« Back to all posts

When Just Translating the Words Is Not Enough: Localization and Transcreation Explained

Localization and Transcreation explained

Each profession has its own lingo, and sometimes it can be confusing for those who don’t work with it every day. If you are just stepping into the world of translation, you’ll quickly learn the terms localization and transcreation as well. All three concepts are describing specific strategies to make content accessible in a language other than it was originally created in. But the processes, as well as the results, can be very different, and it is important for you as a project manager to understand what exactly your vendor is offering in order get what you really need.

So let’s have a closer look at the three concepts:


When content is translated, it is kept consistent and accurate when transferred from the source text into the target language. While sentence structures and grammar are, of course, adjusted, it is important for the translator to stay true to the original content. Mostly technical documents are translated, like technical publications, manuals, compliance documents, and such. In some cases — think of information and directions of use for medication, for example — the right word choice can be of utmost importance. Translators are often also experts for certain subjects.


Content that gets localized might be best characterized as content that is driving customer action. Be it a website, marketing campaigns, or branded content, it will be handled differently than technical documents. Localization tries to be cognizant of the right tone and wants to make sure that the content speaks exactly the language of the target audience in tone and style. So instead of translating word-for-word, it is just as important for a successful localization campaign to hit the right tone and style and stay on message. Localization looks more for the spirit of the words than for a literal translation. Localization also involves more than just translation. It addresses factors such as text length, local idioms, cultural references, measurement units, date formats, and page sizes. When you localize your product or service, you are re-locating it to a new country or region. You want your audience to feel like your document or product is made for them. Only then they’ll have a positive experience.


Sometimes, it is not enough to just adapt tone and style of the source content to a new locale, sometimes it needs a whole new campaign for the foreign target market to achieve that goal. This is when transcreation comes into play. While the goal still is to drive customers, the message with which that goal can be achieved might differ significantly from the original. That’s why transcreation projects usually start with a creative brief, not with translating content from the source text into another language. And it is copywriters crafting the new message, not translators adapting tone or style. In the end, the creative concept gets re-created for a new target market. The words, the tone, and the visuals might be very different than the source content, completely depending on the target audience and what message resonates with it.

If you have questions about what is the right strategy for your content — simple translation, localization, or transcreation —, we are happy to help you. You can also get a free quote for your next project.

Plan your translation project