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Translation, Transcreation, Localization: are they the same?

Within the language services industry, it is common to hear about terms like translation, localization and transcreation. However, for someone who is not familiar, these terms can be confusing or even redundant. Many people think that these terms are interchangeable, and others prefer to unify these three terms in one: translation. Let’s debunk this myth.


Translation, transcreation and localization

These processes play a key role in the globalization strategy of any companies, products or services. That is why understanding the differences and the inherent characteristics of each term is essential when it comes to identifying the best solution for your specific needs.

In this blog, we will go through the definition of each of these processes and their main characteristics to help you pick your best option.

Translation: the source matters

Kevin McQuire of the Association of Language Companies (ALCUS) says that translation is “Converting the information and meaning from one language to another”. That hint of simplicity and plainness in this definition is precisely what characterizes this process. Translation is a purely linguistic process and it is closely related to literality. It aims to express the idea of a text in a different language, trying to make it as faithful as possible to its original version – linguistically and semantically speaking.

So, if you want to have the manual for the mobile phone you’re commercializing in Spanish, this process is your best bet. Translators will stick to the source material and will express the same thing your original content does. It is very common to speak of translation when working with technical or legal documents.

Localization: The meaning behind words

Localization goes beyond literal word-for-word translation and the syntactic aspect of a language. This process is a bridge between cultures since it aims to adapt the source content into a specific culture and/or locale – hence the name. It’s a powerful marketing tool with the mere goal of commercializing a service/product in a target market.

A beer company for example, could show a group of friends watching a football match in its advertisement for Argentina. However, this approach may not be ideal for, let’s say, Asian countries, where other sports instead of football are considered national favorites. Although the first thing that comes up to mind when talking about localization is marketing content, this process is a good choice if we talk about many types of eLearning content, games, or website content as well.

Transcreation: The art of creation

If localization goes beyond translation to address cultural expectations, transcreation is another step further to ensure your marketing messages are perceived in the way you expect them to be. Etymologically speaking, transcreation is a blended word that merges the terms Translation and Creation and that’s the key to understanding this concept. In the transcreation process, the tone, intention, context, and even phonetics prevail over the text itself. Many times, the target text doesn’t have anything to do – syntactically speaking – with the source one.

This process is the one chosen for slogans. For example, a literal translation for Rexona’s It won’t let you down will not be as catchy as its No te abandona translation in Latin America. This target slogan maintains the original intention but it introduces as well a perfect and grabby rhyme. And that’s what transcreation does: it captures the essence and the main purpose of the source material and replicates it in a different language creating an emotional connection with the target market.


Translation, transcreation and localization have many things in common but they also have distinctive characteristics. The first thing to do when you’re seeking for this kind of service is to establish your goal and scope. Next is to define what it is that you want your target audience to perceive to ensure that you’re paying for the solution that best suits your needs.

If you still have questions or doubts about this topic, you can contact us here. We will be happy to assist you choose the best approach to your language translation, localization or transcreation requirements.