open book of translation terminology
By: Autumn On: September 09, 2016 In: Localization, Translation Comments: 0

In today’s modern connected world, many businesses are starting to see the possibilities and taking advantage of global marketing initiatives. They know that there is a vast global market just waiting to be tapped and that to reach those consumers they need to translate their websites and marketing materials.

But when companies begin looking into translation services, they often become confused by the range of similar sounding, but very different services that are available. Do you need globalization or culturalization? What’s the difference between standard translation and localization?

If you’ve been asking yourself similar questions, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find definitions and examples of six commonly used (and commonly confused) translation terms. Find out exactly what type of translation you need to take your business global.


Translation involves changing written text from one language to another. One of the most popular ways to do this is through human translation, in which someone who is fluent in both the source language and the target language converts one to the other.

The other main option is machine translation, in which a program changes text from one language to another. This form of translation can be helpful when there is a lot of repetitive content, or when you just need to get the general idea of some text. Machine translation should never be used in any professional capacity, such as when you are translating your website to reach a new global market.


Transcreation is about translating the message of a document from one language to another. The point of this is to maintain the original meaning, style and tone of the content. A direct word-for-word translation will not always be able to accomplish this, hence the need for transcreation.

You’ll often see this term used in the marketing and advertising industry. For example, a slogan that’s successful in one country might be confusing or inappropriate when translated word-for-word into another language. This calls for transcreation rather than literal translation.


This term describes the process of converting one language to another language that uses a different writing system. For example, you would need to employ transliteration when rendering a Russian document (written in Cyrillic) into Italian. In most cases, translation is still necessary after transliteration, since this term refers to formatting the language rather than translating it.

Any time you see a passage from the Chinese language written out in letters you can sound out, it’s been transliterated. Otherwise, before transliteration took place, you would see Chinese characters that may look more like pictures than letters to you. In this way, transliteration makes it possible for you to try to sound out words, but you still need them to be translated to understand them.


Localization is now a pretty well-known complement to translation. With this process, content is not simply translated to another language, but also altered so it makes sense to its target audience.

For example, if you literally translate an idiom from one language to another, it probably won’t make sense to your new target audience because the phrase and its true meaning is unknown to them. But if you localize the content by finding a similar idiom they can relate to, you’ll be able to offer the same message in both languages.


This translation term refers to a process that is a little more in-depth than localization. Localization usually focuses on making sure the written content makes sense to people in different countries, whereas culturalization goes one step further by being culturally aware on all levels beyond just the text.

For instance, a culturalization expert will make sure all images, colors, sounds and cultural references will be well-received by the target audience. You might think that using the color white looks clean and modern, but the Chinese consumers you’re trying to entice will relate it with mourning.

What people in one country like is not always what people in other countries will appreciate or even associate in the same way, making culturalization more effective than simple translation.


This process involves ensuring that content is accessible and able to be understood by people in a variety of countries. Unlike localization, globalization does not require you to prepare your content for a specific audience. Instead, you just need to prepare it for people all over the world.

Globalization often involves making sure your website can handle content posted in any language, as well as making sure that it’s easy for readers to switch between different languages when desired. It also requires you to ensure that your site is set up to accommodate different fonts and text directions.

Fortunately, any professional translation agency you hire will be well-versed in this terminology and can help you determine which specific form of translation your project requires.

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