8 November 2021

Difference between translation and adaptation

Categoria: Localization

Identifying a clear difference between translation and adaptation is a very difficult, if not impossible task.

Translation is a process of linguistic transposition requiring a nuanced approach that varies according to the type of text. While some situations necessitate a very strict, rigid translation that stays faithful to the original content, ruling out any possibility of “betrayal”, there are also cases in which translators have total freedom to deviate, provided the original communicative intent remains the same.

There is a wide range of middle options between these two extremes, i.e., circumstances that require translation in which the threshold of adaptation be calibrated with surgical precision, but also with extreme variability.

There are also special cases in which it would be more appropriate to speak in terms of “localization”.

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Adaptation can be localization

Localization is nothing more than a process of linguistic and cultural adaptation to make a text, product, or software perfectly usable to people living in another country, as though it had been conceived and produced in the language of the target country. This definition clearly shows the difference between the two activities.

Language is steeped in cultural references. This is why, when translating content from one language to another, the cultural factor must also be taken into consideration by making appropriate adjustments.

The need for localization is especially evident when translating an advertising campaign or a company’s tagline. In both cases, words that appeal to people’s imagination are chosen, which is why it is common to use clichés, puns, or references to well-known characters and situations known and shared by the entire population of people living in a particular cultural context.

However, the written text is not the only element to be reworked in this way.

Photos, videos, units of measurement and time are also elements that change according to cultural references and therefore need to be adapted. This procedure is necessary for translating websites, e-commerce and video games, all contexts in which adapting even the smallest detail helps to optimize the end user’s experience, a crucial factor in encouraging them to browse, buy, and play.

This is by no means an easy task, especially when dealing with highly regulated industries. Translating a law firm’s website, for example, is a great challenge. The site’s content and graphics must be adapted to the different jurisdiction and customs of the target country, while ensuring the rigor required by a legal translation.

Linguistic and cultural adaptation is therefore a delicate task that requires deviation from the original text without, however, any kind of manipulation.

Beware of manipulation

As previously discussed, localizing does not mean translating a text word for word but, on the contrary, involves introducing changes that make the content understandable to people from another culture. However, such adaptations should not lead to manipulation of the original content.

It is the form that changes, not the substance of the message you want to convey. To be sure that this is done correctly, it is best to turn to dedicated professionals. There are two main reasons for this.

First, those who perform translations and other language services professionally boast a thorough knowledge of the culture of both countries involved, a requirement that allows them to make necessary adjustments without undermining the communicative intent of the original text or product.

Additionally, turning to a professional translation agency means that you can count on a structured work cycle that eliminates the likelihood of errors or manipulation.

The translation is scrutinized and checked by various professionals (proofreaders, revisers and project managers) who inspect the work done upstream by the translator and make any necessary adjustments and corrections.

The involvement of translators who do this job professionally and inclusion of the translation within a much broader work cycle, including multiple control and revision stages, ensure a smooth localization process and therefore the success of the company’s communication strategy.

At Way2Global, these are two pre-requisites that are central to our professional ethics: we work with professional native-speaker translators and follow a work cycle that includes multiple inspection stages.

By combining these two factors we provide translation and localization of any text, while keeping the message contained in the original version unchanged.

Contact us for further information and/or to request a quote.

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