Localisation or translation – which do I need?

August 15, 2018

Are you considering expanding to foreign markets? Not sure whether you need translation or localisation services? Read on to find out what’s what, how our localisation services could benefit you, and how Samsung got it right (and KFC got it so wrong)!


(From left) Samsung Malaysia Electronics head of audio visual Vincent Lee; head of consumer electronics Jimmy Tan; president Lee Sang Hoon; CMO Elaine Soh and business manager of audio visuals Kim Jin Ho

Translation involves converting a text written in one language into another language to produce a target text that is extremely similar to the source text in everything but language. A text that has been localised, however, may differ greatly from the original. In localisation, the translator adapts the text to suit the local culture or a specific group, as if it were written specifically for that audience in the first place. This may involve changing the layout of the text, the formality of the register, jokes, cultural references, images or metaphors.

Samsung now has a tangible presence on the French market.

Good translations usually involve some degree of localisation by default. The principle goal of translation is to render the target text accurately in another language, but good translators always avoid alienating readers by localising any content that may sound strange in the new language/culture. But localising a text necessitates far more change because the focus is on both accuracy and effect, i.e. how effective the text is beyond merely conveying information. This makes localisation an essential part of translating marketing material for your overseas customers.

Just as you tweak your products and services to suit new markets, your marketing content needs to be adapted too. A good example is Samsung’s launch onto the French market in 2010. Rather than merely translating their marketing campaign, the South Korean company localised its approach. It appealed to the French appreciation for art by opening an exhibition with famous oeuvres displayed on the newest Samsung screens. Knowing that the French market also responds well to local products, Samsung made a point of advertising their French-made tech and de-foreignising their marketing strategy. This approach enjoyed great success and Samsung now has a tangible presence on the French market.

Taking the time and effort to have your content localised can really pay off as you will have higher chances of connecting with your target market. However, the consequences of rushing into a translation without giving due thought to your audience can be serious. KFC learned this the hard way when its slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good” was translated for the Chinese market in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the Mandarin translation actually read “Eat Your Fingers Off” – not a very appetising prospect. If you’re looking to market your services abroad, native, experienced translators are what you need to avoid a similar KFC gaffe that could end up costing you business. Don’t have the resources and time to localise your content internally? Feel free to get in touch with us at


Berni Freitag

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