Localisation vs transcreation

localisation vs transcreation

In previous articles we've looked at two concepts that are relatively new to the translation industry: localisation and transcreation. Both are key to a company's internationalisation strategy, but knowing the difference between the two can be confusing. Knowing exactly which one to opt for can help a brand increase sales in other countries, and improve brand acceptance in foreign markets with distinct cultural differences. Today we're going to put an end to any confusion and tell you all about the difference between localisation and transcreation.

Before we go any further, let's define the concepts

Unless you have a clear idea of the nuances of each of these methodologies it's difficult to know which one to use - but before we look at the differences, let's look at clear definitions of each concept. Let us refresh your memory:


Localisation can be defined as “the process of modifying products or services, paying attention to the differences between various markets”. In other words, the process goes beyond pure word-by-word linguistic conversion and seeks to adapt content, making it culturally suitable for a specific market. The result of localisation is that your message is expressed as though it's been done by a person local to the target market.


If we analyse the word itself, we can see the prefix trans means “beyond”, “through”, or “change”. Applied to translation, we could go on to say it does more than just literally translate words into the target language, and adds a creative process. And with this being a more creative form of translation, the translator has a lot more freedom to move away from the source text and create a new text - one capable of making the same impact on the new reader as the original text.

The differences between localisation and transcreation

If we look at the definitions of both terms it's clear that there are major similarities between these two types of translation, but some features are key to understanding the differences. Firstly, in localisation, the meaning of content remains the same as the original text, but in the translation process language is adapted culturally to the reader. In transcreation however, the meaning of content may be adapted according to the brand's business and communications objectives. Here, we're looking at translating concepts, ideas, feelings, and reactions for a new audience.

Another differentiating factor is that transcreation takes into account aspects such as word play and the musicality of the language used. Often this is a case of moving completely away from the source text to create a new piece - one that evokes the same feelings in the target language. Localisation doesn't take these aspects into account. Its focus is to ensure the new content is adapted to the new market, without the need for so much creativity.

And because these are essentially different services, the profiles of translators working on the texts are also different. Translators working in localisation should always be native professional translators with in-depth knowledge of the market so they can localise the brand's content successfully. This means they'll be able to identify any potential conflicts between the two languages and adapt content to the cultural norms of the new audience. Meanwhile, translators approaching transcreation projects need to have these same characteristics, as well as specialising in marketing and advertising, so they can tackle the creative challenges posed by the translation. It's always advisable for the translator to have in-depth knowledge of the company or product they're working with, so they can make important creative decisions and make sure the message has the same impact as the original on the new target audience. And to get this knowledge they need the support of the brand, who can provide them with all the information they need to get the message across successfully.

When is localisation used?

Any language can be translated or localised, but this type of translation makes more sense when we're looking at languages of countries that are culturally different. That's why there's a trend to localise content into FIGS languages (French, Italian, German, and Spanish) because they're widely spoken, but there's a growing need for localisation into CJK languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean), given that the Asian market is one of the emerging markets with the most potential.

Localisation is generally used to adapt websites, e-commerce sites, and mobile apps. Content and products are then offered in the language of the new market, at the same time as working to improve international SEO - meaning foreign customers will find the brand or product when carrying out common organic searches. Mango found itself at the centre of a scandal in France because it didn't localise its online shop - it decided to sell its 'slave' bracelets collection without checking what they were called on the French market.

Localisation is also particularly prominent in the video game sector, for both the dialogues used in games and promotional strategies. And it's common in the audiovisual sector too (images, promotional videos, and dubbing or subtitling) as well as the world of the software, which has a scope spanning very different countries. And as well as its more linguistic applications, localisation comes into product packaging, and even food. It's what McDonald's did when they were conquering the Indian market.

When is transcreation used?

One of the fields with the biggest need for transcreation is advertising. In this area, we need to go beyond a linguistic adaptation of a text and make sure the message has the same impact and provokes the same feelings as the original, regardless of where in the world the message is received. Because a creative message that works in one country could well be offensive in another, or a literal translation could lose its meaning completely.

Transcreation also comes into making important marketing decisions such as product naming. For example, the Japanese car brand Mitsubishi had to change the name of its Pajero model for the Spanish-speaking market as the word in Spanish has a meaning with sexual connotations.

And finally, this type of translation is commonly used for more everyday purposes, such as poetry, books, or the titles of films translated in the audiovisual sector.

At AT Language Solutions our localisation and transcreation services can help you make sure any translation project you have is a success. Contact us to find out more.

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