Localization and Translation – What’s the Difference?

TAIA localizing content

Localization and translation are very closely related, but the difference between them is huge. When you choose to localize and when to translate depends on the text itself, the target market and the purpose you want to achieve with your text.

We are all aware that the primary task of translation is to transfer data from the source language to the target language. When translating, the translator strictly follows the original text. In localization, however, translation is only part of the process. The whole text adapts to the target market, both linguistically and culturally.

TAIA localizing before entering new market

Especially for content translated by marketing teams that determine how your brand appears in the new market, the term trans-creation or recreating content is used more and more often.

To help you understand how important it is to know when you need localization, look at the mistakes of companies that had to learn the hard way how important it is.

1. Honda

Years ago, the car company Honda introduced a new model of a car in Scandinavia, called “fitta”. At home, the model name did not present any problems, so they probably didn’t even think about what the word could mean in other languages. In Swedish, Norwegian and Danish, the word “fitta” is an older term for female genitals. As a result, the sale of this car was very poor, so they decided to rename the model to “jazz”.

Woman shocked because of bad localization

2. McDonalds

With over 37,000 restaurants around the world, you’d expect McDonalds to hire the best translators to avoid any unpleasant mistakes. Yet, they made a huge mistake in translating the famous Big Mac in France. Big Mac was translated into “Gros Mec”, which literally means “big pimp”.

3. Pepsi

In the 60’s and 70’s, Pepsi decided to break into new markets. The then “Come alive! You’re in the Pepsi generation” slogan was a huge hit in the US, but in China and Germany the story was a little different. The slogan was translated as “Pepsi bring your ancestors back from the dead” (“Pepsi bringt deine Vorfahren wieder zum Leben“). Obviously, the message was not transmitted as Pepsi would have wished.

Pepsi's poor localization
Starbucks' poor localization

4. Starbucks

In Italian, “latte” means milk, so Starbucks has translated coffee with milk across Europe and English-speaking markets as “café latte.” This worked great in all European markets except Germany. “Latte” in German means pole and is a term in spoken language for male erection. At first the Germans didn’t know what to think about the name. However, they accepted it very well and ordered a “café latte” with a smile. Therefore, Starbucks did not change its name.

Now you can understand more easily why localization is so important, especially when entering a new market. Although you may have laughed a little while reading the mistakes of other companies, such mistakes can lead to great financial loss and ultimately loss of reputation.

They say that the first impression counts is the most important, so be careful how you present your mark to new markets, as your reputation could depend on it.

First impression counts

When localizing the content you want to present to new markets, don’ try saving money, but rather hire the best experts in the field. The reputation of your business depends on how you present yourself!

TAIA Translations are not only experts in linguistics, but also in cultural knowledge. Localize your content with TAIA Translations and see for yourself the quality of our services!

Would you like to be successful in foreign markets as well? TAIA can help you with the quality localization of your content!