Translation vs. Localization

Translation has become an unfashionable word in the tech world. Translations are inherently bad. Google Translate.

Localization is the new buzzword. Instead of low quality translations and good translations, we have translation and localization.

But I prefer to call things what they are. You translate into languages. You localize into locations.

A British fitness app might ask your weight in stone, have pre-populated addresses to match the UK and prices in pounds. If the makers of the app wanted to release it in Canada, they’d have to localize it. Perhaps tone down the Britishisms a bit, switch to metric units, Canadian examples and dollars.

My Ukrainian banking app can be used in Ukrainian, Russian or English. Regardless of the language, I have to have a Ukrainian address, a +380 phone number and my account is in Ukrainian hryvnias. I don‘t want a localized experience if I switch the app to Russian. The app is translated.

Of course the translation and localization overlap. I suspect there aren’t many products for the Peruvian market translated into Ukrainian, nor Ukrainian products in Quechua.

But for many people, languages aren’t connected to geography or political identity — they’re a colonial legacy. Let’s not assume people using a product in English, French or Russian want a matching localization.

Let translations be translations. Go ahead and localize address fields, phone numbers and currencies though. And we can skip the title inflation: There’s nothing wrong with being a good translator.