Website Translation vs. Localization: What You Need to Know

Last Updated September 6, 2022

Website Translation vs. Localization.

The website translation vs. localization conversation might seem inconsequential on the surface. The impact of localizing your website, however, could be enormous.

English is the most used language on the internet, but the gap between it and other languages is narrowing.

With a 26% share of  the most popular internet languages, English sits ahead of Chinese at 19.4%, according to Internet World Stats.

The annual user growth rate for Chinese is 2,650.4% (compared to English, which is only 742.9%).

Spanish, Arabic, and Indonesian/Malaysian round out the top five, giving us a glimpse of how important it is to not settle for a single language if you want your innovation to hit around the world.

Translating web content is a big part of spreading your company’s reach. To fully adapt your website to foreign markets, you’ll need to localize your website.

But why is there a website translation vs. localization discussion? And why should you have website localization strategy?

What is website translation?

This process involves adapting the content of your website from the original language for target markets.

That typically includes all text and multimedia.

A straight up website translation project will therefore take the existing content and adapt it into another language.

It will mirror the style and tone but might lack some context and nuance.

And there’s a couple ways to tackle it.

Human translation

Professional human translators translate webpages from one language to another, word by word and sentence by sentence.

The key benefit of human translation is that it takes the context, structure, and language nuances into account. Humans read the content and reproduce it as it’s meant to be read.

Additionally, human translation typically involves procedures like proofreading and quality assurance.

Machine translation

Machine translation, also called automated translation, adapts the content on a page from one language to another using artificial intelligence.

Google Translate, for example, uses a neural machine translation system to automatically convert text on a page into other languages.

Unlike human translation, machine translation isn’t quite ready to take context or language nuances into account. This often leads to inaccurate translations.

So what approach is best?

No two website translation projects are the same. The level of complexity and resources required for each are different. That’s why we believe in treating every project differently, catering to its unique needs.

We believe it’s ideal to combine the best of what human intelligence and machine learning have to offer to bring your business to more people around the world—quickly, efficiently, and affordably.

If perfection is what you’re after, a professional human translator or editor will need to work on your content.

If speed of execution is the main factor, MT must be part of the solution; it’s almost a no-brainer.

Machine translation with human quality assurance is where you’re likely to find the balance between quality and cost efficiency.

What is website localization?

A multilingual website isn’t sufficient when expanding into a new market. Your website needs to be localized to fully relate with each audience.

A website with local references and culturally relevant visual elements grabs the attention of new audiences.

Localization is about making content appropriate for a given locale.

When you localize website content, you make it culturally relatable and relevant to the right audience, among other benefits.

Localization Goes Beyond Translation

Your website is the public image of your business; you want to make sure that its content is translated properly.

Therefore, machine translation is far from an adequate replacement to human translation for our purposes here.

For example, here’s an English sentence you might see on an e-commerce site: “Shipping costs will be noted per item during the checkout process, or you may estimate shipping costs from the cart before checkout.”

Google Translate puts this in Chinese as:


But when you translate the sentence back to English with Google Translate it reads: “Freight will notice that each piece in the checkout process or you may estimate the cost of shipping the vehicle in front checkout.”

Excuse me, what now?

You can see here the need for a human touch to get the correct message across.

How to Design Your Website with Localization in Mind

And it’s not just the text that must be localized. Think about the difference in website real estate taken up by the English sentence compared to Chinese.

When translating content from English into another language, you can almost guarantee it will take up a different amount of space.

Design your website to be flexible to changes in text allowance and choose easily translatable fonts.

Furthermore, while English speakers read from left to right, the opposite is true for Arabic languages.

Adjusting your website layout to adhere to localized reading styles will have more impact when breaking into new markets.

You must also consider the following to meet cultural standards in each locale:

  • Images
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Icons
  • Call-to-action buttons
  • Date and time formatting
  • Currency values
  • Units of measurement
  • Address formats

Make no mistake – website localization is a complex and multi-layered process. When not planned properly, localization could turn into a very costly and time-consuming effort.

The more you do to prepare yourself for website localization, the easier the process will be. For further reading, here are some tips to keep in mind throughout the process.

And don’t forget to keep localization in mind with respect to social media.

Get to Know Our Localization Solutions

As a language service provider, we can rely on AI with increasing measure. For quality assurance reasons, though, humans still review the AI generated content – especially when it comes to website translation vs. localization.

But with the help of data solutions, fewer human corrections needed are over time.

We recently launched Summa Studio, a flexible translation and localization platform.

It tailors the workflow to your needs, and you control all your products and content localization in one place.

Our clients appreciate our extremely versatile and unconventional thinking. We are innovation-focused and don’t shy away from a challenge.

This is what helps us build lasting partnerships and localization solutions that grow with your business.

Contact us today to get started.

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