What’s the difference between software localization and translation?

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If you don’t work with language service providers (LSP) on a regular basis, chances are you’ve mixed up localization, translation and interpretation. There are two main categories of interpretation, consecutive and simultaneous, but they’re often referred to as oral or spoken translation. Interpreting is when people communicate through an interpreter because they speak different languages; there is a person in the room doing a “live translation”.

Localization and translation are a bit trickier to distinguish. Localization is a specific type of translation. The term Localization (L10n) is often used in reference to both localization and software localization. General localization may not actually involve any translation; it can mean the adaptation of content, for example from the US to the UK. Items such as date and address formats and currencies are different between countries. It means updating some of the vocabulary too; for example, in the US, most people use the term prenatal whereas in the UK, they say antenatal. In terms of medical regulations, there are many differences between those for US medical devices and UK medical devices. Consider though, when you are moving between languages, as localization also refers to when content is localized to a different language: that is, it goes through two steps, localization and translation.

Software localization is another type of translation. It is the translation of software. It is challenging because it needs to meet the legal requirements of a particular country, keep text in the allotted space and accurately reflect the meaning of the source. Software localization often takes longer than standard translation because it is so specific and requires such a specialized skill set.

While these are all interrelated, each poses its own challenges. They are distinct processes that require attention, excellent management and expert linguists.

Photo: xlibber


JLS Language Corporation offers high-quality translation services in Silicon Valley and beyond. We help bridge communication gaps in our diverse world, working in multiple languages and for many different industries, including medical, technical, and legal. JLS services include translation, interpreting, and website or software localization. Our Quality Management System is certified to ISO 9001 and ISO 13485.

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