfectly with the original document.

Translation is the ideal solution for all content that aims to communicate information.

Informative articles, technical manuals and scientific content are some examples of documents that are perfectly suitable for translation.

Objectivity is a key factor in these cases so the role of the translator is merely to transpose the content from one language to another without significantly altering or adjusting the form or content.

However, translation alone is not enough if the company’s goal goes beyond that of communicating information. Speaking another language isn’t only about using a different alphabet or grammar rules, it is also about expressing yourself with words and phrases steeped in a different and unique culture.

As a result, an exact and objective translation of a document may produce odd, incomprehensible or even unacceptable results if the words are not adjusted to the culture of the foreign speaker.

In order to meet to this more complex challenge, another type of service must be used: localisation.


Localisation is a much more complex process than translation.

It is not just about translating a text into another language but of adapting it to the culture of the new target audience.

The aim of those who request a localisation service is not so much to speak the same language but to “speak” the same culture. Localising a text means translating it and adapting its cultural references so they are understandable and familiar to the target audience.

It is not only the words that are adapted but also other content such as graphics, images and all forms of expression involved in communication at a more cultural level.

It is a phenomenon that is easy to understand in the case of the translated versions of e-commerce sites.

In fact, e-commerce is the clearest example of how good localisation is essential for conquering new international markets.

E-commerce sites contain written texts but also images, currencies, dates and many other elements that are specific and unique to individual countries. If the aim of the company investing in the internationalisation of its e-commerce portal is to attract new customers, it is necessary to optimise the user experience and make the user feel “at home” by making navigation easier and more immediate through the localisation of the site’s content.

The same logic also applies when communicating with people living in different areas of the same country. In fact, every place has its own cultural identity and being able to understand and respect this in communications is crucial to capturing people’s attention and trust, and therefore acquiring potential customers.

It is only possible to achieve all of this if the work is performed by a professional translator immersed in the same culture as the target audience.

With this we have tried to make the difference between localisation and translation more clear, but how do these two services differ from transcreation?


Transcreation represents a further level of complexity with respect to localisation. While the latter remains largely faithful to the original text, transcreation takes the opposite approach.

In fact, it is a genuine art that involves the highly creative translation and adaptation of the message of a text into another language, and is therefore conceptually similar to copywriting. Transcreators have much more “poetic license” and freedom to modify the text on the basis of their own creativity and cultural sensibility and are not required to stick quite so rigidly and faithfully to the source document.

The goal in this case is to excite and motivate the target audience, something that is very difficult to achieve translating a text word for word.

It goes without saying that this methodology is mostly used for company branding and marketing activities.

Slogans and advertising campaigns are the kind of content that most require transcreation. In fact, they are often strongly connected with the culture of their target and so it is necessary to adjust their content and include references to the local market in order to make them appealing to a different public and raise awareness of the corporate brand by acting on emotional levers in the target country.

In addition to being a professional translator and understanding the culture of the target audience, the translator must also have strong marketing expertise and creative skills.

Essentially, transcreation is based on the ability to rephrase words in order to evoke in international audiences the same feelings and emotions that are triggered in the country where the campaign was launched.

The difference between the three methods is therefore subtle but very clear. Although they fulfil different needs and are applied to different kinds of texts, localisation, translation and transcreation are all services that require high levels of expertise.

For this reason, when you need to communicate with a new market, the best solution is to turn to a professional agency like Way2Global.

Our team includes professional mother tongue translators who are able to perform the three types of service discussed here to perfection. Their work is subject to thorough checks by revisers and proofreaders, and coordinated promptly and professionally by our Project Managers, in accordance with the procedures of the ISO 17100:2015 standard.

At Way2Global we provide our clients with support and guidance when choosing the most suitable services for their needs, enabling them to communicate and raise their international profile, breaking down language and cultural barriers.

Do you need a localisationtranslation or transcreation service? Get in touch!


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