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The Difference between Localization and Globalization

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." - Nelson Mandela

It is easier to build trust and understanding when you communicate with someone in their own languages.

Companies that offer multilingual information and customer support manage to increase brand loyalty as their customers know that there is someone who understands them and their needs.

If you're planning to have additional languages for your website, it's important that you familiarize yourself with the two concepts of localization and globalization.  In this article, we explore the difference between these seemingly similar, yet very different concepts.

What is Localization?

Localization refers to the adjustment of a specific resource or product to fit the demands of one locale. Localizing your materials involves making necessary changes to existing content to ensure that an audience in a targeted locale will understand it. The following are ways to localize your content:

Translate the content

Immigrants to the United States originate from many different language backgrounds and may have different levels of English proficiency. Using data from the 2013 U.S. Census, about half of the total immigrant population consisted of Limited English Proficient (LEP) Individuals. LEP Individuals have limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand the English language.

One way to localize your website content is to translate the information provided, to offer it in your audience's native language.   

A direct translation could lose the original message, so you want to make sure the translation keeps the meaning in tact, with attention to cultural nuances. The localized content should maintain meaning so that it can resonate with the specific target group. This means that your translations should not only be correct linguistically, but they should also reflect the message of the source language accurately.

Use comprehensible formats

Aside from translating content into a language that the local audience can understand, localization also involves using easily comprehensible formats, such as:

  • Date and time formats
  • Telephone number formats
  • System of measurement (imperial or metric)
  • Currency (symbol and amount)
  • Keyboard formats used
  • Punctuations, icons, and symbols
  • Image and text content sensitivities
  • Keyboard formats used

Use appropriate visual design elements

In addition to capturing the above elements, localization requires an appropriate visual design that makes sense to the target audience. When creating content for your website, you should incorporate visual design elements that improve user experiences. For instance, you should consider the effects of photography, layouts, illustrations, color, and space on your website. The appropriate visual design elements to use may vary from one target audience to another.

You should note that localizing content isn't just about using understandable formats, comprehensible visual elements, and translating the existing content to the audience's native language. It's also about creating content that maintains its intended message when reaching different audiences. 


What is Globalization?

Globalization is the adaptation of a specific resource to fit the demands of multiple cultures. In other words, globalization is the development of a product that is easily accepted worldwide. A globalized website, therefore, should:

Support multiple languages

Just like localization, there is an element of language translation in globalization. However, there is a difference between how you translate content for localization and how you translate content for globalization. For localization, you translate the existing content to a language that your specific target audience understands. For globalization, however, you translate the existing content into multiple languages to make it accessible to multiple target audiences. 

Offer content in a variety of formats and designs

When globalizing your content, you should also consider all audience groups by integrating elements of style and design that appeal to each one of them. This is because the way users scan a web page varies depending on their country of origin.

For instance, western users typically read from left to right, while users from East Asian and Middle East countries read from right to left. Also, offer content in a variety of digital formats, print mediums, and file types. Globalization often involves code that allows a website to be more flexible and universal for different formats. Globalizing your website content will go a long way in ensuring that your website will provide a user-friendly experience to all users. 

When globalizing your website content, your goal should be to provide a unified and coherent global experience. When designing your website, you should not only maintain consistency, but you should also maintain compliance with global standards, such as the CCPA, GDRP, etc.


Localization vs. Globalization in a Nutshell

  • Localization is the adaptation of a resource or product to fit the demands of one specific culture or locale, while globalization is the adaption of a particular resource to fit the demands of multiple cultures and locales.
  • Localization makes a resource accessible to an audience of a specific locale, while globalization makes a resource accessible by people from different cultures and locales.
  • Localization conveys value to a specific audience, while globalization makes a resource acceptable by people from different cultures and locales.

Final Thoughts

Customers feel more comfortable when content, services, and products are tailored to their unique personal needs, their market, and their cultural environment. Through localization and globalization, companies can reach their target markets in a customized fashion and gain a competitive advantage.

The important thing to remember when adopting either of the two concepts is to keep content across all languages as accurate and up-to-date as possible so that communication with all users is consistent. If you are in the public sector, and wondering if this applies to you, the short answer is yes. You have to adapt content to meet the needs of LEP individuals as well as the global community.

About Language Network

Language Network is a language solutions company specializing in interpretation, translation, and localization services for government, healthcare, and international businesses. Language Network provides critical language access and support in over 200 languages. For more information, visit www.languagenetworkusa.com.

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